I came across an interesting experiment in Reader’s Digest, in which reporters prepared 192 wallets with a name, cellphone number, family photo, coupons, and business cards, along with the equivalent of $50 in local currency. Sixteen cities were selected and twelve wallets were dropped in each city: on sidewalks, near malls, and in parks. Then the reporters waited to see how many wallets were returned.
Obviously this is more of a fascinating experiment than a scientific study, but all the same, the results are amusing. Here’s how the top 16 cities ranked, along with the number of wallets returned in each:
Helsinki, Finland—11 out of 12 wallets returned
Mumbai, India—9 out of 12 wallets returned
Budapest, Hungary—8 out of 12 wallets returned
New York City, USA—8 out of 12 wallets returned
Moscow, Russia—7 out of 12 wallets returned
Amsterdam, Netherlands—7 out of 12 wallets returned
Berlin, Germany—6 out of 12 wallets returned
Ljubljana, Slovenia—6 out of 12 wallets returned
London, England—5 out of 12 wallets returned
Warsaw, Poland—5 out of 12 wallets returned
Bucharest, Romania—4 out of 12 wallets returned
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil—4 out of 12 wallets returned
Zurich, Switzerland—4 out of 12 wallets returned
Prague, Czech Republic—3 out of 12 wallets returned
Madrid, Spain—2 out of 12 wallets returned
Lisbon, Portugal—1 out of 12 wallets returned (by a couple from Holland, visiting Lisbon)
Read the full Reader’s Digest experiment here.
Given the reputation of Canadians for being “nice,” it would have been good to see a Canadian city on the list. The reporters observed some people put the wallets in their purse or backpack and make no effort to call but many people responded favorably. Reader’s Digest also asked the people who were kind enough to return the wallets whether they were tempted to keep them. Their answers are interesting and reassuring. Jeanette Baum, a music teacher in Zurich, Switzerland said: “I know what it’s like to lose something…the ‘not knowing’ afterwards is terrible. That’s why I responded as fast as I could.”
In a world where media so often focuses on the dark side of humanity, it’s refreshing to know that there are still a lot of good and honest people around the world.
What would you do? Would you make the effort to return a wallet to the owner? What do you think of the global results? Do you have ideas as to how we can create honest cities?