The inspirational journal of rising NYC jewelry designer, entrepreneur, violinist, and pastry chef, Yumi Chen.

NYC Jewelry Designer, Violinist, Pastry Chef, Small Business Owner, Free-Spirit, Positive Thinker!

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Posts Tagged ‘retail’

Profiles of Hope – SAM POCKER: “Retail Anarchist”

Thursday, February 12th, 2009


About five years ago, I went down to the corner store for a pack of gum, you know? And I know the guy, and whatever, and he goes “One dollar.” And I was like, What? A dollar for a pack of gum? How the hell is it a dollar? I guess I’d just been paying it and not even thinking about it. I kinda came home and started thinking about that for the whole day. I don’t know why I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So I went down to the supermarket and started looking at the prices of things. I started making phone calls. Like, I’d call Tropicana and say “Why is this five dollars?” I called Gucci, who I saw was charging $350 for a pair of PVC plastic shoes. The conversations were ridiculous. But this is the kind of stuff people think about, but they never take the time to really get into it. All I did was take that time.

At that time, I found out about this program that lets you broadcast your own radio shows live over the internet and I got really excited about it. Literally, the first show was my cell phone plugged into the computer. But the phone didn’t stop ringing all night. Total strangers wanting to talk about coupon shopping. That turned into a podcast when it got too expensive to keep up; we were literally one of the very first podcasts on the internet. So then I thought, well why don’t we record a CD? We put it up on iTunes, sent it out to some Independent music stores and it went pretty well. I’d call comedy clubs and tell them I had a show about coupon shopping and they’d hang up on me. We started doing night clubs in the village for a while and I spoke at a conference on coupon shopping for like 500 people that was totally insane. Then I said, I wanna make a movie about this stuff, you know? I was writing something, I didn’t know what it was gonna be, and 65,000 words later I thought: I guess it’s a book. So in that year we had gone from sitting around the house just having a good time to a book, a movie, a CD, and a live show. And now it’s how I make a living.

I’m always fighting this battle that coupon people have to be midwestern women with 20 children and it’s like: no, I am a straight guy living in NYC, doing all the things that other people living in NYC do. It’s not just about frugality: it’s more about having common sense when you shop in general. Even if you don’t shop with a coupon. The point is, when you pick something up, really think about the price and the value. And you have to be able to laugh about it. People look at me in the grocery store like I’m insane because I’m picking up the bottle of BBQ sauce and I’m laughing uncontrollably because the stuff they’re writing is just so senseless.

I’m not trying to get anybody upset, I’m just trying to tell a story. It’s my life: I’m not trying to convince you one way or another. I don’t care who you vote for, I’m not gonna tell you to boycott a store, to, like, burn down the dollar store, I don’t care how you live your life. I’m trying to make people see the absurdity of human behavior. I’ve made all these same mistakes myself and that’s why I find it so funny. It’s not that I don’t take it seriously, but it’s not that I don’t think it’s funny. When you get pulled over by the state troopers on the Staten Island Expressway for a having a car overflowing with free pudding cups… how do you not see humor in that?