About a year ago, the owner of a mysterious Twitter account started stashing money across the city, and kids went nuts.
I was there, speeding past beat-up starter cars in my wife’s Toyota RAV4, screeching into PetSmart parking lots and racing 17-year-olds to dig through bushes and upturned trash cans, searching for small bills.
For a few months in winter and spring 2017, the Twitter account Finders Keepers (@nbfinderskeeper) created a phenomenon on Friday and Saturday nights. It was Omaha’s great cash grab.
But like all weird and great things, it was gone too soon.
The account exploded into local Twitter popularity with one tweet on Feb. 3, 2017.
“There is $40 in this envelope on vacuums at buckeys gas station 108th and L street. Hopefully to someone in need! Njoy”
The account’s owner tagged the popular unofficial police scanner traffic account @MeanStreetsOMA, which retweeted Finders Keepers, sending the scavenger hunt clue across Omaha Twitter timelines.
“It gave me an adrenaline rush because I wanted to be the first one there,” said Easton Wilson, then 21, who was one of the people who dropped everything and dashed. “There were at least three to five (others) with me all realizing we were all too late.”
Finders Keepers posted clues to 12 more cash stashes that first night, giving away at least $325, plus a pack of diapers.
The next day, the account posted a message asking a Hillary Clinton supporter and Donald Trump supporter to meet at a gas station wearing candidate garb and holding that day’s World-Herald, asking them to find common ground and take a selfie before receiving the location of the cash.
The account never posted an explanation about the source of the money or why he or she was giving it away. The account’s owner did not reply to numerous requests to comment for this story.
But there were a few clues.
“we have been blessed financially,” a Finders Keepers tweet read on that first night. “Want to give hope and bring people together in these divided times.”
we have been blessed financially. Want to give hope and bring people together in these divided times.— Finders Keepers (@nbfinderskeeper) February 4, 2017
A second clue indicated that the account owner was likely young or, if older, under the watch of a helicopter parent.
“Trying to get my mom to extend my curfew so we can do a few more tonight,” a tweet read on Feb. 10.
Doing one more in Millard. Stay tuned for details. Trying to get my mom to extend my curfew so we can do a few more tonight.— Finders Keepers (@nbfinderskeeper) February 11, 2017
Then came a clue about what the person might do for a living (or a weird hobby?).
“I will try to get away to do one tonight. Waiting for a patient to stabilize and then I will be out. Within 30 minutes hopefully,” it tweeted the night of Feb. 11.
Ok. I will try to get away to do one tonight. Waiting for a patient to stabilize and then I will be out. Within 30 minutes hopefully.— Finders Keepers (@nbfinderskeeper) February 12, 2017
In total, the account’s owner gave away about $1,000 between February and May 2017. But as days and weeks passed, crowds scared some people away, like Wilson.
“I gave up because by then it had gotten so big,” he said. “There was always someone that would be right by the location.”
He’s right. At the peak of its popularity, at that PetSmart parking lot, two dozen cars showed up. More than 30 people, almost exclusively high schoolers, rooted through bushes, doggy doo-doo bag rolls and, finally, a dog dropping disposal can, where the cash was hidden (in a poopless bag).
As time went on, prizes were less frequent and for smaller amounts.
By May 2017, Finders Keepers wasn’t getting the retweets or the crowds it did in its first month. Its last clue, on May 12, 2017, at 11:22 p.m., disclosed the exact location of the money, in a tree in Aksarben Village just outside Liv Lounge.
My wife and I found it 11 hours and 9 minutes later. We walked up and plucked it out of the tree.
Finders Keepers went silent after that. It awoke briefly to retweet a few pro-police tweets, then held one last spree on Dec. 1, 2017, giving away a few small cash prizes, but hasn’t tweeted since.
Did Finders Keepers lose its cool factor? Did the owner go bust? Will we ever get an answer as to who did this, how and why?
I don’t know.
Maybe it’s fitting the way Finders Keepers ended, with so many question marks and out of the blue, just as it arrived.
I miss it. So I’ll tell you what. If you made it this far, let’s have a little fun, Finders Keepers style.