Problem Solver: Envelope stuffed with green falls into a gray area for retailer

Customer turned money over to Von Maur staff but questions long-term policy on its fate

She could see the cash stuffed inside, but Maggie Kent did not count the bills after picking the envelope off the floor at Von Maur store in Lombard.

The 25-year-old knew the money wasn't hers.

Dutifully, she approached a Von Maur employee on that September day in 2011 and handed it over.

She gave the employee her contact information and left with her mom, Juli Kent.

"She just instinctively turned it over," the mother said. "She just put it in her hand and gave it to the nearest sales associate."

A month later, Juli Kent called the store to see what happened to the money. An employee told her how much was in the envelope — well over $100 — and said no one had claimed it yet.

The employee told Kent the store's policy was to keep the money for one year. If no one claimed it that time, the store would then donate it to charity, Kent said she was told.

"I agreed that was a fine policy," she said.

The cash-stuffed envelope remained in the back of her mind. A year later, in late September, she visited the store again. She asked if anyone had claimed the money, and an employee said he didn't know.

So she went home and called the store again.

"After two conversations, … I discovered that the store's policy is actually to keep the money, adding it to the store's receipts — just in case the owner comes to claim it," Kent said.

That didn't sit well with her.

"Keeping it safe for an owner to claim is one thing," she said. "Donating to a good cause is another. Returning it to the finder should be the fairest thing to do. But keeping it — in the hope that someone comes to claim it after one year? That is just plain wrong."

Worried that the money would just be added to Von Maur's coffers, Kent emailed What's Your Problem? in mid-October.

She said she loves Von Maur and plans to shop there in the future and that everyone she's spoken to about the situation has been cordial.

"I'm not going to threaten to never return or anything like that," she said. "I'm not going to do that kind of pouty thing."

But she disagrees with how the store has handled the money and thinks it is unfair that Von Maur would simply keep it.

Kent said the store should donate the money to charity, preferably to the West Suburban Humane Society, where both she and her daughter are active.

"We would be happy to donate that money to them," she said. "They'd be thrilled."

The Problem Solver called Von Maur and asked about the money.

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