‘Cash Mob' to Strike at Local Business

Like the popularized “flash mobs,” cash mobs aim to draw attention to small businesses in need of customers

One San Diego retailer is about to get mobbed – with money, that is.

A recent movement called Cash Mobbing will bring dozens of customers to a mysterious local retailer, according to one of the movement’s originators, Andrew Samtoy.

Cash Mobbing plays on the idea of a Flash Mob – the sudden public performances used to bring attention to anything from corporate greed to new video games. Instead of performing a dance or song though, the group of Cash-Mobbers floods local, independent businesses with $20 in hand, and spends it on desired merchandise.

Samtoy, an El Cajon native, helped originate the concept. The first cash mob brought about $800 to a Cleveland bookstore earlier this month.

“This isn’t going to save any small businesses and it’s not meant to,” he said. “We’re just trying to get people to notice that these small businesses exist and to patronize them.”

Organizers announce the date and general location of the cash mob on Twitter and Facebook about a week before.

Among the criteria for picking a shop to mob, the group typically patronizes stores that give back to the community in some way -- and they have be near a local watering hole, for socializing afterward.

Organizer Lauren Way in San Diego said a local retailer will be cash mobbed December 6 at 6:30 p.m. Way is currently vetting locations for the cash mob.

Though there might be very little incentive for the customer him or herself, the benefits to the community outweigh the actual costs to consumers, Samtoy said.

The US Small Business Administration estimates that small businesses create 65 percent of new jobs. On top of this, small businesses give back to local communities far more than companies such as WalMart, Samtoy said.

Plus, a few dollars here or there would make more of an impact at small businesses than to his own wealth, he added.

Socially, the phenomenon is similar to patronizing a bar.

“You can buy a 6-pack at a convenience store for the same amount of money as a couple of beers at a bar. But a bar is a place where people meet and congregate and where ideas are shared. The face-to-face interaction is the most powerful thing that comes out of this.”

More recently, supporting small businesses has been a growing trend. The nation-wide event Small Business Saturday encouraged consumers to do their holiday shopping at local, independent retailers to offset the massive gains from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Many stores in San Diego offered sales and specials to attract participating customers.

Small Business Saturday was founded by American Express. A spokesperson said the second-annual event was successful, and business-owners said they saw more customers on Saturday than they have since opening.

"Many of the businesses in North Park had increased sales between 100 and 200 percent compared to a normal Saturday," said Angela Landsberg, small business ambassador for the City of San Diego.

Though Samtoy sides with some critics of Small Business Saturday who speculate that the event may have been more of advertisement for American Express, he shares the same optimism in small businesses.

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