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Find Freebies and Steals in San Diego

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Aired 7/20/09

In this tight economy, it's all about finding bargains. We'll take a look at how you can find freebies and steals in San Diego.

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

— MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. We all hear that this recession is hurting business, business is slow, consumer spending is down and retailers are really hurting for business. So, where are the bargains? It seems that even during hard economic times, you have to work to get a deal. The good news is, there are bargains out there. When you know where to look and how to ask for a discount, you are likely to find one. What we're doing for the rest of this hour is opening the phones for your tips and questions about finding bargains in San Diego. Which kinds of businesses are most likely to be offering deals? Do you negotiate for a better price? Maybe you have a story about finding a really good deal in town. Well, if you have, give us a call. Our number for questions and comments, 1-888-895-5727, that's 1-888-895-KPBS. I'd like to welcome my guest Sally Gary. She is author of "The Best Freebies & Bargains and Deals & Steals in San Diego," now in its ninth version. And, Sally, welcome to These Days.

SALLY GARY (Author): Umm, thank you for inviting me. My pleasure.

CAVANAUGH: Well, you know, Sally, we naturally think this is a good time to find deals and bargains because business is slow, the economy's down. But are businesses actually offering a lot of bargains right now?

GARY: Oh, my goodness, yes. We are in a place right now this month where we have end of summer clearances where you can get that umbrella and the patio furniture and the swimsuit and so forth that you're interested in at a big discount, you know, a clearance price even. And we have back to school sales already being advertised.

CAVANAUGH: I noticed that, yeah.

GARY: And also pre-fall sales like Nordstrom and the department stores are having their pre-fall sales where you can save, you know, 30% on new stuff for fall. It's going to be great.

CAVANAUGH: Now, some of the places that people should look to try to find discounts, you've named some of them but are there some unusual things – I know Nordstrom's doesn't usually have any…

GARY: They have good sales.

CAVANAUGH: Yes. Any other places that don't usually have sales and discounts that now have them?

GARY: Well, the 99¢ Store really doesn't have sales right now but everything in the 99¢ Store is a pretty good deal.

CAVANAUGH: Exactly.

GARY: You know, a pretty good deal. I enjoy going there and getting little tools and so forth. People buy their food there. I haven't done a lot of that myself, but people rave about getting the eggs for 99 cents and so forth. Just be sure and check the expiration date but everything I've ever bought there has been fine.

CAVANAUGH: Very interesting.

GARY: Been fine. Things not to buy would be things like batteries, you know, that can have expired, or super glue. I learned my lesson on that one. It was all hard.

CAVANAUGH: So you have to be careful.

GARY: But I think that the places that are offering up some really good deals right now are the restaurants. The restaurants that may not normally have two-for-one coupons and so forth right now are just throwing them at you left and right. And I suggest that you get on the e-alert list of your favorite restaurants like Soup Plantation sent me this morning a two-for-one coupon. Hello?

CAVANAUGH: Good enough.

GARY: I love Soup Plantation so two people can eat for the, you know, price of one there. And that's continuous. Once you're on their e-list, they will send you coupons practically every month. I think it has been every month since I've been on there. And it's not true of just Soup Plantation. I mean, whatever – maybe you like Black Angus and they'll send you a birthday freebie.

CAVANAUGH: Interesting.

GARY: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Sally Gary. She's the author of the "The Best Freebies, Bargains, Deals & Steals in San Diego." We're talking about finding bargains, getting bargains, knowing how to ask for bargains. We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And right now, on the line with us, Eric from El Cajon. Good morning, Eric, and welcome to These Days.

ERIC (Caller, El Cajon): Good morning. Yeah, I was going to say, you know, I think right now – You know, retail is retail and they've got a mark-up and they've got rent to pay. There – there are rarely really great deals out there. But right now on Craigslist and with the economy the way it is, Craigslist is full of awesome deals. A couple of examples, for appliances and things, I just bought a new house and I needed new appliances. I bought a $1200.00 Dacor stainless steel, five-burner cook top for $120.00.

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

ERIC: I bought an $850.00 36" stainless steel microwave for $350.00.

CAVANAUGH: And this is on Craigslist.

ERIC: That's right. And, you know, things that you wouldn't think of – Here'd be my recommendation, is if you're thinking about buying something regardless of what it is, just look on Craigslist first. It doesn't cost you anything to look. I wanted to buy insulation because I'm doing a remodel on my other place and, you know, insulation is, I don't know, six bucks a bat at Home Depot or some place. So I went on Craigslist figuring there must be people that have leftover insulation. They bought too much and didn't return it. And, sure enough, there was a – there's a guy in Bonsall that had – was selling it for a dime on the dollar.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that, Eric. That's great stuff. Thanks so much for calling in. We are taking your calls about bargains around town at 1-888-895-5727, that's 1-888-895-KPBS. Sally, I know that you've made a career about looking for deals and steals and…

GARY: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: …freebies. How did you…

GARY: Twenty years.

CAVANAUGH: How did you get into this? Do you – Is it addicting?

