Social Question

airowDee's avatar

Would it be stealing if someone took a book found at a public place ?

Asked by airowDee (1791points) November 27th, 2009

Say you find a pile of books beside a bookstore, the books are left on a chair; they look brand new, and they are just laying around a few feet away from the bookstore, would it be stealing if I take them home?

Can one get in trouble for selling them?

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34 Answers

jackm's avatar

Was there anyone around?

I think the totally honest thing would be to leave them so who ever left them can come and pick them up when they remember they forgot the books.

However, I don’t think you could be charged with theft.

buckyboy28's avatar

I would say it is stealing. If you don’t own the books, and they are on a chair, chances are that they are there for a reason. You won’t necessarily get into trouble, but I would assume that someone is not going to be too happy when they find their books missing.

holden's avatar

Are those books yours? No? Do you have reason to believe that somebody left them there on accident? Yes?
It’s stealing.

jrpowell's avatar

If it is outside of a used bookstore I would bet the person brought them into sell and those are the ones the bookstore didn’t want to buy back and the person didn’t want to drag them back home. So they left them. Are they in a bags from the store? If they are that is bad.

If I finish a book/magazine/newspaper that I don’t want to keep while I am on the bus or a pizza place I will just leave it for the next person.

ratboy's avatar

I take home books I find lying around the library all the time and I haven’t been arrested yet.

Dog's avatar

You might not know who owns the books But you do know it was not you.

absalom's avatar

If they were in a gutter or something, probably not. But right outside of a bookstore? I think you already know the answer.

Zen_Again's avatar

Maybe they were being dropped off for the bookstore, as they look new and are near a bookstore? Maybe the proprietor simply forgot them outside?

I’d leave ‘em, – or be the GS and ask the bookstore people???

Darwin's avatar

I would ask the book store people. I would know they weren’t mine, but I wouldn’t know if they belonged to the bookstore or were up for grabs if I didn’t ask.

JLeslie's avatar

Sounds like stealing. I would have brought them into the bookstore and told them the story.

MacBean's avatar

I’d definitely ask before taking if they were outside a bookstore. Especially since there were several. But if you find a solitary book on a park bench or on the bus or someplace random, take it. Someone like me or @johnpowell probably left it there just for you!

JLeslie's avatar

I thought I would mention that at the bookstore near where I live they have tables outside and they allow you to take books out there, even if you have not paid for them. Was it like that? At seating that is associated with the bookstore?

airowDee's avatar

No, JLeslie, it wasn’t like that.

Sarcasm's avatar

Question 1: Do you own the item in question?
Question 2: Were you given permission to have the item in question?

If you said “no” to both of these questions, it is stealing.

JLeslie's avatar

Seems like it is a dilemma now, because it would be awkward to return them at this point, but I guess if you asked this question you are feeling badly possibly?

LKidKyle1985's avatar

A similiar situation happened to me at a library once. I sat in a seat and found someone left a graphing calculator there. I decided to wait about 30 minutes for who ever to come back looking for it but they never did. I didn’t give it to the library because it was the main library on campus (OSU has 50,000 Students) And i figured the odds were low for them getting it back no matter what. So, I took it and sold it for 60 bucks. I mean is it really stealing? I don’t think so. Its not like I saw the person drop the calculator and waited till they walked away to take it. Its like finding 20 bucks on the ground. Is it yours? no. But whos going to claim it? If you don’t someone else will. Mine as well take the luck when you can get it I guess.

holden's avatar

@LKidKyle1985 who’s to say the person who left it there didn’t come back to the library looking for it? I lose crap all the time. I would have gone back. It’s not stealing but it’s not ethical either.

JLeslie's avatar

I lost a diamond earing (not real diamonds) in the dressing room at Macy’s once. I did not realize until late at night, and had to wait until the next afternoon to go back to the store and see if they had it. I was not even sure I had lost it there. I went back to the department I tried clothes on and they had it. The sales girl told me she did find it in the dressing room.

Jayne's avatar

@LKidKyle1985; there’s a thing called a lost & found for a reason.

Darwin's avatar

@LKidKyle1985 – Yes, it is stealing. You definitely should have turned it in to lost and found.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

Yeah I know thanks for the news flash jayne. But like I said huge library, Huge campus. I wouldn’t be suprised if people ask for missing stuff like that all the time that isn’t theres. Plus I took a math class and the math department has boxes full of graphing calculators that people lost that THEY kept. So oh well. If I was at a store I would have returned it, or some place not so large and something as common as a calculator there.

holden's avatar

Again: Is it yours? No. Do you have reason to believe somebody left it there on accident? Yes. This shouldn’t be so hard, folks. Don’t take shit that ain’t yours.

Zen_Again's avatar


Thus, if it felt wrong, and you have to ask fluther, you are feeling a might guilty. Next time, do as suggested above; ask. Or give it to the nearest post office, policeman or lost and found – accordingly. Not a very serious philosophy here – just plain ol’ CS.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

I think in the situation that the question was, if it was obvious it was books recently bought from a book store. you probably should of taken them in there and they may even of remembered who did it and could of found their credit card info or something I dunno.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

The way I saw it with my situation though. The person was out a calculator no matter what I did, thats why I kept it.

MacBean's avatar


JLeslie's avatar

Hopefully, in the future you will choose a different alternative, but don’t let the guilt torment you if that is what you are felling know. You now know you are not a thief; or if you are you are a bad one and will wind up giving yourself ulcers, because it seems obvious you do not want to consider yourself someone who would steal. We all have things we wish we did not do.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

@MacBean lol what ever I wouldn’t have done it if I felt bad about it. It’s not like ive done this in every situation, it was the only time i ever kept something I found and it was because of my lack of confidence in OSU’s library staffing and lost and found program.

MacBean's avatar

@LKidKyle1985: I don’t blame you in the least. When I lose stuff, most of the time I don’t even go back to look for it. And if it’s something that was expensive/meaningful enough that I do go back for it, I never really expect it to be there. I figure it was my own stupid fault for not taking care of my things, and I hope whoever has it now enjoys it. Finders keepers and all that.

skfinkel's avatar

If you found a diamond ring on the ground on the street, would you take it to the police or just pocket it? No one is around, but it’s stealing if you don’t turn it in. After a year, and it remains unclaimed, I think it is yours. This question is a variation on that theme. You hand the books in to the bookseller. If the store says they aren’t theirs, maybe they will hold them to see if someone comes by to claim them. If they remain unclaimed for a period of time, maybe then they are yours.

hearkat's avatar

As an aside: is a site where you assign a book it’s unique tracking #, then you pass it on or leave it for someone else to find. So if you see a book lying around, it may have intentionally left there for someone to find.

faithful's avatar

i think you already know the the answer to that. they don’t belong to you and taking something that doesn’t belong to you is stealing.

ratboy's avatar

No, it’s not stealing. “Finders, keepers” is one of the twelve commandments.

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