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"Guess what happened yesterday at the pool," Shlomi said. "My wallet was stolen!"

"We had a fire in our house last night!" replied Yisroel. "Actually, I was the one that took your wallet yesterday... and it got burned."

"So you stole it," said Shlomi.

"I didn't 'steal' it," protested Yisroel. "I did it for your good, to teach you to be more careful."

"Well, you had no right to touch my wallet," argued Shlomi. "You're responsible for it!"

"I put away the wallet safely in my desk," said Yisroel. "The fire was an oness."

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Although there is a prohibition to ignore a lost item, if a talmid chacham finds an item that is disrespectful for him to tend to, he is exempt from returning it. This exemption is extended to other distinguished individuals, in accordance with the circumstances. The general rule provided by the poskim is: Something that the finder would consider beneath his dignity to retrieve were it his own – he is exempt from returning to others (C.M. 263:1).

Nonetheless, it is a midas chassidus (righteous conduct) for a distinguished individual not to exempt himself. The Shulchan Aruch applies this even to a talmid chacham. The Rama does not allow him, though, because it belittles the honor of Torah; instead, he can compensate the owner (C.M. 263:3).

Some maintain that if the distinguished individual began tending to the lost item, he already began the mitzvah and is required to continue. However, the Gemara indicates that this applies specifically to animals, but not to other items, which he can put back down (C.M. 263:2; SM”A 263:4; Hashavas Aveidah K’halacha 2:11)

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Question: A customer called the other day and told me that he purchased a defective fold-up bed from me. I told him to bring it to the store for a refund. He responded that he doesn't drive, and when he purchased it, he paid a car service to bring it to his house. He then demanded that I repay him for the expense of the car service and that I hire a driver to pick up the bed from his house.

Am I obligated to repay him for the money he spent to have the bed delivered to his house? Who is responsible to bring the bed back to my store, me or him?

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