lost wallet easy

Missing Wallets

Reporters from a magazine conduct an experiment.


wallet missing experiment
involve play (3) what would happen
result reporter digest (2)
coupon honesty equivalent
half sidewalk lose/lost/lost
slightly similarly lost and found
tram naturally employer
bit (3) conclude keep/kept/kept
gender assume play a role
optician surprise relative (2)
team research discovery
editor chief (2) editor-in-chief
act only way pocket (2)
contain situation assistant


The Experiment

Reader’s Digest Magazine recently conducted an experiment.

Researchers placed twelve, fake wallets in various parts of a city such as parks, on sidewalks, and near shopping malls.

Each wallet contained the equivalent of $50, a cell phone number, business cards, coupons, and a family photo.


They did this in 16 different cities, for a total of 192 wallets. Then they waited for the “fish” to come.

Reader’s Digest Magazine had wanted to see what people would do when they found a “lost” or “missing” wallet.

The Results

The results varied considerably, but slightly over half — 53% — of the wallets were not returned.

“If you find money, you can’t assume it belongs to a rich man,” said Ursula Smist, one of the five people who returned wallets in London. “It might be the last bit of money a mother has to feed her family,” said Smist, who is originally from Poland.

Men and Women

In Warsaw, the seven unreturned wallets had all been kept by women.

And of the eight unreturend wallets in Zurich, one was pocketed by a male tram driver (his employer runs the city’s lost and found office).

The researchers concluded that overall, gender and age played no role in honesty or dishonesty.

Honesty is Absolute, Definite

“The most surprising discovery for the team at Reader’s Digest is that honesty is not relative,” said Raimo Moysa, editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest International Magazines.

“For all the people who returned wallets, it was the only way to act in such a situation.”


A 30-year-old optician’s assistant in Prague had returned one of the wallets. When asked why she did it, she replied, “It is something you do naturally.” A 73-year-old grandmother in Rio de Janeiro answered similarly: “Because it is not mine.”

The cities and the number of wallets that were turned in are as follows:

11/12 Helsinki, Finland
9/12 Mumbai, India
8/12 Budapest, Hungry
8/12 New York
7/12 Moscow
7/12 Amsterdam
6/12 Berlin
6/12 Ljubljana, Slovenia
5/12 London, UK
5/12 Warsaw, Poland
4/12 Bucharest, Romania
4/12 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
4/12 Zurich, Switzerland
4/12 Prague, Czech Republic
2/12 Madrid, Spain
1/12 Lisbon, Portugal

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1. The main hypothesis of the experiment was success at recovering lost wallets. Is this correct or incorrect?

2. Describe the experiment.

3. What were the results?

4. To Ursala, does it make a difference who owned the walled? Might she keep the wallet of an owner of five companies? Is she British?

5. Was there an irony or paradox of the Zurich tram driver?

6. Women returned wallets more often then men. Women are more honest than men. True or false?

7. Did the returnees (people who returned wallets) give philosophical reasons?

8. All cities rated about the same. Is this right or wrong?

9. Are you surprised by the results?
A. If I lose my wallet or purse, I hope someone returns it. Yes or no?

B. If my classmate, colleague, or friend found a wallet, would he or she return it or keep it?

C. How do you think your city would score?

D. Would other cities you visited score differently?

E. Is this wallet experiment a reflection of trust, honesty, and corruption in society?

F. This experiment corresponds with economic development and democracy. What do you think?

G. What will happen in the future? Will people and society change?

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