Honesty Losing Ground, Except in Valdosta

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On July 9, a door flew open on a GardaWorld armored truck and out fluttered $175,000 all over Dunwoody’s stretch of westbound I-285. For a few minutes, it rained cash and roughly fifty people stopped, risking life and limb to scoop up the unexpected windfall.

Starbucks adjacent to I-75 in Valdosta. GOOGLE MAPS/Special

When police arrived, the motorists were gone and only $200 was recovered. The next day, a Dunwoody police spokesman reminded the cash grabbers the money didn’t belong to them and they could be charged if they didn’t return it.

“We understand anyone in that position would be tempted, but we want people to do the right thing and bring the money back so they don’t have to worry about police knocking on their door,” said Sgt. Robert Parsons.

One month later, nine people have returned $6,200. Apparently, most people elected to take their chances. They took the money and ran, exhibiting dishonesty.

Honesty seems to be a fading quality. A survey conducted last year by The Desert Sun newspaper, YouGov and Y2 Analytics found Americans are increasingly acceptable of white lies, intentionally stretching the truth, and found those surveyed feel some lies are appropriate in certain situations. The article concluded, “The findings show that many Americans aren’t beholden to the popular maxim ‘honesty is the best policy.’”

Several weeks ago, while traveling back from visiting our daughter in Florida, my wife, my youngest daughter, and her two preschoolers took a bathroom break in Valdosta. Everybody went into Starbucks to use the restroom, then my wife made a purchase, and everybody returned to the van. While Ruth was feeding Norah, the van moved, as if someone had pushed it.

Amy got out and a white Ford Explorer was slowly scraping across the back of our van as the driver rolled through the parking lot. Amy was pulled into a parking space, so I’m not sure how he got up against us, but he damaged our back bumper.

He got out and explained he was a local lawyer well-known in town and would be glad to pay for the damage but would rather we didn’t file a police report. He wrote down his name and contact info while my daughter took his tag number. My wife called and asked what I thought she should do. I was ready to get them home, so I told her to come on and not wait for police. We’d take him at his word.

I got an estimate from my body shop the next day, then July 4th hit. On Monday, I mailed a letter with the estimate and instructions on how to pay. Then the wait began to see if he would follow through. I dislike cynicism, but my niceness has been taken advantage of once or twice.

In the meantime, to be proactive, I called Starbucks to see how to get security footage. The manager, Bridgette, said corporate would have to release the video, but they wouldn’t unless the police requested it. So I called the Valdosta Police Department, but they said I’d have to file a police report.

To file a police report, they’d have to dispatch an officer, or I’d have to come into the station. I asked if they would send an officer to Fayetteville. No, I’d have to travel south (I was just kidding). I called Bridgette back and she graciously volunteered to summon the police and fill out the report if necessary.

However, I called and reached the lawyer to ask if he received my letter and repair estimate. He said he did, that his secretary had been on vacation and the check was being processed. So, again, I waited and wondered.

Finally, the check arrived Saturday, Aug. 3, one month after the incident and almost a month after sending the quote. At least he did what he said he would do. He was slow, but he was honest.

I learned three things: First, fill out a police report, regardless of the inconvenience. Second, Bridgette, the store manager, told me to request the manager on duty to fill out an incident report. Then we’d have documentation even if police were not summoned. I didn’t know businesses would do that. Bridgette was extremely helpful. Third, there are still some honest people left in this world.

Proverbs 10:9 reads, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.”

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