2895: Treasure Chests

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Treasure Chests
[earlier] "Your vintage-style handmade chest business is struggling. But I have a plan."
Title text: [earlier] "Your vintage-style handmade chest business is struggling. But I have a plan."


This comic features Black Hat proposing a way to create significant business for a "lawn care company", for which the comic narrator has an attachment (perhaps owner or employee), albeit in an extremely unethical and possibly illegal manner which is very much congruent with Black Hat's character of being a 'classhole'.

His plan is to create the conditions for a large number of lawns all over a certain town to be dug out by random members of the public, via the motivation of a large potential reward for digging up a lawn (in this case, a chest with $1,000 in the form of silver and gold coins). By filming the burials in such a way that the subsequently posted videos are tantalizingly open to many interpretations as to where they actually were, and then waiting a year to let time obscure any obvious signs of disturbed earth and digging, he encourages feverish speculation among treasure-hunters about the location of the chests, and an incentive to dig up lawns more or less at random, with or without permission.

It is also possible that waiting a year leaves time for one or more chests to have been discovered prior to the 'start' of the deliberate competition to find them. So long as all three weren't (publicly) discovered, it leaves open the possibility that those competing to find the 'unfound' chests will continue with their efforts to find what is now unfindable, prolonging the exercise beyond the point at which all chests could be known to be discovered and that there are no more chances to gain their riches. Indeed, there is nothing to stop Black Hat from simply digging the chests back up once the videos have been filmed, so that he is not out $3000 and there is nothing to find, prolonging the search indefinitely.

The many homeowners who soon find themselves with ruined lawns would then proceed to contact the lawn care company in order to fix the broken lawns, thus making the business lots of money. For the maximum initial expenditure of $3000 (plus the cost of the containers, and other trivial overheads), a need for significant remediation work will be generated. According to the caption below the panel, the proposal set out by Black Hat turns out to be VERY profitable and EXTREMELY effective. It would be cheaper than most other forms of effective advertisement, such as mass-flyering the catchment area or buying advertising time/space in traditional media, whilst being much more penetrating and focused than any but the most sophisticated (and expensive) forms of online advertising. As long as the 'competition' isn't actually linked to the lawn-care businesss, it also has the advantage that it can create a near maximum potential demand for the service without risking media fatigue and perhaps aversion to the product being advertised. There is no indication that this will be ever be promoted as the company's very own competition, which would probably actively drive the numerous victims of the scheme to find (or found!) rival businesses, not to mention risk the instigation of claims for recompense through civil liability.

The title text shows how Black Hat, before sharing his proposal in this comic, saw a struggling business that made vintage-style handmade chests and cooked up the lawn care plan as a way to boost their sales by generating demand for chests from the lawn company. Sales of three chests doesn't seem a significant uplift for the chest company, which potentially implies that Black Hat has pushed his treasure hunt scheme to multiple lawn care companies, perhaps each in a different town, each buying three chests. One can only speculate about what other companies he may have enticed to take part in this chain of deals, at each point being paid for the pleasure (and keeping the accumulated proceeds), leaving arbitrary amounts of disruption in his wake.

As of the time of posting, silver prices were roughly $23 per ounce / $8 per cm^3, and gold prices were roughly $2000 per ounce / $1250 per cm^3. This means that even the fairly small chest Black Hat has procured, which appears to be around 4 litres, would be very empty if holding $1000 in pure gold or silver coins. Accounting for space between coins, a $1000 chest entirely containing silver coins would be only be filled between 1/8-1/4 liter / 1/2-1 cup, whereas $1000 would only constitute a single medium/large gold coin or a few small ones. However, 'gold' and 'silver' coins may simply refer to higher value coins made either partially from gold and silver, or from some other alloys that give gold and silver colourings. The value might also be based on the face value of gold and silver coins that differ from the market value based on the metal content, or Black Hat might be using another dollar currency rather than the US dollar. If using U.S. currency, he probably filled it with dollar coins, which currently exist in both gold (the "Sacagawea dollar", the "Native American series", and the "Presidential dollar") and silver (the "American Silver Eagle", the "Susan B. Anthony dollar", the "Morgan" and "Peace" dollars, and the extra-large "Eisenhower dollar") colorations. 1,000 dollar coins would nicely fill a small chest and look impressive enough.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Black Hat is holding a treasure chest in one hand and pointing with a stick to a poster that features a shovel at the top, three circled X's below it, and five question marks around them.]
Black Hat: First, I'll fill three of these chests with $1,000 each in small silver and gold coins, and take videos of them being buried in unidentified lawns around town.
Black Hat: Next year, I post the videos.
Black Hat: Then we sit back and let the local kids do the rest.
[Caption below the panel:]
The proposal for creating business for our lawn care company was unorthodox but extremely effective.

