Hidden Cash St. Louis Is Upsetting and Weirdly Racist, But Who Cares, Free Money

Categories: Blowback

2. People's motivations for hunting for hidden cash reveal just how hard life can be.

Which leads us to a larger question: Why would anyone give up an afternoon for the slight chance of finding an envelope stuffed with a few twenties or tens?

Some people searching for cash say they'd spend it on treats, like the doctor who said she was buying herself some ice cream. Some are paying it forward, like the lady who bought $60 worth of coffee for people in a coffee shop with her winnings.

But the more you read about how people hope to spend their newfound money, the more the whole thing sounds like a farce staged by Occupy Wall Street to highlight the struggles of the working class. As costs for health care, transportation and food continue to rise while workers in real estate and e-commerce apparently earn more money than they know what to do with, money, even a little, goes a seriously long way on a paper-thin budget:

And if that weren't depressing enough, apparently people are flooding the original Hidden Cash account with hundreds of desperate requests for money.

"Let me say right now -- don't ask me for money," the anonymous benefactor, who has given away $10,000 so far, tells the Huffington Post. "I am giving more than most people in my position already, through various means."

3. We're even more worried about who isn't searching for hidden cash.

But the deep, inescapable irony of hidden cash has more to do with who isn't searching for cash than who is. The poorer or more socially vulnerable you are, the less likely you are to find an envelope of your own, it seems.

Let's start with the most obvious barrier to entry: The only people able to participate in Hidden Cash's secret drops are those with constant access to social media. Winners need a smartphone with Internet access and a fluent understanding of Twitter, Facebook and, now, Instagram to access clues, which are released in driblets so the organizers can hide the money without being seen.

So hidden-cash games immediately exclude the 20 percent of Americans -- mostly the elderly, poor and minorities -- who have almost no access to the Internet. For the other 80 percent of Americans, it's hard to even fathom life in 2014 without at least a dial-up connection on a desktop; that doesn't change the fact that 60 million Americans live without the Internet (let alone a Twitter account.)

But even if you have a smartphone, Internet access, social-media fluency, reliable transportation and several free hours, there's still one thing you have to get right in order to get the money: geography.

4. Oh, yeah, it's weirdly racist.

St. Louis is a notoriously segregated city, and geography here has deeply entrenched racial overtones. So far, Hidden Cash St. Louis has made drops in overwhelmingly white St. Louis suburbs: Creve Coeur, Clayton, Maplewood and St. Charles.

The anonymous donors behind Hidden Cash St. Louis constantly ask followers to suggest new locations for money drops, so it's no surprise they chose four affluent and tech-savvy neighborhoods rather than, say, Fairground Park, for the first drops.

There's still time for Hidden Cash St. Louis to add some racial and economic diversity to it's drop locations. (May we suggest Florissant? Forest Park Southeast? We'd be happy with almost anywhere in the city, really.) But so far, it seems that any treasure hunter living in a poor or black neighborhood is simply out of luck.

Luckily for Hidden Cash St. Louis, few really seem to care about the racial or socio-economic implications of their cash drops:

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.


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