Every time someone came through the door of The Happy Cappuccino on Monday afternoon, Leo Quinn made an assessment.
“I can usually spot them. They have an earnest look, holding their phones, not dillydallying,” he said.
Quinn was on the lookout for a treasure hunter — someone who had seen the most recent post on his Find A Twenty Facebook page, website or Twitter feed and was following his clues to find cash.
The Ballston Spa businessman has been sporadically hiding $20 bills around the Capital Region since Jan. 2. So far, he’s given out over $1,300 of his own money. This month, he’s giving out $20 every day.
Join the hunt
How to join the Find
A Twenty treasure hunt:
•Become a fan of the Find A Twenty Facebook page.
•Follow the Find A Twenty Twitter feed.
Twenty.com and watch for clues.
Quinn was inspired by Richard Cook and Steven Grant, lifelong friends who started hiding $20 bills in Massachusetts in 2011 and promote their endeavor through the website www.PlentyofTwenties.com.
“One of them was a physician, one of them was a lawyer, and they started it as a social experiment and they turned it into a little marketing agency,” he explained.
Quinn’s motivation is multifold: to have fun, support local small businesses and maybe even drum up a few customers for his marketing business along the way.
He often chats with business owners if they’re on-site when he hides the money.
“I figured it might be a good way to improve business or to at least get the ear of business owners with an unusual event at their business,” he explained. “Instead of knocking on the door and trying to sell them something, I can say, ‘Would you mind if I hide $20 in your business?’ Then it gives me an opportunity to talk to the business owner while we’re waiting for the [treasure hunter] to come in, so it’s sort of an interesting foot in the door.”
Quinn said the public has been enthusiastic about his $20 giveaways, but he knows there are skeptics out there.
“I’m sure people think there is some sort of ulterior motive, like ‘join Amway’ or ‘join my church,’ but no. I believe in karma and getting back what you give out,” he said.
Quinn has hidden $20 bills everywhere from the newly reopened Morrette’s King Steakhouse in Schenectady to CrossRoads American Grille in West Sand Lake.
Ten-year-old Bobby Dennis of Latham has found three of them — one on a farm, one at Professor Java’s Coffee Sanctuary in Albany and one at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Latham.
His good fortune inspired him to sponsor a Find A Twenty giveaway at a vendor fair Nov. 22 at Southgate Elementary School in Latham.
“It made me feel happy and proud, doing it,” he said.
Dennis has yet to spend the twenties he’s found, but said he’d like to use the money to buy Legos and Transformer action figures.
Monday’s $20 at The Happy Cappuccino was hidden behind a picture of a dog licking its chops.
Along with the cash was a note Quinn puts with each $20 bill he hides, signed only with his first name. In the note, he asks whoever finds the money to email him a selfie that includes the $20, if they feel comfortable doing that. It also asks the finder to consider spending the small windfall at a local business.
About 45 minutes after Monday’s Find A Twenty clue hit the Internet, 15-year-old Jarrod Deering of Rexford walked into The Happy Cappuccino, on the hunt.
“We had quite a drive,” he said by phone later that afternoon. “We were looking for [the coffee shop] and we finally found it. My dad said, ‘OK, get out and go.’ ”
On the way home, Jarrod and his dad talked about spending the newly found cash on Thanksgiving dinner ingredients they could purchase from a local business.
Quinn said he has no intention of stopping the $20 giveaways once November is over.
“They’re karma points,” he explained with a smile.