If you live in California or scan Twitter with vigilance for ways to get free money (I don’t know, I’m sure there are some of you out there), you might have heard of something called Hidden Cash. For the uninitiated, here’s a quick primer – it’s like when your grandma hid plastic money-filled Easter eggs around the garden, except instead of the garden, it’s a city, and instead of your grandma, it’s a guy who flips houses for profit and may or may not be a spammer.
Jason Buzi, the house flipper and would-be grandma to the unwashed smartphone wielding masses, kicked off Hidden Cash in May with a money drop in San Francisco. He, or his associates, hide the money somewhere in whatever city they choose – they give you a heads-up at least a week in advance – with hints about the money’s location being dispensed via Twitter. Once, the money was hidden in plastic Angry Birds toys, so seriously, he might as well just start using plastic Easter eggs and make everyone feel like they’re 12 again.
Buzi was anonymous for the first month, but it’s pretty hard to stay anonymous for long, and he was outed in short order. He was outed by Inside Edition, and let’s just get this out of the way, whenever Inside Edition is centrally involved in anything, maybe you need to approach with caution. Inside Edition did some voice analysis, which was followed by Buzi going on Anderson Cooper on Monday to confirm that he was the one behind Hidden Cash. That set off a torrent of articles about Buzi himself, with questions raised about his business tactics, with some going as far as replacing the ‘p’ in spammer with a ‘c.’
I’m not going to pretend to know whether or not that’s true, but he made a CD in the ’90s about making fast money on the Internet that is, to my great disappointment, not on Amazon. Anyway, Buzi is now expanding Hidden Cash to Las Vegas, Chicago, Houston, Mexico City, and, yes, New York City. In fact, NYC will get two drops – one in Brooklyn, and one in Manhattan. After that, Hidden Cash is slated to go across the Atlantic, hitting Madrid, Paris, and London.
In California, Buzi has already given more than $15,000 away. Most of that is in increments of $40 to $100, so, again, grandma’s Easter eggs. I would say that this weekend will be Buzi’s cash-dropping debut in NYC, but that’s not quite true. Buzi also ran CashTomato’s similar giveaway back in 2008. If you’re in NYC, you may remember this as less of a giveaway and more of a riot, as the bag of tomatoes with money attached to them was abandoned in haste by whatever poor soul was tasked with handing them out, who rightly chose personal safety as chaos descended.
Anyway, Hidden Cash is free money, and it’ll be in NYC this week. While it does seem like Buzi isn’t getting anything out of this save whatever extra publicity and notoriety gets him, it’s still a little unsettling to see a millionaire throw money around while people – sometimes literally – run over each other to get it. It’s probably not malicious on Buzi’s part, but there’s a certain sadness that comes from seeing a 14-year-old girl in that same Burbank scrum sing Buzi’s praises because of finding $210 – money needed for her grandma’s medical care. There’s a sadness in how many people will be following Hidden Cash because they genuinely need the money. Buzi probably shouldn’t be demonized for it, and you can’t blame anyone for scrambling for free money – it’s just a little sad, even if you do want to think of it as paying it forward on Buzi’s part.
I guess there’s not much more to do than just shrug your shoulders and sigh. And maybe follow Hidden Cash on Twitter – after all, who couldn’t use an extra $100?