By Claire Walla
So, you wanna be part of the Cash Mob? Here’s all you gotta to know:
You’re going to spend $20.
So will dozens of your friends.
You don’t know where you’re going to spend this money.
And you won’t know until minutes before you actually do.
Ok, despite how it may sound, Cash Mob is actually a concept that refers not to illicit black-market activities, but to an international movement meant to spur commerce on a hyper-local scale.
The idea stems from a movement called Flash Mob, which brings a large group of people to one particular destination for some pre-planned, yet seemingly random event for a brief period of time before quickly dispersing.
“It’s about bringing together a group of community members en masse to descend upon a local business — with cash,” explained Cash Mob East End organizer Laura Houston, “the idea being that when we come together as a community, our $20 can have a big impact on a local business.”
The element of surprise is an integral part of the Cash Mob experience, which will take place for the very first time this Sunday, May 6 in Sag Harbor Village. All participants — with $20 in tow — will gather at the Sag Harbor Windmill at precisely 3 p.m. with no knowledge of where they’ll be going from there.
After a brief introduction, finally, the name of one Sag Harbor business will be revealed, and the mob will migrate accordingly.
It’s not difficult to imagine the benefits such a mob would bring to the business. With roughly 100 people expected to show up, that’s at least $2,000 spent in one place in the span of two hours. But, Houston continued, the long-term benefits exceed this singular act.
Not only will neighboring businesses see more traffic, but community members will get the chance to meet and converse. (Houston said local efforts have already come together to make Cash Mob East End a reality: freelance graphic designer Jill Kampf designed the event logo, and Montauk Printing and Graphics donated “Cash Mob East End” stickers.)
The event is more a celebration than a shopping spree, Houston continued, inviting participants to come with “spirit” in addition to cash. Houston said participants are encouraged to dress-up and make Cash Mob-inspired posters, like this one from Cash Mob Charlotte: “Give ‘Em All Your Cash!” or this simple design from Cash Mob Lakewood: “Mob Boss,” the words creatively scripted with bullet holes for ‘O’s.
“I really hope someone sings me a song,” Houston mused.
She said mobbers will get major points for creativity, because, in the end, the person with the most spirit will receive a gift certificate for dinner for two from Muse Restaurant, which just opened in its new location on Main Street Sag Harbor. And it is to Muse where the mobbers will head immediately after spending their $20 for an after party of sorts with hors d’oeuvres and drink specials.
Houston first learned of the movement from a New York Times article published last December. She said it sounded easy to organize, and she liked the fact that it promoted both local commerce and community involvement.
“I thought it was inspired and simple,” she explained. “I mulled it over for a couple weeks, then I thought: this is something we should do here!”
The first official Cash Mob was organized by Andrew Samtoy, a lawyer in Cleveland, Ohio on November 16, 2011. Since then, the movement has spread to 45 U.S. states (including Washington D.C.), as well as nine other countries, from Canada to South Korea.
Houston immediately called Samtoy, then got in touch with Terri Hall, a teacher in Southampton, who organized the first Cash Mob Bellport in January of this year. Through conversations with Hall and by scouring the “suggested rules” on Samtoy’s Cash Mob website, Houston said she picked a business that fits the Cash Mob profile: locally owned, gender neutral and within one block of a locally owned “watering hole’ (in this case: Muse) where the after party will be held.
Houston — who works as an ad sales associate at The Sag Harbor Express — already spends a great deal of time with local shop owners and said she knew how helpful it could be for the business community.
“Working in sales, I spend a lot of time getting to know our local businesses,” she said. “This is just another way to support a community that continues to give the Hamptons the flavor of being home.”
To learn more about the event, visit Cash Mob East End’s Facebook page.