People scramble for $10K dropped from the sky at Pasco car dealership

Chris George, 38, of New Port Richey walks away with free money Saturday at Hyundai of Wesley Chapel’s cash drop event.
Chris George, 38, of New Port Richey walks away with free money Saturday at Hyundai of Wesley Chapel’s cash drop event.
Published Sept. 6, 2015


They were looking up at the box suspended directly overhead, shielding their eyes from the sun, when the countdown began.

"Ten," the DJ said, the crowd shifting anxiously as people jockeyed for position within the fenced in parking lot of Hyundai of Wesley Chapel. One strategy was to stand directly under the dangling box, suspended some 70 feet high by crane, another was to remain on the fringe and pounce in at the right moment.

"Seven," they counted in unison. Inside the decorated cardboard box was $10,000 in fake cash and handfuls of confetti. The play money, in mixed denominations, was redeemable for real cash, fake dollar for real dollar.

They had all come to the dealership Saturday morning for their own reasons: Some had bills to pay, some were simply curious, one needed a haircut. But everyone wanted the money.

"Four," participants yelled, their anticipation reaching its zenith.


Without much wind, clumps of money came tumbling straight down, and immediately people were on the ground. Adults piled on top of each other and squealed like children on Christmas morning, grabbing for individual dollar bills like they were Black Friday sale items and stuffing them into small plastic bags organizers had given out beforehand.

But Misty Sims, 31, of Lacoochee forewent the bag and instead stuffed the bills she collected down her tucked in shirt.

"That bag ain't gonna work 'cause you only got one hand," she said prior to the drop. She and her husband were among the most successful participants; together they collected almost $900, with which they planned to pay off their television at Rent-A-Center and buy groceries for their family of six.

There were no rules of engagement, said Wendy Longley, president of Traffic Advertising, the firm that organized the promotion. Except that all contenders had to be at least 18 years old and sign a liability waiver and photo release form. Anyone would have been welcome to bring a fishing net, or God forbid, a shop vacuum.

"I guess they just didn't think of that," she said.

After the five minute melee, only confetti remained on the pavement. Perhaps surprisingly, nobody was badly injured. A pair of scraped knees, which on-site Pasco County Fire Rescue personnel wrapped with bandages, stood as the only casualties.

The event, which included free hot dogs, was born from a conversation Longley had with dealer general manager John Gauvey. She wanted to do something big for Labor Day weekend.

"Wendy calls me up and says, 'What do you think about giving away $10,000?' I said, 'That's a great idea,' " Gauvey said. "It's the Cash Drop Giveaway baby, it's the biggest thing we've ever done!"

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As a promotional tactic, the dealership offered to match the winnings of anyone who used their cash on a down payment for a car. After the event, staff announced they would triple people's winnings, an attempt to attract more guests into the showroom.

"Buy a car or don't buy a car, it's just an event," Gauvey said. "Advertising creates excitement, and we're all excited."

Most people didn't buy a car. Only five or six people chose to convert their cash into a down payment, he said. But that wasn't necessarily the point.

"Any time you can have a couple hundred people come say hi, it's great," Gauvey said. "People love free money, right?"

Unfortunately, not everyone got their hands on as much as the Sims. Joey Licalzi, 24, of Wesley Chapel was hoping to land enough to pay for a haircut, but didn't quite make it. Despite being one of the tallest in the crowd at 6 foot 4, he only came away with $8. "That's enough for a good tip."

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or Follow @josh_solomon15