Carrot Mobs reward shops for good habits

October 21, 2009 7:19:59 PM PDT
Put your money where your mouth is is the theory behind a new global movement with roots in San Francisco.

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It could be any hotspot in San Francisco after work -- but the patrons of one South of Market coffee shop are part of a bigger movement.

They call it a carrot mob.

Consumers mob the place and in exchange the business promises to be more socially responsible.

Carrot Mob is the creation of San Francisco-based Virgance founders Steve Newcomb and Brent Schulkin.

The idea -- dangle a financial "carrot" in front of businesses to reward them doing more.

"We are a network of consumers that want to use our collective buying power that actually creates financial incentives that changes businesses and makes businesses more socially responsible," Schulkin said.

Their first Carrot Mob in was in San Francisco last spring.

"What we saw after that first event was that it worked, and the video of this event when far and wide and it became really popular," Schulkin said.

Last month, San Francisco's Epicenter Cafe hosted a Carrot Mob. For several hours they opened their doors; people lined up and the cash registers kept ringing.

Owners Chris Quaintance and Mark Harris promised to use the money made from the Carrot Mob to take steps to make their cafe more environmentally friendly. They are considering upgrading the heating and air system, reducing waste and using bio-degradable utensils.

"I think Carrot Mob will hopefully give us the type of exposure and revenue stream that will allow us to do those projects, that are hard to do for a small businesses, but you know, with some help we can easily do it," Harris said.

"When we start to make some more responsible choices, the word spreads, and I think that's the whole point of the Carrot Mob is, 'Hey, these guys are doing the right thing, let's patronize them,'" Quaintance said.

Organizers say it is activism for the social media age.

"People are accustomed to thinking of activism as a very negative way, they are used to seeing rallies and people on the streets, and we have such big challenges facing us globally right now that we need to come up with some new methods and carrot mob is one of those methods," Schulkin said.

"I think it's great a concept because you are really doing the anti-boycott; instead of boycotting a business you are really supporting it, showing the businesses around here that we want this kind of sustainable renewable growth," participant Ali Ross said.

Carrot Mobs have popped up around the Bay Area, the U.S. and Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

"Our dream is to one day, one day Carrot Mob entire national companies against each other; imagine Coke versus Pepsi -- who can change the most, imagine Walmart versus Target -- who can change the most," Newcomb said.

There is another Carrot Mob planned in San Francisco this month.

LINK: Find out how to participate in the next Carrot Mob
Follow Carrot Mob on Twitter

Written and produced by Ken Miguel

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