Special Report: The Honesty Test - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Special Report: The Honesty Test

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  There's no question about it.  Money is hard to come by these days. Unemployment nears 10% around the country. So, if you saw a wallet on the ground, filled with money, what would you do? Keep it or turn it in?

We were taught a simple rule as children.  "I was raised to always be honest," said Macy Mager.

But we put honesty to the test. We took a wallet, filled with old business cards, and added cold hard cash…then dropped it on the floor of a convenience store. It didn't take long before it was found.

Olin Banks did the honest thing and returned the wallet to the cashier.  He said, "I just figured it was the right thing to do."

But would others do the right thing? Our next two customers picked up the wallet, and like Olin Banks, immediately turned it in.

"I didn't even look to see if there was anything in it.  I just knew it wasn't my wallet, so I brought it up here," said Van Buchanan.

But not everyone does. "We're doing a thing called the honesty test," we said to one person.

"The wallet thing, yeah. I was walking outside and debating should I tell, if I was going to take it to the counter." This man, who we won't identify, stuck the wallet in his pocket and walked out.

Why was it such a temptation to walk away with it? "To tell you the truth, I really don't know to tell you the truth.  I mean, I have money in my pocket."

We headed out to a Woodall's on Slappey Boulevard for more honesty testing. It didn't take long for another guy to spot it.  He looks around to see if anyone saw him take the wallet, then slips back into the car.

I confronted the man who told me he thought the wallet was his, but he readily gave it back when I asked him to return it.

We dropped the wallet again, in plain view on the sidewalk outside the store. Howard Smith spotted it when he walked back to his vehicle, picked it up, and went back in to turn it in.  He did that for one very simple reason.

"If it don't belong to you, you need to return it," said Smith.

Solomon Brown was just as quick to take action, picking up the wallet, and bringing it in to the store. "Somebody dropped it right there in the walkway," he said.

We asked him what he had found, and what he did with it, and he said he turned it in, "Because it ain't mine."

It wasn't another man's either, but that didn't stop him from trying to leave with it. He walks inside, and to the bathroom. And when he leaves the bathroom, he goes back outside to his truck.

Since he's got our wallet, our money, I confront him. "It's in my pocket, you want it?" he asked.

Asked why did he took the wallet, he said, "Honestly, I had to go to the bathroom."

"But you left with it to."

"Yeah, I was going to..."

What  was so surprising about this man is  he wasn't all that upset at getting caught, and couldn't say he wouldn't do it again. "It's a right at that moment decision."

Is it a little embarrassing to get caught? "It was, though somehow I expected it."

And Psychologist Dr. Cheryl Kaiser says she isn't surprised he thought a camera may be lurking. "In the advent of you tube and the vast majority of programming being about reality TV, they probably weren't surprised to see that there was a camera around the corner waiting to bust them doing something that they shouldn't do."

Yet they do it anyway. "They're probably reacting in more of an impulsive way, walking away in an impulsive way.  If they're actually going to stop for a minute and think about it, they probably would think about it long enough to say, 'eh, I gotta give this back.'"

And each time we confronted a person who took the wallet, they gave it back.  At least when we asked. 

But we were able to reward Macy Mager.  She spotted the wallet, loaded with $40 in cash, some of it sticking out of the wallet, picked it up, and did what she thought was right. "I handed it to the lady behind the counter."

Didn't she want to take it? "I didn't really want to. It wouldn't have been very honest, actually, to keep it."

Olin Banks agrees. "For me, it's the right thing to do and honestly to me, that's how you get your blessings, by doing the right thing.  He looks down on you, he smiles down on you and good things happen for you when you do the right things."

The right and honest things, passing the Honesty test. 

Woodall's gave us $10 gift certificates to reward the people who were honest.  We were only able to reward eight people with those gift certificates.

Four people took the wallet, but we were able to get it back from all of them and kept all of the money we started the honesty test with.


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