Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pocket those dollars, baby!

I'm too tired to chronicle every last detail tonight, so perhaps this will become the first of a new series I will subtitle "squeakers convention."

I've written about how I have a mild obsession with coupons and retail deals, and how I inherited that from my mother. Since last summer I have been using a Twin Cities based deal finders website. The woman, Keri, started her website as a way to share the things she was learning about how to get great deals on retail purchases. She didn't intend to turn it into a full-time business, but that is what it has become.

I have taken advantage of Walgreens deals for a long time. And I tend to jump through too many hoops to get free shampoo, toothpaste, pet food or candy bars when the opportunity presents itself. So when I found a site that details how you can get a wide array of things at Walgreens and the grocery store free, or at a fantastic price, I was hooked.

Less than a year into her venture, Keri has become a local media darling. She appears on several local news/chat programs every month, talking about the deals available in any given week, be it an online deal, a grocery store deal or something else. She is good at selling her website, and herself, so it's not a surprise that she has become a local celebrity. She's not the first such local deal guru, and thanks to the internet, we have more than ever surfacing on local gab fests, but Keri's ascension to local stardom is pretty impressive...more about that another day.

Tonight she hosted her first squeakers convention. A squeaker, according to my girlfriend, is a coupon maniac. She didn't coin the term, it came from a clerk at her local Rainblow grocery store. I'm not sure how reducing your out-of-pocket costs is squeaking, but I like the term nonetheless, so I go with it.

Keri's site is not an online forum, it's an information source that allows users to comment at the end of her articles, much like a newspaper website. I don't pay attention to the names of the users who respond on her articles, but there are plenty of people who do so. Some of those folks wanted an opportunity to gather together and/or meet Keri, who they've all seen on TV, but otherwise have never met personally. So Keri decided to hold a "meet and greet."

She considered posting a first-come, first-register invite, but many people freaked at the thought they'd miss the opening of the event registration, which was limited to 100 people. So Keri opted to draw names from online entries to determine who would get an invitation. She had planned to limit her event to 100 people, but interest exceeded her wildest dreams. She had more than 1,000 entries for tickets, and was able to increase her event size to 250 people to meet the demand.

I entered the drawing and was picked, so my girlfriend and I attended the squeaker convention earlier tonight. On another night I'll detail more about what we saw, heard and received, and what my ulterior motive was for attending the convention.

What I learned from attending the convention: I'm quite the anomoly. I didn't expect every married woman to drag her husband along to the convention, but I didn't realize that coupon shopping was still predominantly a woman thing. There were at least 250 people in the room, and although I didn't attempt a head count, I don't think there were more than 10 men attending. One of those men was Keri's husband, another appeared to be the husband of a woman who assists Keri with the website. I didn't expect half the audience to be male, but I expected more than 4 percent of the audience to be male.

I'm not sure what that says about me, but perhaps now I know why cashiers are occasionally impressed by my coupon acumen. I'm not one in a million, but I'm not far off, either.

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