We can’t tell you what to do. We know that. But we can say what it is that we absolutely, positively will not be doing ourselves this weekend, namely, participating in the Hidden Cash Scavenger Hunt. That’s right, even though Jason Buzi, a millionaire from Palo Alto (the same city that gave us noted Salinger aficionado James Franco), has made clear his intentions to hide thousands of dollars in cash (usually in packets of between $40-$100 at a time) around Manhattan and Brooklyn this coming Saturday, which anyone can collect with no strings attached, and even though we could probably use the money (because, really, who couldn’t?), we are not going to go anywhere near the locations that Buzi will be tweeting throughout the day because we refuse, on principle, to participate in this grotesque spectacle that Buzi is masquerading as philanthropy. And we think anyone with any kind of self respect should avoid it too.
Over half a million people follow Buzi (@hiddencash) on Twitter now, all in order to be privy to the most up-to-date info of where he’s hidden money lately. (Sample tweet: “2nd drop today: near parking. Money does grow on trees sometimes. 3rd one closeby, soon.”) California residents have taken so completely to this game that, a couple of weeks ago, Hidden Cash-followers turned a Burbank mall into what was best described as “a riot scene” as they jumped out of their cars and climbed on top of bus stops all in order to find envelopes stuffed with—at best—enough cash to pay for a week’s supply of groceries. While we would never begrudge anyone who is particularly cash-strapped from seeking out money any way that they can, the fact that someone like Buzi who has the means to donate this money in a more effective manner—or even just randomly pass out money to people on the streets—would instead choose to make this cash-scramble into a potentially unsafe situation not dissimilar to the rush into Walmart at the start of Black Friday is disconcerting at best, and despicable at worst.
The amount of money that Buzi is giving away is not going to be life-changing for anyone (in fact, as Buzi himself patronizingly explains: “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.”), and all that scavengers will be doing will be playing into the hands of someone who clearly is enjoying the publicity that he is getting from this endeavor (sure, he was anonymous at first, but that lasted a suspiciously short amount of time before the crack team behind, uh, Inside Edition, were able to figure him out). So why give some random multimillionaire the satisfaction of seeing people scuffle with each other in a mad dash for an infinitesimal fraction of his fortune? It’s grotesque, and we should be better than that. It also is a system set up to benefit people who have enough savvy to already be active on and engaged with social media, not exactly the type of people whose lives will be changed by an extra $50. We should all be better than to debase ourselves for the pleasure of a wealthy man who needs an ego boost. We don’t need to scavenge. We’re better than that. Or, at least, we should be.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen