Store refuses to return cash found in parking lot

January 11, 2011 11:01:28 AM PST
Finders' keepers may be the rule of the land on the playground, but not much place else, as one woman discovered that when she found a large amount of money in a parking lot. There are a lot of misconceptions about what's supposed to happen when you find something of value.

Margaret Symons was walking in a Target parking lot when she saw more than $1,000 on the ground. Most would consider it their lucky day, but not her.

"It was somebody else's bad day. I was thinking, 'oh my God, it could be somebody's rent. Somebody's rent and bill money, food money,'" she said.

Symons briefly considered giving the money to people she knew needed it.

"It was three days before my brother's memorial service. I could have given some money to his kids," she said. "It wasn't the right thing to do."

So she did what most people would do -- she turned it into Target where she found it. Target told her the money would be returned to her if no one claimed it in 30 days. Thirty days passed and no one claimed it, but Target wouldn't give her the money.

"And he says 'well, ma'am, for the amount of money that high, we can't give it to you. We have to keep it. We have to put it in our petty cash,' and I said, 'no way,'" Symons said.

We contacted Target about Symons' story and it confirmed its policy to 7 On Your Side via e-mail. They wrote, "If lost cash is not claimed by the owner, the store will continue to carry the overage in the event the money is claimed in the future."

Customers we spoke to, think the money should be returned to Symons.

"Definitely she has a claim to the money considering that she's the one that found it," Dominique Martin from San Jose said.

"If it's not claimed within like 2-3 week period, the person who found it should probably get it," Elizabeth Volp from San Jose said.

"There are a lot of urban legends about lost property from finders' keepers to you have to turn it into the police. All of them are sort of true," ABC7 Legal Analyst Dean Johnson said.

Johnson says the proper thing to do is to turn the money over to police, not to the place where you found it. Once Symons asked for the money back, Johnson says Target should have given it to her.

"They had duties to hold the property in effect in trust for the finder, and when she demanded it back, they were under a duty to give it back," he said.

Target has since returned all the money to Symons.

If the money had been turned over to police, it would have been held for 90 days. If not claimed, the money would have been given to the finder. We checked with San Jose police and there have been no reports filed of lost money.