Would you pass the wallet test? World’s most honest cities revealed after researchers dropped purse containing £30 to see if it would be returned
It is a classic conundrum and a yardstick of morality – if you found an abandoned wallet, would you give it back?
But while everyone would have their own reasons for keeping or returning a lost item, a new study has revealed which cities worldwide have the best record for acts of honesty.
A total of 16 cities – including New York, London and Mumbai – were put to the test when 12 wallets were dropped in prominent places containing family photographs, contact details and the equivalent of £30 in cash.
Wallets containing personal items and £30 cash were dropped in cities around the world
Of the 192 wallets, just under half were returned, but the results varied strikingly from city to city in the study, commissioned by Reader’s Digest.
Finnish capital city Helsinki returned 11 of its wallets, while in Lisbon, Portugal, only one of the wallets was returned – by a couple on holiday from Holland.
Interestingly, the study, which will feature in the October issue of the magazine, showed that whether a place was rich or poor had no effect on whether people kept the money or not.
Mumbai in India scored second-best in the study by returning nine of the 12 wallets, despite the fact that the 3000 rupees they each contained would go a lot further than 43 francs in wealthy Zurich, Switzerland, where only four were returned.
Closer to home, London came joint ninth of the 16 cities tested, returning only five of 12 wallets – the same result as Warsaw in Poland and one worse than Berlin in Germany.
The people carrying out the study also found that age and gender were no predictors of honesty, as men, women, children and pensioners kept and returned wallets in equal measure.
Lasse Luomakoski, a 27-year-old student who returned a wallet in Helsinki, thought that her people were naturally disposed to be honest.
He said: ‘Finns are naturally honest, it’s typical for us. We are a small, quiet, closely-knit community.
We have little corruption and we don’t even run red lights.’
Good Samartians: Rahul Rai, left, in Mumbai and Manca Smolej, right, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, both returned wallets
Vaishali Mhaskar, a mother of two, returned a wallet left in the Mumbai general post office and said: ‘I teach my children to be honest, just like my parents taught me.’
Occasionally people made attempts to return the wallets then gave up – a woman in Bucharest asked two passers-by whether they owned it before taking it for her own.
A emergency worker in Moscow described it as his professional duty to give it back, and handed the wallet to a security guard.
He said: ‘I am an officer and I am bound by an officer’s ethical code.
‘My parents raised me as an honest and decent man.’
However, being in uniform did not guarantee a sense of duty – in Zurich one wallet was taken and kept by a tram driver – despite the fact that Zurich’s tram system runs a city-wide lost and found service.
However, there were many instances of outright dishonesty reported. One man picked up a wallet, looked inside and immediately climbed into a flash Mazda and drove off.
A male New Yorker found the money and marched straight into a convenience store to emerge with a stash of cigarettes.
But in a heart-warming exception, reporters followed a elderly man in Amsterdam into a liquor store after he picked up the wallet – only to find he had asked the shop attendant to phone the number inside to have the wallet returned.
Catherine Haughney, editor of Reader’s Digest, said: ‘It is truly inspiring to see that there are so many honest people in the world.
‘And most of all, that honesty is valued among young and old, men and women, poor and rich in very different cultures.’