One of America’s 1 percent has been hiding wads of cash in and around San Francisco for savvy riddle-solvers to find — igniting an international frenzy on social media.
The anonymous philanthropist has been operating since Friday under the Twitter handle @HiddenCash to carry out what he calls “an anonymous social experiment for good,” posting clues on Twitter that tell followers where to find the cash — usually $100.
A clue Tuesday told San Francisco followers to “find Mr. Franklin along the ‘crookedest street,’ (towards the bottom),” the Associated Press reported. Translation: There was a $100 bill at the bottom of Lombard Street, a touristy thoroughfare known as the “crookedest street in the world.”
@HiddenCash had more than 117,000 followers early Wednesday morning. The anonymous donor said he is a real estate investor and told CNN he has had the good fortune of joining the wealthiest 1 percent of American society in the past few years. When the man, who said he is between ages 35 and 45, recently closed a deal with a six-figure sum, he decided to “give some of it back” through random acts of kindness, he said.
“This is not a set-up charity, but I wanted to do something fun and creative,” he said. “We were thinking of something like the ‘Survivor’ TV show or something of that nature that was a scavenger hunt. They were basically too involved. So what we did was hide cash in different places. I thought it would be fun but it’s also something simple to execute. All you’re doing is leaving money and putting clues on Twitter.” He has already been giving away about a grand a day since Friday, he told CNN.
The AP spoke with two winners — one of whom won $200 by finding two envelopes about two hours apart Friday in the city’s South of Market District. One envelope read, “With Love, from @HiddenCash. Leave $20 somewhere and pay it forward.”
The winner, Adam Wenger, a Web producer for KGO-Radio, bought pizza for his co-workers on Tuesday and plans to pay a $100 parking ticket. “It’s crazy,” he told the AP.
A few have questioned whether this may be part of a marketing scheme or a business deal to later sell the Twitter account. SFGate reported that a sale would make sense since the buyer would get a marketing tool loaded with more than 100,000 followers. The paper stated: “If that’s the case, and this is just a clever marketing ploy, it will be disappointing. If nothing else, this is a classic San Francisco spectacle — quirky, techie and witty.”
Still, the man told KTVU his treasure hunts are for fun and are meant to “put a smile on someone’s face.” And he said he maintains anonymity because he wants the attention on his pay-it-forward idea.
“If people need the money for themselves, that’s fine. But if they can share it that with others, that would be great,” he said. “I’ve heard some heart-warming stories from people donating to charity and sharing it with other people who are less fortunate.”
An e-mail sent to the @HiddenCash creator seeking comment was not immediately returned to The Washington Post early Wednesday morning.
His winners don’t seem to mind the cloak-and-dagger. The Twitter page is filled with selfies of people posing with their cash prizes.
— T.$ki (@LastnameAficial) May 27, 2014
— Atticus Grey (@_Atticus) May 27, 2014
@HiddenCash said on Twitter that he plans to leave envelopes in San Jose on Wednesday, in Los Angeles this weekend and maybe in New York City next month. Followers have requested similar gestures in Alabama, Washington, D.C., and as far away as Pakistan with hashtags such as #kindness, #generous, #epic and #strange.
And here you have it:
San Jose drops in the morning. Showing the South Bay some love and cash.
— Hidden Cash (@HiddenCash) May 28, 2014