Cash Mobs Aren’t Fight Club

Just as I was about to concentrate on liveblogging the Arizona debate, the Cleveland Scene released a massive article about the Cleveland lawyer Andrew Samtoy who came up with “Cash mobs.

Unfortunately, this idea is catching on, so the Scene felt it necessary to write a large bit on Samtoy. If you google cash mobs and come across this blog post, this article is meant for you. Don’t waste your time with Cash Mobs. (Read why here)

As usual, I responded with some comments. Most people on the Cleveland Scene’s webpage commenting community aren’t, well, thoughtful. But some are, and we’ve had some good discussions on there.

Here’s one commentor, Cleveland-based comedian Bill Squire, who even called me a name!

So, naturally I thanked him for the honor on his facebook page.

Now, I may have used heckle incorrectly. In the context of things, I wasn’t giving a public speech or anything, so by the definition I wasn’t heckled. I was name-called. However, Comedians can indeed heckle, provided they are not the main act. Comedians cease to be comedians when they aren’t working, which was sort of my point. I did enjoy the plug for his page in the comments “like my page support a local comedian.” After calling me a cunt, I’m not likely to do this — but the silliness of “supporting local” still applies. You shouldn’t like something, say a comedian, if they are local or not. You should like them if they are funny. And no, Bill your insult didn’t help me climax.

If you buy a CD from Ricky Gervais, you are supporting a foreigner! But he’s not local, the horror! But, I’d bet a fair amount even though I haven’t listened to Bill’s work, that Ricky is funnier than Bill.  One might see why Bill thinks I am “a cunt” — people might do a cost-benefit analysis and pick Ricky Gervais, not Bill Squire. It is in Bill’s self interest to get people to support things like cash mobs and I don’t blame him. But, cash mobs are bad economics.

According to the article, here are the rules of cash mobs. Some comments from me are in bold.

1)    The mob date must be announced at least a week in advance via Twitter.

But not facebook? Why not email? Just twitter? Maybe I am nitpicking.

2)    The location at which to meet will be announced, but not the specific business to support.

3)    The amount to spend will not be more than $20, although people can spend more if they wish.

Why force people to indiscriminately spend? What if they don’t find anything worth their $20? Should they spend it anyway? This is encouraging inefficient and wasteful consumption, if so.

4)    The business must have products for both men and women.

Ordinarily, this would make sense — but it’s worth asking if the object of cashmobs is to actually hurt gender-specific businesses by excluding them?

5)    The business must be locally owned.

Why does this matter? Does a business that is domiciled locally not employ locals? If the owner lives elsewhere, do cash mobs not care about their neighbors who work for a business owned by a person in another state? What if the business is an ESOP and is owned by employees all across the state or region? Does that count?

6)    The business owner must give back to the community in some way.

How is this defined? I’d think employing people who live in the community is a way of giving back. But if you’re talking charity, you’re admitting that you’re only benefiting people who take some of their profits and give them away. What if I want to open a store that just pays local people more and not donate to charity? Is that acceptable?

7)    The business owner must approve the CashMob before the mob is announced.

8)    The business must be within one block of a locally-owned watering hole.

As opposed to one of those evil chain watering holes that employ local people? Why pick winners and losers? Do you not care about the individuals working at TGI Fridays? What about all of those businesses 2 blocks or more from a watering hole, local or otherwise? This makes no sense.

9)    Cash Mobbers must join us for celebratory drinks after the successful mob.

What about people who don’t drink? What are you celebrating?

10) The cash mob will occur during the evening on a weekday or on a weekend.

11) Pictures will be posted to the blog after the CashMob.

12) Parking or public transportation must be available.

They’re always available, it’s just a matter of how available they are. 

At the mob, there are three rules:

  1. Spend $20;
  2. Meet three people you didn’t know before;
  3. HAVE FUN!!!

To the article:

“When they would ask what store was being mobbed, he would respond with a question of his own: Do you want to support a local business?”

Wanting to support a local business and being coerced to spend $20, no matter what, at that business are different things. Aren’t all businesses that have a storefront and employees from that community local businesses? They are businesses, and they are local. Am I missing something?

It gets better:

“When they said yes, I told them that’s all they needed to know,” Samtoy explains. “We don’t want them to do a cost-benefit analysis. We don’t want to give them a chance to think I don’t need any books right now.”

All you need to know about cash mobs is that their founder doesn’t want you to think for yourself in that he doesn’t want you to do a cost-benefit analysis. That is stupid.

His “Adventures,” as he calls them, are designed to push people out of their comfort zones.

I guess if Samtoy considers thinking for myself a comfort zone, consider me out. Some cults have purple kool aid. This is the cult of “buy local” — but don’t think about it. Why? Because if you do think about it, you’ll realize that it’s dumb.

The sad fact is that few in the cash mob crowd are likely to accept is the following: your free media will die out. You will get some exposure, sure, but it will end, and likely so will the movement. As discussed in my previous post on cash mobs, they are not a sustainable way to help local businesses stay in business. It’s better to have people do what Samtoy is trying consciously not to have them do, which is do a cost-benefit analysis and make the decisions that are best for themselves.

Back to the article:

With the Salty Not Sweet Cash Mob behind him and his core organizers across the country pretty much running on their own steam, Samtoy increasingly hears of Cash Mobs he has nothing to do with.

Kind of reminds me of the quote from Fight Club…

JACK There’s fight club in Delaware City.

TYLER I heard. Local 15, Monday nights.

Cash Mobs are not the new fight club.

And if one thing in the article rings true, it is this:

If Samtoy didn’t like being known by everyone out west, he has fared no better here. Strom-Jensen has done the research.

“I was fooling around on Facebook, trying to find anyone in Cleveland who didn’t know Andrew within two degrees,” he says.

He couldn’t find anyone.

“Andrew is Two Degrees of Cleveland.”

Andrew and I have five mutual friends in common. While I am sure he is a nice guy, but he’s wrong about this being a way to improve a community economically.

And then, one of the better parts of the article comes:

Samtoy is pondering his future with Cash Mobs, this time over his favorite Cleveland dish — shrimp saganaki at Mia Bella in Little Italy. He reaches over the bar and produces a leather and stainless-steel flask, a circa-1977 Dunhill he bought on eBay, and he pours a round of Laphroaig scotch. The expensive stuff. Ten-year cask strength, neat. He brought it for Mia Bella’s staff to try.

[Gasp] the king of pushing the new buy local cash mob in Cleveland bought something…. on eBay? Say it ain’t so! Why couldn’t he buy a comparable flask from a local retailer? You mean to say that eBay, a website based in California, offers a service to people to allow them to buy goods at prices they are willing to pay from people all across the world at prices they’re willing to pay? This irony is palpable.

The closing line of the article seems not to fit with the opening:

“People need to do what fits for them,” he has said. Andrew Samtoy, of all people, should know.

You can argue that there’s a choice to be made whether you want to be a free thinker who makes their own decisions or an individual who follows others and encourages them to spend indiscriminately on things they don’t need.

If you’re in the latter camp, I have a broken window fallacy to sell you. Because if you think cash mobs collectively improve your community, you will also likely agree that breaking the window of the store you cash mobbed on the way out helps the community too, because it helps the local window maker.

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2 Thoughts on “Cash Mobs Aren’t Fight Club

  1. Cash mobs are a dark place.

    You must never go there, Simba.

  2. The guy was right on one thing though:

    You really are a cunt.

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