Surely you’ve heard that there’s a new kind of flash mob in town—one that you don’t need hand-eye coordination for. Cash mobs, simply put, mob local stores with cash. Participants gather together at an announced location and collectively go to a small, independently owned business (that is unknown to the group or the business until it’s time to head there) and spend $20 each, all at the same time, on the same day. While $20 may not seem significant on its own, when you have a group from 20 to upwards of 50, it could make an instantaneous impact on that shop’s sales (while certainly brightening their day).
Cash mobs have sprouted up worldwide since the first of its kind last August and Rhode Island has excitedly jumped on board this year, already having hosted two. The first, organized by Wakefield’s Waves of Creation owner, Laura Winward, mobbed Jennifer’s Chocolates (with 50 people) and the second, organized by non-profit organization Let’s Buy Local (Central RI) founders Dr. Tim Hudyncia and Lea Kneply, mobbed Warwick’s Anything Goes (with 30 people). “I read an article from the Wall Street Journal about cash mobs and immediately thought, ‘Why aren’t these happening everywhere, every day?’” Laura told me. “I thought it was a great way to remind people that it is up to each and every one of us to keep our local, independent businesses alive.”
Laura goes on to say that the underlying goal of cash mobs is to make people rethink their buying habits. She says that people may be unaware of the strong economical ripple effect that buying locally has—75% of the dollar stays in town in the form of taxes, rent, purchases at other local businesses, and donations to local events and charities, which, in turn, keeps things like property taxes from going up and schools from closing. She also mentions that part of the goal is to encourage people to stick around the store or maybe grab a bite to eat afterwards at a nearby local eatery—a phenomenon referred to as “mobbing, part 2.”
Dr. Hudyncia also shares his thoughts, saying the theory of cash mobbing falls directly in line with the multi-faceted initiatives at Let’s Buy Local. He is a strong believer in what he calls B.U.C.K. (Building Up Communities with Kindness) and that these cash mobs are an example of a community-building event that are altruistic in nature, which, in turn, strengthens relationships and offers the greatest defense against super-ego and reckless pursuit of gold and glory.
Aside from that, they result in a positive immediate consequence as well as provide an online resource to let shoppers know which local independent stores are in their area. “I am helping people understand that 'Save Money, Live Better' is a hoax. You cannot live better in Warwick by sending your money to China and Arkansas. You cannot live better in a democracy by investing your money in a communistic dictatorship and in the top 1%,” Dr. Hudyncia says.
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always thought this way when I shop. It’s no secret that I live in Target. Having three young daughters, I oftentimes get caught up in what I perceive to be the best “deal” or being able to knock off my entire shopping list in one location in less time than it will take for my middle daughter to decide that she no longer wants to wear pants. I know this is a self-inflicted mindset because every local shop owner I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with welcomes all of my children, and all of their glories, into their store. (Maybe with pants on, though.)
It’s events like a cash mob that not only bring excitement into shopping locally, but awareness of how important it really is. Although I can’t say that I will never shop at these large stores again, I have definitely made more of an effort to balance my dollars as of late. Besides, the more you visit these local shops, the more you realize that they carry unique or handmade items that can’t be found in any aisle of Target.
* Jen Senecal is a mom to three girls, a writer, blogger and graphic designer. Read more on her foray into parenthood at www.keekoin.com