Mark and I both had a day off yesterday, so we went to Shoemania just off Union Square.
Shoemania has a dizzying number of shoes and full height glass doors that open out to Broadway. When we arrived, there was a large crowd on the sidewalk and some guys taking photographs with professional cameras. Some people in the crowd looked sketchy. A few were dressed in red jackets and caps. I assumed it was a political rally, since Union Square is often the site for such things.
As we browsed for shoes, the crowd outside became antsier, moving up the sidewalk and down again. Every time a downtown bus stopped on the corner, more guys in red stepped out and the crowd surged. I heard someone say that the people in the crowd 'wanted their money' and so I assumed it was a labor strike.
Suddenly there was some shouting and commotion. It was nerve wracking, even though there were more than enough shoe salesmen and security guards around. People in red shouted on bullhorns. Then the crowd broke up and surged north to Union Square.
It turns out that we'd witnessed a silly publicity stunt by a website called Cash Tomato. It was February 29, and at 2:29 employees dressed in red were planning to handing out free money - bags containing twenty-nine dollars cash and tomatoes.
What the company didn't figure was that the crowd would attack the tomato-bearers and make off with all the cash, about four thousand dollars total. Someone was basically mugged in full daylight in front of a whole crowd of witnesses.
I'd never heard of Cash Tomato before, which turns out to be less successful version of You Tube. My guess is that most of the crowd hadn't heard of the site either, except that there was free money involved.
News of the giveaway must have spread by word of mouth among those that needed the money. Some just wanted it more than others.