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Why would Black Hat want to wait a year to post the videos? -- 06:05, 17 February 2024 (UTC)

To let the grass grow and hide the disturbed soil. No idea what the explanation is talking about. 06:20, 17 February 2024 (UTC)

Also, I don't know what this means: "This is a particularly interesting caveat given the fact that this comic was only posted on February 16, 2024, which is quite early into 2024. The most likely explanation is that this comic takes place at a much different time than the date of publishing, hence making the time Black Hat would need to wait to post the videos much earlier/later (although later would create more questions than answers) than the date of the comic would suggest." Since the caption says that Black Hat's plan was "extremely effective", presumably Black Hat announced his plan to his co-workers some time ago, then arranged to plant the treasure chests, then posted the videos, and after that the lawn care company started getting lots of customers. This plan could have taken place at any time since online videos became common; YouTube started in 2005, for example. Nothing here implies that Black Hat is only announcing his plan now; the opposite is true, since the caption indicates that his plan was indeed very successful. -- 06:23, 17 February 2024 (UTC)

It reminds me of the fuss created by On the Trail of the Golden Owl, and other puzzles of its ilk. Though spread across much more time and space than "a town, for as long as it takes for everyone in the town to get fed up with the whole thing (and discourage outsiders from coming along with their own spades)". Personally, I'd like to see what the next business is that Black Hat talks to (after the Chest company, then the Lawn company) to further monetise the resulting chaos. It could be a property security company, who would benefit from increased demands for patrolling guards alongside open-air security camera systems and other related equipment... 15:53, 17 February 2024 (UTC)

so many business opportunities: sell them shovels, "100% treasure chest-free lawn" certifications, lawn security cameras, security camera disabling equipment, useless dowsing rods, cheap metal detectors, barbed wire, stepladders... 19:05, 17 February 2024 (UTC)

Added my interpretation that this is never going to be "OLCCo presents: the Treasure Hunt!". If everyone realises that the prankster(s) who set all this up had caused their troubles (forcing them to get lawn-care, or do more of it than they already would have done), then OLCCo itself would have problems. Actual customers would leave, potential customers would seek other contractors, many of these would consider going to the courts to claw back costs, other current lawn-carers would absorb all the created work, and further potential lawn-carers might even start offering their services, all off the back of the back-firing campaign. ... But if it's a guerilla 'campaign', dressed up as some random "troublesome and obscure philanthropist" then it drives demand for LC-services (for wwhich OLCCo may be 'coincidentally' well positioned to service, perhaps, happening to corner the market in some vital element or other insofar as manpower, tools or supplies). Handled well (and not being revealed), it'd be well worth 'treasure price'.
...which is not to say that Black Hat doesn't have any intention of spoiling all that, and profitting (financially or just 'for the lulz') from letting the cat out of the bag at some point. Or threatening to. But then there's possible layers and other possible layers to this scheme. 21:57, 17 February 2024 (UTC)

What makes anyone think that the chests stayed in the ground after the camera was turned off? I would immediately dig my treasure back up. SDSpivey (talk) 01:09, 18 February 2024 (UTC)

That'd be 'acceptable' BH behaviour, certainly. Prolong the hunt (for the ultimately unfindable). And not risk a trio of households saying "Hey, I was doing a little bit of digging work on my garden, thinking of putting in a rosebush, and... <clunk>" to the news cameras, ruining the whole scheme six months before the scheduled posting of the videos. But, mostly, the first. 16:26, 18 February 2024 (UTC)

My interpretation of the title text was rather different. Black Hat doesn't work for the lawn-care company. He's bringing this or a similar proposal to many different companies in order to sell lots of chests. 01:47, 18 February 2024 (UTC)

Same here. Black Hat seems to be selling a plan to the lawn-care company, but it turns out his plot to boost lawn care business is just part of a larger plot to boost vintage-style chest sales. And who knows what plot is behind the plot behind the plot? Black Hat certainly wouldn't care about chest producers' grievances if it weren't for some ulterior motive. Transgalactic (talk) 15:06, 18 February 2024 (UTC)
Seems very obvious to me that if BH is actually saying "our" (as opposed to the narrator, describing the effect of BH's plan), it's only under a contractually-tied relationship. He's a marketeering/advertising consultant (or pertains to be!) who has approached at least two separate business concerns with an 'idea'. And I'm not sure the Explanation is saying otherwise (or wasn't, last time I checked). 16:26, 18 February 2024 (UTC)

Black Hat thinks too small, tut tut Randall... Needs the Pigs In A Supermarket approach: videos of FOUR chests being buried, but dig up one right away off-camera. That way if the three chests are found too quickly (not damaging enough lawns), people will keep looking (probably more fervently) because they KNOW one chest is still out there. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:42, 18 February 2024 (UTC)

Golden Tickety, indeed. It's as the existence is proven (at least one is revealed to be the real thing) but before the hope is over (the last example is known to be found) that the hype will be greatest, and thus the effectiveness of the more covert ploy to send people the way of the business that can paper over the resulting mess. 16:26, 18 February 2024 (UTC)

I think the issue with the quantity of coins can be explained by considering the face value. 10000 pre-1965 dimes would take up a substantial amount of space. (talk) 11:52, 19 February 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Regarding the use of pre-1965 dimes - these may have a £1000 total face value, but the silver content means they actually are worth about $1.70 each , so 10,000 of them would be a tasty $17,000. (talk) 21:31, 22 February 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)