Sometimes it seems like the Internet is nothing but an endless cycle of memes and dumb image macros. You have probably heard of "flash mobs," where a large group of people conspires to meet somewhere public and do something ostensibly wacky, like have a giant pillow fight in downtown Toronto, or dance Gangnam Style.
Cash mobs: A HELPFUL Internet sensation, for once!
Support local business and have fun.
A cash mob is a slightly more specific, and far more humanitarian sub-set of flash mobs. In a cash mob, people assemble at a particular store and buy things, using cash. The idea of a cash mob is to support a small local business, which means that the target of the cash mob will be a local independently owned store. (I don't see people cash mobbing a Target any time soon, unless you count Black Friday, but that's an article for another day.)
Cash mobs can also be used to gather donations for non-profits. Last October, a cash mob raised over $2,000 for Planned Parenthood in just a few minutes.
One of the first cash mobs happened in Cleveland, and focused specifically on independent book stores. Many cash mobs have dedicated themselves to supporting local book stores. In fact, a recent cash mob in my home town descended upon Next Chapter Books, a charming independent book store with a great selection of books, as well as cozy chairs, a fireplace, and an espresso bar. (Sadly, I was not able to make it to this cash mob. I am planning to stop in some time this weekend and buy something solo. It's not as fun, but just as rewarding.)
The Occupy Wall Street movement has picked up on cash mobs as a form of grass roots political protest, as well as a way to support small business owners in the 99%. This is a splinter movement of cash mobs, and the main organizers of the original cash mob movement want it to be known that it was never meant to be political.
Cash mobs are organized with the approval of the business owner, and everyone participating in the cash mob agrees to spend at least $20. Many cash mobs are organized such that everyone can meet up at a local bar or restaurant afterward, both as a social gathering and as a way to spread even more money into the local community.
At a time when local businesses are struggling, they are also more important to our communities than ever. Check out this cash mob coordination website to find a cash mob near you!