Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Injustice

Visit the Midday Edition homepage

Cash Mob Returns To San Diego

We're sorry. This audio clip is no longer available.

February 13, 2012 1:06 p.m.


Lauren Way, San Diego Cash Mob organizer

Sophia Hall, owner Make Good

Andrew Samtoy, one of the founders of Cash Mob

Related Story: Cash Mob Returns To San Diego


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Read Transcript

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. The people-powered grass-roots spirit of the occupy movement is spawning offshoots, and one of them is the cash mob. There is a cash mob gathering planned at an unnamed San Diego business tonight. And shops that get chosen say they are lucky to be picked for this particular mob action. My guests, Lauren Way is organizer of San Diego cash mob.

WAY: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Andrew Samtoy is an El Cajon native who organized 1 one of the nation's first cash mobs in Cleveland. And Sophia Hall is owner of make good, the first location to be cash mobbed in San Diego.

WAY: A cash mob is a group of people who want to make a difference, getting together and -- we all get-together at a previously determined location, and at that point, a target is announced, and we go to a local business, and everyone there spends $20 to put a little infusion of cash into the -- into our small, locally owned business, and to have some fun.

CAVANAUGH: How do people know where to go?

WAY: So it's on -- we have a Facebook page, and a twitter. So you can find us on twitter at CMSan Diego, and on Facebook where San Diego. And it's all announced there. And the -- all people know right now about tonight's location is that it's in old town. But I have right here the intersection written down.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, my goodness! We're going to be able to plot our course! Now, I'm wondering, why do you want to do this? Is this inspired by the occupy movement at all?

HALL: This is inspired entirely by Andrew Samtoy.

HALL: So it's really just a -- you know, I think that sort of the -- our consciousness is shifting slightly into being more aware, sort of seeing financial hardship, seeing all this stuff going on where people are becoming more and more aware. I don't get my inspiration from occupy. There are people who do cash mobs who are totally -- we're part of that movement, and this is what brought them into it. Mine is much more of a sort of being community minded, being interested in supporting and keeping San Diego that I love the San Diego that I love.

CAVANAUGH: Right. So let me ask Andrew. How did you come up with this idea?

SAMTOY: Well, just to piggyback off what Lauren said, I'm not part of occupy either. But I am part of a group called Cleveland bridgebuilders. And we were talking about flash mobs in September, and with how destructive they were. And I had the idea that if all 60 of the bridge builders with me in the room decided to go to a store, specifically a store that one of my friends owned, and we each spent $20,000, that would be $1,200 that would go straight into our store. And so I suggested it to the group, and my friend, Marty, suggested the name cash mob. And we immediately started organizing.

CAVANAUGH: There are some specific rules that you laid out for cash mob. Can you tell us the main ones

SAMTOY: They break down into information. Mobbers, the business itself, and the social aspects. First we want to control the information that gets out about the cash mob and spread it as much as possible. What Lauren was talking about, we use Facebook and twitter as organizing and information dissemination tools. So we need to announce it ahead of time through those mediums so people know where they're going to be meeting up. We want to make sure that the store itself has items that are less than $20 so people can actually participate in that. It has to have items for both men and women. That's important as well. We don't want to go to a place that has things for women, and leave half the population out. The most important, I think is that the business has to be locally owned, and the owner has to give back in some way to the community. And they have to approve the cash mob before we even announce it. They have to be okay with it before we go there. We don't want them to be overwhelmed, and we want to make sure that the circumstance mobbers themselves aren't Z-- they're not gumming up the system.

CAVANAUGH: Right; right.

HALL: And the last one is that we want people to meet each other. We want them to have social. So we want them to go out after the mob for a bite to eat or a drink.

CAVANAUGH: That's one of the recommended elements of this, right?

HALL: Right. There's the postmob after party at a locally owned watering hole.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Sophia, your business was the first business in San Diego to be cash mobbed. What was the experience like this

WAY: I still can't believe it really happened. But I put it on my blog, so it really happened. Surreal. When Lauren first called me, it was about a week before the mobbing, and she explained toy me, and I was thrown off by the word mob. But she wanted to do it on a Tuesday. Tuesdays for us are pretty dead. And I thought, well, gosh if she shows up and spends $20, yay! So I was excited that maybe I'd have an extra shopper. And she didn't know how many people would show up with her because this was a new thing. I didn't even know it was a movement. And she explained it well, and I said why not? I was excited to see what might happen.

