Flash mobs have been blamed as a factor in looting during urban riots. But now a group of online activists is harnessing social media like Twitter and Facebook to get consumers to spend at locally owned stores in cities around the world in so-called Cash Mobs.
At the first International Cash Mob day on Saturday, wallet- toting activists gathered in as many as 200 mobs in the United States and Europe, with the aim of spending at least $20 a piece in locally owned businesses, according to the concept’s founder, Cleveland lawyer Andrew Samtoy.
“It’s my baby but I’m not a helicopter parent,” Samtoy told a crowd of more than 100 people gathered Saturday at Nature’s Bin, a grocery store that specializes in local and organic food, in Lakewood, an inner ring suburb of Cleveland.
The 32-year-old dreamed up the Cash Mob idea last year after spending time in Britain during summer riots that unleashed looting in cities including London, Manchester and Birmingham. His first Cash Mob, in Cleveland last November, brought around 40 shoppers packing in to the Visible Voice book shop, on a welcome spree in which each of them spent on average $40 within an hour-and-a-half. “We are kind of slow in November so I wasn’t going to turn it down,” said the independent book store’s owner, Dave Ferrante, who estimated he made about eight times his normal take on that day.