Cleveland lawyer Andrew Samtoy was socializing over drinks with his network of fellow young professionals one evening after a hard day at the office. The conversation turned to recent events in his city where the term flash mob had recently taken on a negative connotation with groups of mostly young people using social media not to spontaneously sing or dance but instead riot and loot.
All in attendance that fated evening with Samtoy felt that the community was ready to rally and these criminal flash mobs would prove to be a tipping point for change.
“Someone in the group remarked, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could do something that was viewed by people as good again?’ says Samtoy. A quick brainstorming session later around transformation and a concept named CashMobs was born.
CashMobs, taken as a turn of phrase from FlashMobs, was created by Samtoy and friends to get residents back involved in supporting and buying from local merchants. “Once we had the idea it was one of those great ‘come together’ moments where it was just too interesting not to just try to do,” states Samtoy matter-of-factly.
For the uninitiated, a Flash mobs are an incongruous group, or mob of strangers coming together at a public place during a pre-announced time to perform a rehearsed, choreographed and sometimes complicated song or dance routine generally to the delight and amusement of their unsuspecting audience.
Two trademarks of Flash Mobs are that they communicate plans via social media such as Twitter and Facebook and once the routine is over the individuals within the group disband and quickly disburse. The audience is then left to marvel at the spontaneous performance.
The Cleveland CashMob, works in much the same manner. The mob descends upon a pre-designated local retailer and in a brief :20 minutes each mobber spends a minimum of $20 patronizing the business thus adding to the local economy. The CashMob shows up, makes a measurable impact with that local retailers business on what would generally have been a slow evening of sales, and just as quickly leaves in masse, purchases in hand to gather again at a nearby watering hole for mob networking and socializing.
Does it work? Why do it?
“First, supporting local business is critical,” notes Samtoy. “These are stores owned by people who live in our communities and who employ our neighbors and friends from our communities. These Mom and Pop stores don’t take our money and send it to other states or countries, but keep it right here in Cleveland. They’re creating wealth here and we want to help them.”
Samtoy appreciates the larger footprint he says his group’s efforts can have. “We’re putting a little bit of stimulus back into the economy. Even if we don’t solve all of the problems of these businesses that we’re going to mob, we’re at least going to have a little impact.”
The first CashMob in Cleveland was held on a Wednesday during a dark and chilly November evening. The mobbers gathered before-hand to assemble for the official mob then walks a few paces away at the chosen store. This particular mob brought the 35 or so mobbers of varying ages, races, genders and neighborhoods as well as a handful of local and national media.
All gathered to a local, independent bookstore in a trendy, urban neighborhood known more for its chic café’s and for hosting art walks than for selling books and began “mobbing” which to the uninitiated eye, happened to look a lot like shopping.
The merchant that was mobbed, Dave Ferrante, Owner of Visible Voice Books, has been in business for five years and said after the mob that he’d never had a Wednesday nights sales tally quite measure that of the one from the mob. Judging from his receipt take, Ferrante says most mobbers, “spent well over the $20 spend that was initially set up.”
So, was the mob a success? If you ask Ferrante, whose business benefited from the mob’s first shopping experience, he would tell you it worked. “Down here foot traffic isn’t always the greatest, it’s not consistent. Wednesday nights are just not that busy for us, so anytime you can bring a new customer into your store it’s a nice boost.”
He added, “Tonight’s receipts were more like the business we would do on a busy day like a Saturday and that’s just money that we’re going to put right back into the community.”
To Andrew Samtoy and the Cleveland CashMobbers: Mission Accomplished. Keep the CashMob living.
Author’s Note: Since the CashMob was announced, the social media traction has grown by an unbelievable pace. As of the day the first CashMob was completed in Cleveland, organizers from several cities in the US, Canada, England and New Zealand have already announced plans or referenced hosting CashMobs for their own local economies.
Twitter Handle: @CashMobs