One of the things I am truly grateful for today is that the so-called “philanthropist” who recently decided it would be fun to stash cash around town, then use Twitter to hint about its whereabouts, is long gone. Forever, we hope.
His antics caused near riots in some locations, led on by grinning media cheerleaders who busily compiled plenty of material to fill their news budgets.
We didn’t know his identity at the time. So in honor of the medium he used to advance his message, let’s call him Mr. Twit.
When we last looked in on his handiwork in Burbank, hundreds of people were rummaging through the streets looking for envelopes of cash. Not a lot of cash, just a hundred bucks or so.
Videos posted online showed people running through traffic, swarming a bus stop and combing bushes in search of three envelopes hidden at various spots at the Empire Center in Burbank, according to media reports. At one point, a woman abandoned her car in the street to join in the hunt.
What jolly fun. I hope Mr. Twit left an envelope at the Burbank Police Department to reward the efforts that were required to bring order to this chaos.
The Burbank episode was followed by one in Hermosa Beach characterized by one observer as “pandemonium.”
No one has been seriously injured yet. But keep it up, Mr. Twit, and it will be just a matter of time before some goofball with a gun will feel justified in defending his new-found stash by any means necessary.
Mr. Twit described himself as a real estate developer, and said the scavenger hunt was his attempt to pay it forward after scoring a six-figure profit on a property deal, and hoped others would do the same.
What a good idea. Let’s all celebrate our good fortune by stashing a few twenties in an envelope and alerting thousands of people about it via social media. Better yet, let’s do it on a Monday when the city is already choked with traffic. If we’re lucky, we might be able to see a few fist fights take place, maybe even a felony or two.
We aren’t the first city to be blessed by Mr. Twit’s largesse.
He first began hiding envelopes filled with cash in San Francisco. When his movement picked up steam, he moved on to San Jose before bringing his act to Los Angeles.
Imitators have popped up nationwide.
People looking for the cash in Wichita damaged railroad signage while looking for their treasure. Just after midnight Sunday the person behind the account tweeted this frustrated message: “damage like this does not accidentally happen #lostfaith.”
That person didn’t want to do an interview, but over email said they were thinking about suspending the account, saying “the fun is quickly slipping away.”
In Dallas, one observer noted that people “were running into traffic for $25 in an envelope. Absolutely insane.”
And it didn’t take long for scam artists to get involved. In San Antonio, a copycat of the Hidden Cash scavenger hunt craze is asking people to donate money to be hidden around the city. Hide your wallets, folks.
For his part, Mr. Twit says “I want the public to know that this is meant to be a fun way to put a smile on people’s faces.”
But then the smile disappeared from his face when he warned, “If you are struggling financially, please look to the many business opportunities that are out there to help yourself.
“There are people making money every day in all kinds of businesses, from e-commerce to exporting almonds (I know a guy who makes about $1 million a year doing this) to real estate.
“Hidden Cash is not going to save you, the lottery is not going to save you. Be smart and responsible and research all the ways to make money that are out there…”
But Mr. Twit doesn’t understand his audience. People who dash into traffic to find a hundred bucks live in a world where e-commerce and million dollar nut businesses are often beyond their reach.
In Burbank, 14-year-old Tatiana Ramirez told KTLA that the $210 in her envelope couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We were having lots of problems with money and my grandma was in the hospital, and I was going to help her with her medication,” she said.
A guy in San Francisco simply took all his friends out for pizza. Another said he would buy something nice for his mom.
Sergio Loza, 28, a San Francisco security guard who found an envelope with $50 inside taped to a parking meter, said he spent $30 on clothes for his 2-year-old niece’s birthday and gave her the remaining $20 as well.
That’s the real meaning of paying it forward. Media circus ringmasters like Mr. Twit should take note. And the next bus out of town.