People put a positive spin on the idea of mob mentality with flash mobs, happy groups that came together in a public place to surprise crowds with choreographed dance moves and songs. Then came cash mobs, when well-intentioned consumers boosted sales at a local store by buying up whatever was in stock.
Now the flash mob has taken a sinister turn: A Chicago store owner says his shop is the latest to be robbed by a flash mob, when a group of young adults showed up all at once and stole more than $3,000 worth of merchandise.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, at around 6:40 p.m. on Saturday about 20 people entered the Mildblend Supply Co., a clothing store in a trendy part of Chicago, and started scooping up $200-a-pair jeans -- and then walked out of the store without paying for them.
"I see a group of kids. They're coming in the store in a marching way, like a team," the store's owner, Luke Cho, told the newspaper. "After the 15th or 16th teenager was inside I knew something bad was happening."
The surveillance video,, shows a flood of young adults entering the nearly empty store at about 6:40 p.m. Some mill around, looking at displays, but many make a beeline to the back of the store, where piles of jeans sit on out on tables.
They just look like regular shoppers -- until you notice that several of them are slipping off their backpacks and stuffing clothing into them.
"We were extremely vulnerable and caught completely off guard," Cho said. "There wasn't a whole lot we could do other than lock the door and hope the police showed up right away."
The crowd was too much for the four employees who were on duty that evening.
"They completely overwhelmed us. I went to lock the door and there were a dozen more waiting to come in," Cho told NBC 5.
"They basically pushed us aside," he added. "We were standing by the door. My staff got cuts and bruises and banged around until [the thieves] unlocked the door and got out."
It took police more than 30 minutes to respond to 911 calls from the store, thanks to a local street fair that had closed some of the roads in the area; the outdoor fair also made it easier for the mob robbers to hide. No one has been arrested in the incident so far.
The last few months have seen a rash in flash mob robberies. In April, 20 or more people took $20,000 worth of clothing from the G-Star Raw store in Washington, D.C., police there reported, and in May, dozens of teens descended on a 7-Eleven store in Baltimore for free Slurpees and helped themselves to other merchandise as well. Several stores in Portland, Oregon -- including a Chevron station store and high-end retailer Nordstroms -- were flash-robbed in April as well.