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I called Flexcar on Monday to see if anyone had turned in a pair of Ray-Bans my friend had forgotten in the car I took out over the weekend. “We don’t have a centralized lost and found,” the woman said. Instead, items are just left in the cars. You have to reserve the vehicle again, at your own cost, and go back and fetch your stuff for yourself. Even when people call to report finding valuable items like wallets or cell phones, the office staff just tells them to leave the booty in the car. Flexcar may get in touch with the last driver, but that’s it.
With deadlines and being generally disorganized, I didn’t get back to the car until yesterday. I was dreading breaking the news to my friend, whom I’d told I was “getting right on it” on Monday. But lo and behold, the glasses were there. I really didn’t expect that. I guess I assume that everyone steals.
I often tell people that I’ve never stolen anything. I really do think it’s wrong, and I’m scared of getting caught. In high school, I would only act as lookout when my friends wandered out of Albertson’s with bottles of wine stuffed in their baggy skate pants. I refused to go on shoplifting sprees at Nordstrom. I won’t even steal music or movies from the internet.
But now that I think about it, I’m not as high and mighty when ownership isn’t clear. I once found a dollar in a Flexcar. And I took it. Maybe I would have taken the sunglasses if I’d found them. I think people have a sliding scale for the kind of abandoned items it’s OK to take. My gym’s lost and found, an unlocked chest in the locker room, is openly perused for spare headphones. I’d trust people to resist the temptation of an iPod, maybe. Or a wallet. But not necessarily sunglasses.
I’ve been trying to figure out the ethics of whether it’s good or bad to take stuff people forget, or how much effort you should put into giving it back. I hate the pay it forward crap, so it’s not like I’m going to go do something nice just because I found the sunglasses. But I do think taking stuff from Flexcars is like stealing. So if you left a dollar in the car by Domku this summer, I owe you.