NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - If you were walking along and spotted a cell phone, would you pocket it or try to find its owner? An international survey found people were more honest than expected, with Slovenians leading the pack.
Reporters from the magazine Reader’s Digest planted 960 “lost” cell phones in 30 public places in 32 cities around the world to test people’s reactions in a cell phone honesty test.
They rang the phone as people walked past and watched to see if people would answer the phone, take the phone and attempt to call someone in the pre-programmed contacts later, or simply pocket it.
The most honest city in the survey turned out to be the smallest city in the group, Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, where 29 of 30 cell phones were returned.
But bigger cities showed they also had trustworthy citizens with Canada’s largest city, Toronto, coming second with 28 of 30 phones returned, followed by Seoul, South Korea, and Stockholm in Sweden.
The Asian cities of Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur didn’t fare so well, tying for worst performance with only 13 of the 30 “lost” phones returned in each city.
Reader’s Digest spokesman William Adler said while the study was not scientific, the results were interesting and indicated that people were more honest than preliminary interviews suggested.
Many people predicted in preliminary interviews that return rates would be in the single digits but the average return rate on the “lost” phones was 68 percent.
“People didn’t expect a lot of good Samaritans,” he told Reuters.
The survey found that parents with children were keen to show the right behavior and women were slightly more likely to return phones than men.
New York came fifth in the list, tying with Mumbai in India, and Manila in the Philippines, with New York advertising sales representative Catherine Borelli typifying the reason why people made such an effort to track down the owner.
Borelli, 24, said she found a BlackBerry e-mail and cell phone device in the backseat of a taxi on a recent trip so she called several contacts in the phone until she reached the owner’s wife then set up a meeting place to return the device.
“I know how awful it would be lose all your contacts. If I lost my BlackBerry, I would hope someone would do the same for me,” she told Reuters.