Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called on the organisers of a $100,000 cash drop to apologise after fake money was given away.
The PR stunt by The Safety Warehouse has also caught the eye of police amid growing frustration from participants, who have been left bitterly disappointed.
John Murphy spent 10 hours on a bus from Levin to Auckland hoping for a Christmas miracle. But the stunt, promising a $100,000 cash grab, was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
"This was something that was certainly going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event… now it's turned into the disaster of my trip and the disaster I want to forget," he told Newshub.
That cash was nowhere to be seen in Auckland's Aotea Square on Saturday.
Participants instead turning on organisers after realising they'd been given discount vouchers made to look like $5 bills.
"It was heartbreaking to see that people were promised cash, and now they're leaving empty-handed," said Murphy.
Police are now reviewing the event and talking to the company behind it: The Safety Warehouse.
It's also prompted a warning from the Reserve Bank, who told Newshub on Monday that publishing anything that looks like a genuine banknote or which could be mistaken for the real thing may be against the law.
"It was very hard to tell the difference between genuine $5 notes and the fake ones," Murphy said.
Jacinda Ardern is publicly calling for the company to say sorry.
"I cannot fathom how at any point someone can think that's a good idea. Clearly it was not and it's caused harm, it's caused hurt. They should apologise," she said.
Marketing expert Dr Bodo Lang agrees.
"They can apologise, they can be very sincere about this, they can be authentic about it and they can try and compensate the people who missed out on it - but I think it will be really hard," he said.
The Safety Warehouse has not responded to interview requests on Monday.
John Murphy wants them to at least try to make amends.
"There's no use for them - it's just as good as Monopoly money," he said.
And he wishes he hadn't played.