Adventures In Extreme Couponing (Part 1)

My roommate wanted to sign us up for a 90-minute seminar on Extreme Couponing at the San Jose Mercury News headquarters in North San Jose. Since he couldn’t complete the sign up form on his iPad, he sent me the URL and I signed us up for two tickets under my name on my MacBook. The website stated that the Media News Group, which owns most of the regional newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, was the largest distributor of manufacturer coupons. I told my roommate to expect a hard sell for newspaper subscriptions.

I could never figured out exactly where the newspaper office was located. We spent 20 minutes driving up and down North First Street, and from the airport to Fry’s Electronics on Brokaw Road, but still couldn’t find it. A quick check of the iPad with the GPS enabled indicated that the freeway went over East Brokaw Road. Was that the 680 in East San Jose? We drove past Fry’s Electronics and discovered that the 880 has a Brokaw Road exit. No surprise that I didn’t know about that particular exit. The 880 is king of potholes from Silicon Valley to Oakland. (Now king of construction zones with Caltrans paving over the potholes.) No one takes the 880, if it can be avoided.

We drove around the San Jose Mercury News main building to follow the signs that led to a side entrance for employees. After walking past the security guard in his glass cage and down some long hallways out of the 1960’s, I handed over the printed tickets to a woman at a table. We entered a large room with a stage at one end, long tables folded up against the back wall, and plush office chairs filled with an audience that was mostly women. Not surprising since women have traditionally done all the shopping.

The seminar started with the door prizes, which alternated between a $20 USD gift card for Safeway and a $20 USD coupon book for fast food restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was surprised that my name was called out on the third draw to win a coupon book. I never win door prizes—or anything else. A nice surprise.

We saw several videos from the reality TV show with shoppers filling up their shopping carts with $1,000 USD of groceries, handing over a thick bundle of coupons, and paying $10 or nothing at all for the entire amount. A woman spoke on how extreme couponing works by collecting the coupon inserts from the Sunday newspapers, waiting for products to go sale, and buying five or more items to stock up.

As I suspected, the newspaper had a special deal of five Sunday-only subscriptions for $50 USD. I stopped subscribing to the newspaper years ago because the neighbors kept stealing the paper off my apartment doorstep if I didn’t get to it first. Despite my reluctance, my roommate signed up for the newspaper deal and began our adventures in extreme couponing.