Ethics.. To keep or not to Keep

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Ethics.. To keep or not to Keep

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mar 16, 2007, 9:47am

I frequently find items in books at the used book store, garage sales, estate sales, library sales, and other used book events. I often wonder what the ethical or socially proper thing to do with these found items; I’ve often pinned my guidelines to location and item but I’m never sure what is best to do so I was wondering if anyone else has some insight or thoughts.

mar 16, 2007, 9:56am

If I found something in a book at a garage or estate sale, I would try to return it. At least in those situations, you know who the previous owner is, or there's someone who can likely tell you.

It would be nice to do the same for books found at library sales and used bookstores, but, realistically, it is unlikely that, in those instances, the donor could easily be identified. Although, if it were a particularly valuable item (financially or sentimentally, such as a family photograph or a letter), I think I would make the effort.

I will tell you that on one occasion I donated several boxes of books to a local book sale, and shortly thereafter received a phone call from one of the volunteers who sorted books telling me that they had found my mother's baby book in the donation. It had gotten into one of the boxes in error when we were sorting her books, and I was thrilled that they had caught the mistake.

jan 15, 2008, 4:53pm

I'd say it depends on what the item is and where it was purchased (i.e., whether it's even possible to return it).

As I just posted in another thread, I returned a photograph I'd found in a box of stationery purchased at an estate sale. The photo was of the recently deceased woman, and her daughter was very happy to have it back.

Redigerat: mar 31, 2008, 10:11am

Personally my philosophy is of the Finders Keepers Losers Weepers style. They accidentally got rid of the book and sold it with whatever the item was still inside the book at the time I picked it up. If I was ever lucky enough to find a winning lottery ticket inside a book I would not hesitate on cashing it in and keeping the money. Any other thoughts on the matter? And the same goes for if I ever found a bag of money or jewels with no kind of ID inside. I certainly would not be the type of person to turn it into the local Police Department and only get $50 back as my reward for being honest.


jul 2, 2009, 10:50pm

I purchased a copy of The Neverending Story from Goodwill recently. I already owned a copy, but this one's hardcover and has the spiffy green and red type.

Anyway, I found some nurse's paystub inside. Needless to say (I hope!), I threw it out.

feb 9, 2014, 8:59am

Unless there is an address, how would you return it? I mean, if the owner is the one selling it to you, then of course. But most of my purchases come from thrift shops. I feel no moral wrongdoing for keeping the items. Often, I treasure them as strange bits of history.

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