The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Columns

April 30, 2014

Jim Bailey: Figuring out what to do with a shopping bag full of cash

This guy in South Portland, Maine, pulls into an ATM. He feeds his card and PIN number into the machine and requests a $140 withdrawal.

Out pops bill after bill after bill. The machine doesn’t quit until $37,000 has been coughed up.

What would you do?

He didn’t have an opportunity to decide. According to a television news report, he was still stuffing bills into a shopping bag when police got there, summoned by the next woman in line who thought he was taking much too long to transact his business.

The money was returned to the bank, of course. Bank officials wisely decided not to press charges; after all, what’s a customer to do when an ATM gives him thousands of dollars he didn’t ask for?

Bank officials said a “code error” was responsible for the machine emptying itself spontaneously, but no customer accounts were affected. Obviously that would be a problem for the bank since there presumably would be no record of a $37,000 transaction logged into the machine, although the guy’s account information might be a good starting point for retrieval efforts.

Advice to the guy would probably run the gamut. Some would say to take the money and run, since it wasn’t his doing in the first place. Others would suggest giving it to charity. Or simply keep it for whatever might come up. And of course those of an honest bent would counsel him to head straight for the bank and hand them the shopping bag with a full explanation of the malfunction — and maybe hope there would be a reward for his honesty.

What would I do? In all likelihood give it back. In the first place I’m not aware of any larcenous bones in my body. More important, since I would have gone there for a normal-size withdrawal, I’m well aware that my account codes would have been logged into the machine, and I could be traced.

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