Dollars In The Mail

Gary is very poor, and he’d like his dollar back.   It’s an ingenious plan, and Gary has been making up to $90 a month by simply asking for his money back.

Gary’s plan started in 2003 when he had some medical problems and things were actually quite tight.  He’s by no means a rich man today, but Gary still writes his name and address on the dollars he spends.

It’s an interesting plan:  why would a person actually send a dollar to somebody they don’t know?  Gary had used the money to purchase something, and then the dollar moved through the system, whether it made it back to a bank or just got passed between customers as change, eventually it ends up in the pocket of somebody who received it during a purchase, as part of their change.

There are a lot of charities and organizations that rely on this: to one person, the value of the single piece of currency isn’t worth much, so they’re willing to part with it.  Cashiers probably ask you all the time if you want to donate a buck to some medical charity or homeless shelter, that they’ll just add it onto your tab.  Or, you can ’round up’ your purchase to the nearest dollar, with the difference going to charity.  They are banking on the fact that a small amount might not seem like much to part with, and you’ll be likely to agree to donating a few cents.

Those little bits add up: individuals may not see value, but when enough individuals give up their dollar or less it begins to total into a tidy sum.   By being a small amount, it’s easier to get five people to donate a dollar than to get one person to donate five dollars, at least that’s the strategy.  In the end, the contributions of many increase in value, like what shows up in Gary’s mailbox each month.  It may not be a tax-deductible charity, but for the people who mail their money back the loss of that dollar might not mean much, but the legally-blind Gary might reap a greater value en masse in what is returned by relying on the perceived value of one bit of currency.