Updated: Friday, 12 Oct 2012, 10:27 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 12 Oct 2012, 6:00 PM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A "cash mob" is similar to a "flash mob," but it takes place in a store and the purpose is to support local businesses.
Chris Smith started Buffalo Cash Mob about a year ago. His effort has now gone global, with cash mobs taking place in 400 cities on five continents with an estimated $700,000 changing hands.
"The idea is just a reverse "Groupon" if you will. The idea is to bring people in and allow them to build a relationship with the retailer. Not based on some crazy discount or some big surplus of inventory, but really because they have made an investment in our community as a small business and we make an investment back with our dollars," Smith explained.
Social couponing can be a risk for small businesses and Smith thought there had to something else that could be done. Friday night, a cash mob is being held at El Buen Amigo at 114 Elmwood just north of Allen.
"They are one of the bigger upstanding citizens of business in Buffalo," Smith noted. "I really believe in what they do and what they stand for and I think a business like that, that operates ethically and morally deserves our support."
El Buen Amigo founder Santiago Masferrer said, "We are lucky El Buen Amigo is one of the first stores and really we need the support from the community. It's been a really tough, tough year."
The event will be for about an hour with an estimated 75 to 100 people attending and asked to spend between $10-$20.
El Buen Amigo is a non-profit fair trade store with goods from 15 Latin countries in central and south America like Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia. They also offer Spanish classes, hold art galleries, and host fundraisers for different causes.
The door chimes kept ringing as the cash mob got underway. Masferrer said it was the shop's busiest night since the Christmas season.
Tee Dasey said, "I heard about it through Facebook and I love it."
"There's an exponential power in social media that I've got 2,000 friends on Twitter, and somebody else has 2,000 friends, and pretty soon you're talking to a pretty big scale," Smith said.
The idea is so intriguing that a photographer from Time Magazine spent the evening in the small Allentown store preparing a story about this Buffalo-born internet phenomenon.
Dasey said, "I think it's a great thing for the city. I believe in supporting local business."
Aaron Lowinger added, "I think it's an excellent way to raise awareness in a community about the importance of small business."