The San Diego Union-Tribune published a story about Cash Mobs a few weeks ago that I’ve been thinking about ever since because of this quote:
“I think it’s a fad, unfortunately,” said Bernhard Schroeder, director of the Entrepreneurial Management Center at San Diego State University. He said a one-shot approach isn’t enough to make a struggling business solvent.
“I think the people that are doing (cash mobs), they get more out of it than the small business person,” he said. “They want to feel that they are helping someone. But they’re not helping them out in a sustainable way.”
The reason I’ve been thinking about it is because, first, we’ve repeatedly stated that Cash Mobs isn’t designed to save businesses. If a business relies on Cash Mobs to save it from going under, that business has far larger problems than a Cash Mob can fix. Cash Mobs are admittedly one-shot infusions; they’re not meant to be repetitive or sustain a business. However, in that one-shot, the business clearly benefits – check out the fantastic mob in Chagrin Falls as an example.
Second, people are supposed get something out of Cash Mobs! Whether they get “more out of it than the small business person” is up for debate; if the small business person is selling something at a price they determine, and the Cash Mobber buys it at that price, I think most people would agree that, according to the market, both parties are benefiting and making a fair trade. In addition, the business is getting publicity – in some cases, a LOT of publicity – and I think it is difficult to put a value on that.
However, there are other benefits to Cash Mobs that aren’t exactly part of the business transaction. Cash Mobs are about creating and supporting our communities. In this, I will concede that the participants probably gain more in that we’re creating communities and networking people who otherwise might not be connected. For example, my friend Chris told me yesterday that he met some amazing people at the last Cleveland Cash Mob – like David Meyers from Cleveland Woodworks and Andrew Edward from the Cleveland Leadership Center. He and David are talking about working on a project together, and then he asked about the Cleveland Bridge Builders (which is run through the Cleveland Leadership Center). These aren’t the sorts of connections that you make at networking events or office happy hours – they go deeper than that. Making these connections is part of the community-building that I think is at the real heart of Cash Mobs.
To Schroeder’s first point: is it a fad? Who knows? What I do know is that right now, lots of people are doing great things for local businesses across the country and around the world, and if that’s a fad, it’s a fad worth supporting.