Last summer’s destructive flash mobs led Andrew Samtoy to the idea of turning mobs into something positive. The concept of "cash mobs" was born: people converging to spend money in small businesses.
“My friend Marty said, ‘we could call them cash mobs,” says Samtoy, a lawyer at Dworken & Bernstein in Cleveland, Ohio.
Two months later and with the help of social media, Samtoy launched the first cash mob at Visible Voice, an independent bookshop in Cleveland. “The owner reported eight times the amount of business he usually gets in a day,” Samtoy says.
Since then, the idea has taken off around the country. Shoppers are forming cash-mob Facebook groups and Twitter lists. Searching the term "cash mob" returns more than 57 million results on Google.
Samtoy runs a cash mob blog that details the latest mobs. It orchestrated International Cash Mob Day on March 24.
“We had people doing cash mobs in Sweden, Italy, France, Singapore and here in places like Austin and New York City," he says. "It was incredible. We’ve been covered by CNN and MSNBC, as well as [gotten lots of] local press.
"On International Cash Mob Day, we attracted more than 300 people to Nature’s Bin, a grocery store in Lakewood, Ohio. They spent $9,000 in three hours.”
Dissecting the mob
Cash mobbers are a passionate bunch. According to Samtoy, they are concerned citizens who want to reward independent businesses that give back to local communities.
“We don’t see mobs as a way to save small businesses, just give them a boost,” he says. “We are not interested in franchises or big box stores.”
Business owners beware: Never try to start your own cash mob.
"It looks self-serving," Samtoy says. "This is supposed to be an organic event that channels people’s charitable instincts.” But he offers a few tips on how to attract a cash mob to your business.
Sponsor a softball league, hold a fundraiser or donate a portion of your proceeds to a local charity. Give back to your community.
Tap into business organizations
Bring up the idea of a cash mob at your next Chamber of Commerce meeting. Ask business groups to hold mobs at local businesses, including yours.
According to Samtoy, cash mobbers are always looking for community-focused small businesses. Check rules and business qualifications. You must have products for men and women, for example.
Look up cash-mob Facebook groups in your area, and lobby for consideration.
Future of the mobs
Samtoy has two big dreams for the movement.
“I just hope that these events are able to reorient consumer behavior toward small businesses that make our communities special,” he says.
“And I hope to see the people organizing cash mobs run for office someday. They are the people who will make our communities better places to live, shop and work.”
Photo Credit: Summer Jo Shepherd