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With a Tweet, Cash Mobs Rescue Local Businesses

Friday, 24 Feb 2012 | 10:34 AM ET

What started in Buffalo as a way to help a local wine retailer has turned into a national phenomenon. Cash mobs have become a national movement to support local businesses.

What's a cash mob? Think flash mob, only doing something more useful with one's time.

The idea is simple: Organizers tweet to their followers to show up on a certain day at a meeting place, with cash in their pockets. Once there, cash mobbers learn what store they will be patronizing. And then, they go shopping, with the promise to spend at least $20. Store owners are warned ahead of time, so they are not overwhelmed with shoppers.

Chris Smith is the Buffalo resident who organized the first cash mob event last August. He told the Buffalo News that he came up with the idea as a way to support local businesses. "Those of us who have a few dollars to spend ... should come out and try to show them that we appreciate that they've made an investment in the community."

Since that first event, word has spread via social media sites, and cash mobs have shown up at Big Fun Toy Store in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Bluestocking Books in San Diego, Emery’s 5 & 10in Knoxville, Tenn., and a produce market in Richmond, Calif.

The cash mobs have generated as much as a few thousand dollars to businesses that needed help. And, it fosters a shop local mentality that continues even after the event.

And, what would an event started by social media be without a little socializing?

In San Diego, not only were shoppers required to spend $20, they were told to meet three new people in the process. And in Cleveland, a group came up with a suggested list of Mob Rules, which include this request: “Cash Mobbers must join us for celebratory drinks after the successful mob.”

Where will the Mobbers meet? No. 8 provides a clue: “The business must be within one block of a locally owned watering hole.”

And when you place your order? The local brew is probably a good bet.

Has your business been the target of a cash mob? If so, tell us about it.

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