CAVANAUGH: And what did happen?

WAY: Holy Shmolly. I knew some people would show up. So they started filing through the door. She had warned me. So about 30 people showed up. That was huge, a big surprise as it was. But then these giant cameras, and giant microphones started coming in, and I'm, like, wow, this is a big deal. So I was humbled, excited, and surprised.

CAVANAUGH: Can I ask you how much money you made?

WAY: Oh, yeah, $708.

CAVANAUGH: That's pretty big for a day you don't get much business at all.

WAY: And we hit one has on a Tuesday, that's huge. And I am a local artist, so that money got spread out among several artists. So in our situation, it was a big impact.

CAVANAUGH: And any of the cash mobbers now, regular customers?

WAY: Oh, yeah, yeah. It happened right before Christmas, which was very opportune for us. So a lot of them I recognize. Or they would point out, hey, I came on that cash mob. I didn't even know your neighborhood before. Now I'm a regular shopper here. And I've run into them a few time. I went to the second cash mob in Hillcrest, and a couple people came up to me and said I'm going to do these all the time. So they've come to make good regularly, and they're going to start doing cash mobs at the other businesses too.

CAVANAUGH: Lauren, where was the second one?

HALL: At blue stocking books in Hillcrest. It's a locally owned book store that's been a book store for, something like 50 years.

CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, do you have to cash bring cash with you? No credit cards?

HALL: Credit cards are fine.

HALL: You don't have to pay cash. We're not going to turn away money.

CAVANAUGH: I see. Andrew, are what kind of results are you seeing in Cleveland? How many of these have you had there?

SAMTOY: I want to say six total. And I've organized three of them. And we're seeing the same things as Sophia is mentioning. We're getting people that become repeat customers. People that are going to businesses that never knew they existed, and going to neighborhoods that they never knew existed and actually frequenting these places. And sort of exploring. And I think again the best thing for me is that we have people that are becoming friends and building community. That's a huge part of why these are successful, I think. People are meeting face-to-face. They're becoming friends with other human beings, rather than looking at a stream, and trying to count how many friends they have to Facebook or twitter. They're interacting with other people, and we've been doing that for millions of years. We've gotten away from that a lot in our society. And I think that's something that resonates with a lot of people.

CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering too, I can see maybe a down side to the social media aspect of this this the sense that -- how do people tell that this is a genuine cash mob? Couldn't people just say, hey! We're going over here on Thursday and sort of, like, take over your thunder, so to speak?

SAMTOY: Well, I think that's part of the beauty of it. We've put out these tools specifically so everybody could do that. I'm not trying to say that I'm in charge of all of these cash mobs that are sprouting up around the world. Other -- we're empowering other people to become community leaders in each of their own communities. So Lauren has run with it in San Diego, and done a fantastic job. So to be able to give somebody the tools to sort of blossom in that way. There's people that have never done things before, community-wise, and they're suddenly finding out they have these abilities to organize others and lead others. And I don't see that as a down side at all. I see that as one of the great strengths that we're empowering people in the community.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, Lauren, what can you reveal about tonight's cash mob?

WAY: Our meeting location will be at fiesta de Reyes in old town. It's 2772 Juan Street, which is on John street in wan Wallace and Mason. We'll be there at the entrance to fiesta de Reyes at 7:30 PM. And this time, I'm going to have a big sign that says cash mob.

CAVANAUGH: Every time you learn a little bit more. And what business is this going to go to?

WAY: That's a secret.


WAY: The business gets revealed when we meet. It is announced.

CAVANAUGH: Now, people who are not listening to this show, how are they going to get information about where to go tonight?

WAY: On twitter and Facebook. I'm about to as soon as we're done here, tweet out the information that I just announced to the world.

CAVANAUGH: Now, how important is -- I know that you had the cameras and so forthcoming into the very first one, the first cash mob you had. Has the media lost interest, and is that a bad thing?

WAY: We had media presence on the our last mob too. And there's a lot of national picking up for the movement in general. And so there's still a lot of sort of more subtle media perhaps, and people have found us because of that. We've got a lot of people who know about us and found us from the first mob and now follow us because of that. And word of mouth is huge.

CAVANAUGH: I have to end it there.