First there were flash mobs. Now a movement that trades “flash” for “cash” is gaining momentum and will make its debut Saturday in Los Angeles.
Lisa Gilmore, 33, is organizing the city’s inaugural cash mob, a shopping event where a large group of people agree to spend $20 or more each at an undisclosed independently owned local business.
Gilmore’s high school friend Andrew Samtoy dreamt up and organized the first cash mob in Cleveland, Ohio. Inspired by the way her former classmate was supporting local businesses, the NBC Universal employee decided to bring the trend closer to home.
The event, which is open to any and all who are interested, will meet at the intersection of Ocean Park Blvd and Main Street in Santa Monica Dec. 17 at 5 p.m. The targeted business will remain undisclosed until the group arrives to the location.
The mob plans to participate in the Santa Monica Pub Crawl afterwards to celebrate and further their monetary contributions to the community.
Gilmore recently talked to NBC LA about planning LA’s first cash mob and whether the trend, like so many others, will quickly reach its expiration date.
Q. What is a cash mob exactly?
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A. Cash mobs are a group of people, could be any size, showing up at a small business and basically buying at the same exact time. Because of the sheer number of people, it can bring a lot of business to a small shop that would never have seen that sort of business in one night. If they are part of the cash mob, they are volunteering themselves to spend 20 bucks at the business. It’s kind of like a fun night of giving back to your community.
Q. Why did you decide to bring the trend to Los Angeles?
A. Neighborhoods used to be bustling with shops. In places like Santa Monica, Abbott Kinney Road, small businesses were closing and I saw windows would be darkened. It seems like almost in some cases every two to three stores you’d come across would have something like that going on. It’s sad. We’ve got to support what we have here. We are going to spend our money for Christmas. Why not spend it here at home? In Santa Monica, for example, for every $100 you spend at a local store, $68 stays in the community.
Q. Why local businesses?
A. It is pretty much a given that someone you know is employed at a small business, so shopping at these stores is really like giving back to yourself. It seems logical to me. A lot of these massive chain stores are better protected in the economy. They can afford to mark down their prices and compete with each other, whereas these small stores can’t afford to do that.
Q. How difficult is it to coordinate a cash mob?
A. It’s hard and it’s easy. It’s easy once the word gets out. In San Diego it caught on like a wild fire, whereas for LA, it’s a little bit harder here. The Santa Monica news has been notified but as far as getting the world out to the masses, it’s been a Facebook endeavor. Until the first one happens people will be confused about what it is. And it is also the holidays and people are busy. I’m hoping that given some press, people will get a hold of it.
Q. What does creator Andrew Samtoy think of what you are doing? Has he given you any advice?
A. He’s definitely 100 percent behind this. The rules that have been put in place are pretty loose. You can take them and mold them to what works best in your city. There are basically only a couple of rules: Pick a local business that his independently owned and give back to your community in some way.
Q. Anything you can share about the store you’ve chosen?
A. The store that I picked is fairly new and eco-friendly. The eco-friendly part is kind of a hint, but it’s not totally giving it away.
Q. Anyone, other than you, know the location?
A. The business owners. It’s definitely a way to give them a heads up and get them excited, that way they are not surprised or alarmed. We do keep it from the general public so that they won’t be deterred if they decide this is a store they don’t want to shop in.
Q. Any fear that people won’t show up?
A. I have confirmation that the people coming are bringing people. But of course, you promise a mob and you want there to be a mob.
Q. Do you think cash mobs will be another fad that drifts away over time?
A. I’m hoping that there is no end date. This is spreading faster than I think Andrew Samtoy ever imagined. Even in Canada a woman decided to do 12 days of cash mobs in a row. So it’s not just a U.S. thing. I really think people want to feel like they are a part of something that is helpful and is a great way to meet new people.
More information on how to take part in LA’s first cash mob can be found on Twitter (@cashmob_LA) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/lacashmobs).
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