Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Money Walking and Competition

Journal Entry: Weight = 178.0; Coinage = $.56, 36 pennies, 2 nickels, 2 dimes; glass bottles = 3; ground scores = 2. Best find, seven pennies scattered in a real estate parking lot. Someone in the office and I are playing games. I check this lot weekly and always find several pennies scattered about. As one follower noted, these are “salted” pennies—pennies left for me to find. The MoneyWalker “mines” various parking lots on every walk, finding even one coin in a relatively small parking lot is rare. Thus, to find pennies in this one particular lot so frequently goes beyond chance. “Keep them coming, I enjoy the game.”

Feature Entry: We humans seem to be hardwired to compete. In earlier posts, the MoneyWalker has identified brain centers that when stimulated provide pleasure or “buzzes.” One known “reward center” is the ventral striatum located in the cerebellum. Neuroscientists Christian Elger and Armin Falk in ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2007) rewarded participants with 30 to 100 Euros by completing a difficult visual perception tasks. The better the performance the more Euros received. When told their score and corresponding Euros earned, the activation lights on a magnetic resonance tomography blinked.

Interestingly, the subjects performed in pairs with full knowledge of their partner’s earned Euros. Thus, there was competition. When one subject earned more Euros than his partner, the tomography blinks were stronger for the subject with the highest Euro score. When the reward was the same for each subject, there was no difference in the tomography blinks.

One key to the competition research is that the reward must be perceived as being “worth aspiring to.” Like Elger and Falk’s subjects, the Moneywalker has competition for finding lost money. I have three classifications for my competitors: Active, Passive, and Situational.

Active money walkers are people that search for money in my neighborhood. One gentleman rides his bicycle using a semi push semi ride technique. When he gets to a money hot spot, he slowly pushes his bike while looking for coins. Our paths frequently cross.

Passive money walkers includes all people willing to bend and retrieve a coin. Seventy-five percent of U.S. citizens surveyed indicate that they will stop and pick up a penny. It follows then that 75% of the people in my neighborhood are passive competitors.

Situational money walkers are people that check money spots in their place of business. Examples include the grocery cart retrievers and the employees of fast food chains.

Usually the competition is friendly, but not always. In one Burger King, on two different occasions, employees have “shooed” me away from checking the drive through. At another, the grounds cleaner remarked in Spanlish, “My coins!” as I checked a Rally Burger drive through. One owner of a locally popular restaurant noticed my early morning habit of checking his parking lot and asked me to get off of his property. I found a ten dollar bill once and I think he saw me while reading his newspaper from his car.

But sometimes the tone is cooperative. This morning, a McDonald’s ground sweeper greeted me with this cheerful comment: “I saved some pennies for you at the drive through.” What is the MoneyWalker’s response to the competitors? I honor their request. It is the moral thing to do.



  1. I have been meaning to ask you about these situations that you have written about. I, too have had differing reactions from people who are aware of my regular routine. Some have pointed to a coin that I might have missed, others have asked me not to return. I also honor that. Mostly I do not come in contact with any of them because I am out early enough in the morning that the businesses are not open yet.

    I will admit that one time I had a little run-in with a person who got unnecessarily nasty with me. His attitude was way over the top. The guy had an extremely large girth so I smiled and told him if he wanted his penny back he would have to chase me. I ran. He didn't. It was in a different city so I wasn't worried about returning.

    As far as salting, if they throw them down I'll pick them up. And I'll be laughing as I count them!

    I'm a little skeptical about the 75% who said they would pick up a coin. I wonder if they really would. And they would have to *see* it first.

    I know of only one active moneywalker that crosses my path. If I am late getting out there is a good chance that he will have *scooped* my good spots. This guy is a dumpster diver as well, a sport that I have yet to take up. (My daughters threatened to take away my shoes if I did!)

    It is nice to have someone to talk to about all of these important issues that we face on the streets each day! Thank you!

  2. Yes, our topics are important, especially given what we must listen to on the evening news. My bicycle competitor is also a dumpster diver. I'll try to get a reference on that 75%. I'm going to post soon on learning theory and finding coins. "Modeling" will be featured and my belief that others are learning to model my behavior and are checking my coin hot spots.