Would you be willing to give away dozens of $20 bills to complete strangers for the sake of a social experiment? It may sound crazy, but that’s exactly what Rich Cook and Steve Grant are doing with Plenty of Twenties, a social experiment in which they give away a daily $20 bill. The catch? The twenties can be hidden anywhere in the Boston area, from Fenway Park to Boylston St. to the Cheers bar to Faneuil Hall, and all you have to do to earn the money is find it before anyone else. The locations and the giveaway times change daily, so those eager for some extra cash must stay tuned to the Plenty of Twenties website, Twitter account and Facebook page for details about the day’s location.
While giving away free money can be serious business, Rich and Steve make sure not to take themselves too seriously, as evidenced by their motto, “We stash! You dash!” We had a chance to chat with the hilarious psychiatrist and lawyer duo, who certainly earned their crowns co-class clowns at Wakefield High. Here’s their story of how they decided to give away money to complete strangers.
I understand Plenty of Twenties started with a debate. Can you explain more about its roots?
STEVE: Well for one thing, I’ve always wondered how much lost or abandoned money was out there right now, at this moment. Like if you added up all the dropped pennies and bills, lost wallets and so on, what would the total amount be? Probably in the millions of dollars. We’ll never know, and the number’s always changing. Anyway, me and Rich somehow got to arguing about how even if everyone knew there was say, a $20 bill somewhere, would it be worth it to get it? It depends on who you are, how far away it is, who else knows it’s there, when they found out….
RICH: I said nobody would go for it, but Steve disagreed. So one day Steve put $20 in a book in the Wakefield library, and he told everyone about it on Facebook. Within 90 minutes, somebody grabbed it and posted a pic about it. I was wrong! And it got us thinking…
What’s your ultimate goal with Plenty of Twenties?
RICH: There’s no ultimate goal, per se. Part of the excitement is it could go in so many different directions. It has so much potential. We get to brighten the day of at least one person every day. And it’s usually more than the money for them. They get 15 minutes of fame, and the fun of going out and being the one to find the $20. And everyone else gets the fun of seeing where the next $20 will be, and then seeing who found it.
STEVE: There’s a lot of potential for advertising, and we’re not shying away from it. For example, we can hide the twenties in local businesses, who will receive attention on our site and with foot traffic. They can offer discounts to those who didn’t find the 20. We’ll probably put advertising on the site soon. Some even want us to put advertising inside the envelopes where we hide the twenties. The more advertising revenue, the more twenties we can give away. And we can make a few bucks. Everybody wins. Our fans, our sponsors, even us. And we’re not trying to sell our fans anything. Quite the opposite. It’s counter-intuitive to many people, but you can make money by giving it away.
How many twenties have you given away so far?
RICH: As of yesterday, we’ve given away 49 twenties for $980.
How many twenties do you plan to give away?
RICH: We’re doing this indefinitely. More and more, we’re giving away more than one per day.
What was the very first twenty you gave away?
STEVE: Back in September, we wanted to pay tribute to our good friend James, who died suddenly earlier this year. We hid it outside the apartment where I lived with him a few years.
How do you build up buzz? Do you do any marketing, or let people stumble upon you for themselves?
STEVE: Our friend Kim Ring happens to be an amazing PR woman who runs her own company. For one thing, she really spread the word on Twitter early on, and she told some of her media contacts about us. Some saw us on their own. It’s snowballed from there. Not to sound arrogant, but the concept is so appealing and fun to people that the word spreads easily. Who doesn’t like free money?
Do you have plans to expand and hire more employees?
RICH: It’s just me and Steve, but our childhood friend Kim helps to promote us. Our friend Nate is helping us with the site and with developing an application. They don’t want us to pay them but we are anyway. Now we’re reaching a point where we may need to hire a couple people.
Do you have any sponsors?
RICH: We’ve been approached, and we’ve approached some companies that would be a good fit. Friends have even sponsored a couple $20’s. That’s been really cool. We did hide a $20 in our friend’s consignment shop, Raspberry Beret, and it went well. They gave a 20% off coupon to our fans, too.
Are you planning to expand to other states or do giveaways more than once a day?
RICH: If this continues to grow, and we expect that it will, we’ll expand to other states. We’re not quite there yet, obviously, but this idea can work anywhere.
What’s your favorite location that you’ve stored the cash?
STEVE: Hiding it outside the apartment where I lived with James. And hiding it outside of Wakefield High School, where Rich and I graduated from, was a lot of fun.
RICH: They’ve all been pretty fun.
Any funny stories?
STEVE: Last week I went to Faneuil Hall to hide a $20. I sat down on a bench and started putting duct tape on the back of the envelope. A kiosk worker saw me and jokingly asked “Stashing some money?” I laughed and said, “Yeah, right.”