Sunday, June 17, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: There are better ways to give away money than Twitter treasure hunts

Far, far, far be it from me to get all curmudgeonly about this, but the recent spate of mystery fairies hiding various sums of money all over St. Petersburg was —- how to put this as gently as possible — a supremely stupid idea.

Too nuanced?

Furtive benefactors hiding envelopes of cash around cities and then posting Twitter feed clues about where to find the moola has been all the rage in recent months. Think of this as sort of a poor man's 21st century version of the old 1950s television show The Millionaire, in which tycoon John Beresford Tipton secretly wrote seven-figure checks to unsuspecting recipients.

The Internet largess made its way to our fair shores, where people logging on to locally based Twitter accounts were sent around to find the lucre, including $10 and $100 bills.

This could be the start of a new reality series — The Hundred Dollaraire.

The two Twitter accounts eventually reached 2,000 followers, or lemmings, or perhaps dupes looking hither and yon for the secret stashes of cash.

How nice.

But while people are free to do whatever they want with their money, there seemed to be something unseemly about turning charity into a scavenger hunt. Isn't it just a bit tacky to take advantage of people by dangling the prospect of money if they solve a riddle?

Wheel of Fortune is not the same thing as altruism.

The secret Santas emphasized that they wanted the finders of the loot to use a portion of the money to "pay it forward" by doing something kind for someone else. That's nice, too. It's also a load of hooey.

Too subtle?

If these folks have enough money lying around that they can afford to play mind games with residents, sending them running all over the city looking for hidden envelopes, then they could certainly use their energies and checkbooks in more productive, meaningful and direct ways.

Merely take a stroll through Williams Park in St. Petersburg, and you'll find plenty of poor folks who would love to have a $10 bill, not to mention a very nice picture of Ben Franklin, to admire. Those people don't necessarily have access to a Twitter account. But they do have the cruel access to poverty.

In other parts of the city, there are single mothers, elderly people on fixed incomes and other struggling people barely making ends meet who could sure use $100. But they don't have the time or the wherewithal to play hide and seek with some shadowy Diamond Jim Brady with a keypad.

No doubt many of those fortunate enough to find one of the mystery envelopes were grateful for their good luck, even if they had to be used as pawns for the amusement of some unnamed Daddy Warbucks donor using his or her affluence to finance a glorified Easter egg hunt.

Too measured?

To be sure, some people who found the money may have used a bit of it to help someone else. Queue up the line for the Nobel Peace Prize. But it is just as likely that others found their mini-lottery ticket and paid it forward to themselves.

Meanwhile, thousands of others in need in St. Petersburg and other cities around the nation remain a day late and a Twitter clue short.

Too discreet?

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