What a well-placed $20 gets you SEP 24 2009
Tom Chiarella took a stack of $20 bills with him to New York City just to see what he could get by offering them to the right people at the right time. Turns out, quite a bit. I probably linked to this a few years ago (it's from 2003), but it's worth another look. I just love this kind of thing...probably because I'm too much of a candy ass to ever attempt something similar.
A twenty should not be a ticket so much as a solution. You have a problem, you need something from the back room, you don't want to wait, you whip out the twenty.
I could have stood in line at the airport cabstand for fifteen minutes like every other mook in the world, freezing my balls off, but such is not the way of the twenty-dollar millionaire. I walked straight to the front of the line and offered a woman twenty bucks for her spot. She took it with a shrug. Behind her, people crackled. "Hey! Ho!" they shouted. I knew exactly what that meant. It wasn't good. I needed to get in a cab soon. One of the guys flagging cabs pointed me to the back of the line. That's when I grabbed him by the elbow, pulled him close, and shook his hand, passing the next twenty. I was now down forty dollars for a twenty-dollar cab ride. He tilted his head and nodded to his partner. I peeled another twenty and they let me climb in. As we pulled away, someone in the line threw a half-empty cup of coffee against my window.
A few months later, Chiarella tried the same technique in Salt Lake City, Vegas, and LA.
I pushed around; the ballsier I became, the more success I experienced. I got tablecloths, a personal garlic press, a dozen extra forks in one meal, chopsticks in a steak house. I bought primo parking spaces from people who had just parallel-parked.
Update: Ah, I've also previously linked to this one, from Gourmet in 2000.
It's just after 8 P.M. on a balmy summer Saturday and I'm heading toward one of New York's most overbooked restaurants, Balthazar, where celebrities regularly go to be celebrated and where lay diners like me call a month in advance to try and secure a reservation. I don't have a reservation. I don't have a connection. I don't have a secret phone number. The only things I have are a $20, a $50, and a $100 bill, neatly folded in my pocket.