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Another View: Think Auburn First? Drawing says yes, $1 contest says no

Another View
By: Tony Hazarian, Journal publisher
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I didn’t think spending 50 bucks in Auburn would be this hard. Actually, it wasn’t that difficult at all. Tracking it, however, was. Apparently for you, too. To refresh your memory, about a month ago we began a little experiment to see how money flowed through the Auburn business community. We spent $50 in $1 bills at coffee shops, grocery stores and restaurants. Leave nothing on the table, we said, and everything in the till. We marked the bills with “Think Auburn First!” in red felt pen, allowed the money to marinate in the economy for about 10 days, and then requested that anyone who had the bills to report them to the Journal office. We published a story in our robust section, Auburn On Sale, that showcased dozens of businesses offering big deals and discounts. We used this space, too, and talked it up in the community. And for those who had the bills? We’d shower them with attention. We’d give them special gifts. We’d give one lucky winner $50. Unmarked, this time. We thought it was a great idea. Think Auburn First, our partner organization in the Auburn On Sale project, thought so, too. We expected the dollars to pop up everywhere, found like golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. But rather than a stampede of readers searching fame and contest fortune, we heard crickets. Hours went by, then days. The contest deadline came and went without anyone returning any of the $1 bills. Back at Pioneer High School in San Jose, our biology teacher would have quizzed us on why our hypothesis wasn’t proven. Was the sample size large enough? Did we wait too long to publicly announce the contest? Did enough people know to draw a reasonable response? Mr. Church was that way. He was an amazing teacher. One day, to test our knowledge of the central nervous system, he ran into the classroom unannounced and fired a gun — with blanks, of course — then shouted we all had 10 minutes to write an essay on our reaction. Ahh, the golden days of public education. What we set out to prove was that some money spent locally stays local. Cash is the grease that lubricates the retail engine, keeping many of our smaller businesses thriving, and we wanted to see that action. But maybe cash isn’t the best lubricant anymore. Many people use debit cards with their everyday purchases, and businesses typically deposit their cash several days a week, if not daily. Once that money enters the banking system, it’s anyone’s guess where it ends up, right? My theory, if I were to address Mr. Church again, would be that some of the cash left the community in bank deposits, some of it leaked to businesses outside Auburn, and some of it remains hidden in billfolds and purses. I dare you to prove me wrong. One Think Auburn First Week promotion that did extremely well was the group’s prize drawing. Customers who visited more than 30 participating Think Auburn First businesses from July 4-10 received a drawing ticket. More than 3,000 entries were submitted. Todd Jensen of Auburn won the grand prize, which included a night at the Powers Mansion Inn, a four-hour limo ride from Jay Limo, a wine tour and tasting from the Placer County Vintner’s Association, dinner or lunch at Latitudes and Monkey Cat restaurants, and a couples massage from Massage Envy. Other prize winners included Michelle Woods, gift certificate from Maki Heating & Air; Karen Reitz, State Theater tickets and dinner at Pancho’s; and Debbie Graybill, gift certificate to Placer Adult School. Look forward to another Think Auburn First Week next summer. In the meantime, remember to shop local — whether your money is marked or not.