Less than two weeks ago, an anonymous self-described middle-aged California real estate developer hid a cash-stuffed envelope in San Francisco in an effort, he said, to give back to the community that made him wealthy. Since then, his project, Hidden Cash, has sparked a multi-city frenzy.
The man behind Hidden Cash shared his thoughts on the phenomenon in a rare media interview with The Huffington Post.
So far, he estimates he has concealed more than $10,000 across California. He's also gained more than 441,000 followers on his Twitter account, where he gives clues to the money's location. Thousands have gone on his social media scavenger hunt, which has spurred imitations in cities around the globe.
But many have taken issue with the "social experiment," as he calls it. While he has cautioned his Twitter followers to be safe and respectful, several recent cash hunts have caused pandemonium and traffic delays.
HuffPost readers also have argued that Hidden Cash is a twisted game masquerading as a charity and that the money -- mostly found by the smartphone-equipped -- should be given to the less fortunate.
The man behind Hidden Cash responded to HuffPost via email to better explain his motives. (Emphasis was added by HuffPost.)
On how much money he has hidden thus far:
"I'm actually kind of trying not to keep track, because even for me, it's a lot of money. I am well-off, but I do not live an opulent lifestyle. Anyway, I have given away a little over $10,000 so far. The rate has been about $1,000 a day (obviously, some days like the beach much more, other days less)."
On his money drop in Burbank, California, which was described as a "traffic nightmare" and "reckless scene" in which people were "trampling over one another":
"I was having dinner at a restaurant in the same shopping center in Burbank, and the waiters were talking about it and some young diners ran out to look for the cash. I went outside and there was a crowd of at least 500, helicopters overhead, it was just insane. In hindsight, that was not a wise location as there are cars going in and out, traffic, etc. But I didn't realize how big we were until then. Since then, I've tried to keep the events in open spaces like parks or the beach to minimize the potential for any problems."
On criticism that this is just a real-life rat race, in which a rich man entertains himself by watching the poor scramble for his extra cash:
"When anything gets big, there will be some critics. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Most of the people out there were not the poorest of the poor but lower middle to upper middle class people getting out and having a good time. I don't think it's just about the money either. People are coming together, enjoying the outdoors, having a good time. There will always be skeptics and cynics. There are people who don't believe anything can be motivated by altruism. I actually feel sorry for these people who see life and humanity in such cynical terms. I made a bunch of money. I want to give back in a fun way. "
On the flood of emails asking him for financial assistance:
"Hundreds of people have written me asking for money. I don't have the time, ability or even money to help them all. I've made it clear on our Twitter page multiple times that I can't do this. It's just not possible. I have not responded and do not plan to respond. I simply don't have the ability to figure out who is legitimate or not, and this is simply beyond what I am doing. Let me say right now -- don't ask me for money. I am giving more than most people in my position already, through various means."
On his advice to his Twitter followers:
"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. Now, to the 'haves': please be a little more generous and help people more and pay it forward. You have been blessed and many people are struggling."
On the future of Hidden Cash:
"We have big expansion plans. We are figuring out logistics and will announce next week."
He also confirmed on Twitter that Hidden Cash will spread to other California cities in the coming months.