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Joining the (Cash) Mob to Help Main Street

Cash mob participants usually meet beforehand and follow the organizer to the shop
Cash mob participants usually meet beforehand and follow the organizer to the shopCourtesy Lisa Gilmore

Shopping at an independent retailer instead of a big-box store like Target or Wal-Mart is better for your community because more of your money stays local. That’s the message groups like the American Independent Business Alliance, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance have been trumpeting for years as they’ve pushed to strengthen local economies.

Now a handful of individuals have seized that message and borrowed from flash mobs to create what they call “cash mobs.” Using Facebook and Twitter, they’re organizing groups of strangers who descend on beloved independent retailers—bookstores, bakeries, wine shops—and spend at least $20 each. Participants usually meet beforehand and follow the organizer to the shop. The organizer alerts the store owner in advance and might wear a funny hat to stand out in the crowd. Drinks often follow at a neighborhood bar. Since the summer, nearly 140 of these cash mobs have jammed store aisles from Albuquerque to Sydney.