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A new type of "flash mob" is targeting small businesses, and struggling retailers couldn't be happier. "Cash mobs" are drawing hundreds of new customers, and creating buzz at the speed of social media.
"Flash mobs" are made possible in part by Twitter and Facebook. People send out a call to converge in the same place at the same time for the same purpose. Famous flash mobs have led to huge public pillow fights, mass-choreographed dances, and surreal sights like people "frozen" in mid-movement.
Now the flash mob fad has spread to struggling mom-and-pop stores: Groups called "cash mobs" gather at a store, and a shopping spree ensues, MSNBC reports. The trend is taking off -- and paying off -- across the country.
The first cash mob was at a Buffalo, N.Y., wine store in August, after an engineer and arts blogger thought a flash mob could boost business, according to MSNBC. He was right.
Since then, cash mobs have been successfully copied in California, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas, among other places, MSNBC reports.
Cash mobs are apparently so popular in Cleveland, for example, there's a blog that highlights upcoming mobs and reviews past mob activity. The "Cash Mobs" blog also offers a few tips on how to start your own cash mob:
Still, small business owners shouldn't let their guards down. Some flash mobs that target stores aren't cash mobs at all -- they're more like "smash-and-grab mobs" that create a commotion while mob members shoplift, Fox News warns.
Another concern involves a cash mob's unpredictability. "People get nervous that they're going to take off their clothes," one Tennessee politician who initiated a cash mob told MSNBC. "Of course, that could make a bigger crowd."