GARY: Well, about twenty years ago, I was in a bookstore and I saw this book called "Bargains in LA." And I just jumped up and down and said, I have to have this book because I'd love to know what is up there. And a few weeks later I was in another bookstore and saw "Bargain Hunting in the Bay Area." And I – The big light bulb went on. I realized this is what God wants me to do. He wants me to run home and write a book about all the bargains…

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

GARY: …in San Diego. Well, how do you do that if you don't know them? Well, being fairly enterprising and having been a schoolteacher, I called Grossmont continuing education – Continued Learning, they call it, and asked them if they'd like a workshop on bargain hunting in San Diego? And they jumped right on it. So that was so easy, I called the rest of the community colleges and one of them sent out a press release about our bargain hunting workshop, and the LA Times was in San Diego at that time and they picked up on the press release and called me up and interviewed me on the telephone and the next day they wrote an article entitled, "How To Have A La Jolla Lifestyle on a Mira Mesa Income." And so I just got real busy and had all these workshops around town and did a lot of research and came out with a book within about six months after I put my mind to it, working 28 hours a day, called "Get More for Your Money in San Diego," which has been revised a number of times and I'm very happy to say that I'm now out with my ninth edition.

CAVANAUGH: You are, indeed. And, Sally, you know, I would imagine that it's one thing to compile bargains. I think a lot of people think that that's something that they could do but asking for a discount, I think, is very intimidating for some people. And yet I hear that this is the time to do it, during these times when you – basically, it's a buyer's market.

GARY: It's always worked at mom and pop shops. You know, a jewelry store or a pawn shop or wherever you're shopping. But I went to a class at UCSD Extension on how to negotiate the price and this man said that he never pays full price for anything, of course, and that he even negotiates in department stores. He asks for the department – head of the department, you know, and he said if he gets a suit and he can't get a discount on the price, he'll ask for a shirt and tie to be thrown in with it. But you have to deal with the right person. And he also suggested if that's difficult for you, to start at yard sales, and so I did. You know, I went out and I asked what'll you take for this. Or, let's play Let's Make A Deal. Or, you know, just start that way to see how it fits for you. I wouldn't be ever real pushy but I have seen some people that push too far and it's uncomfortable for not only the seller but also for people that are around, and I've seen wives cringe and yell, oh, George, let's get out of here. And – But it is a good time for doing that, especially if you're dealing directly with a person. And like that young man that called in said about Craigslist, you can negotiate the price of anything there on Craigslist, too, that is for sale. And I have gotten free things from there, and I think he's right. If you're going to buy something, do look on Craigslist first. I wanted a chair-size futon cover and, you know, there were some that were free and they have pictures of them and you get to see them. Some things are going to go very quickly and some people don't take them down soon enough, you know, once they've been taken but, I mean, I've gotten rid of a lot of things, too, like crutches and a walker after I had surgery on my ankle.

CAVANAUGH: Things you don't need anymore.

GARY: Right. And I got rid of a sofa there recently and I'm looking for some giant pots and I keep checking back for some giant planter pots because they are – They can get very pricey, and some people move and don't want them anymore, you know.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

GARY: Move from a home to an apartment, they can't use them anymore, etcetera. So it's a good time, you know, to look for – look on Craigslist for anything, for sure.

CAVANAUGH: Let's take another call. Kristi is calling us from Escondido. Good morning, Kristi. Welcome to These Days.

KRISTI (Caller, Escondido): Let me switch to my regular handset.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. And as you do that, I'm going to tell everybody that we are taking your calls. The number is 1-888-895-5727, that's 1-888-895-KPBS. And, Kristi, are you back with us?

KRISTI: Yes, I am. Can you hear me okay?

CAVANAUGH: We sure can.

KRISTI: Okay, for the – But a couple of things that I wanted to bring up. One of them, besides Craigslist, which is unbelievable.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

KRISTI: I completely redecorated my entire – all of my entire house with Craigslist but I didn't spend any money. What I did was I would sell one thing and then take the money from that and buy something else. And I kept trading everything around and my husband got really mad at me and I've way upgraded the things in my house.

CAVANAUGH: You go, girl.

KRISTI: But…

CAVANAUGH: Oh, I think we lost Kristi.

GARY: Oh-oh.

CAVANAUGH: Let me, for the sake of people who are not familiar with Craigslist, it's, of course, online and it is – you basically have to pick these things up yourself and so forth, right? Is that correct?

GARY: Sometimes the people will deliver.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, okay.

GARY: Sure. Sure, people deliver. They'll come and get, you know. Either way.

CAVANAUGH: And let's go to Michael in Rancho Santa Fe. Good morning, Michael, and welcome to These Days.

MICHAEL (Caller, Rancho Santa Fe): Hey, great show today. A couple of comments about great values. I wanted to take my girlfriend to a great restaurant last week. I'm a frugal foodie. I went on Jack's in La Jolla's website and they had a two-for-one. Buy an entrée up to $30.00, get a second one. It was great.

GARY: You got it.

MICHAEL: I'm going to Santa Fe, New Mexico in a couple of weeks. I went on Craigslist and found a beautiful casita for $125.00…

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

MICHAEL: …had been $300.00. Lots of travel on Craigslist, lots of tickets on Craigslist. And the Community magazine, if you haven't already mentioned it.

GARY: No.

MICHAEL: You can get on their free mailing list. They've got two-for-ones for every great restaurant in downtown San Diego and La Jolla. I eat at Kemo Sabe's and Oceanaire, you name it.

CAVANAUGH: And that Community magazine is generally something that's delivered in the mail in each community and it has a whole – it's basically nothing but coupons.

MICHAEL: That's all it is. And if you don't get it free already, you can call them and they'll put you on their mailing list and you'll start to receive it. My girlfriend and I don't dine anywhere unless it's a two-for-one and we've been to all the best places in town. Neener-neener.

CAVANAUGH: Michael, let me ask you really quickly, if I can, are you a bargain hunter from way back or is it just during this recession?

MICHAEL: It's been in my blood forever.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

MICHAEL: I never pay retail.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much for your call. I really appreciate it. You know, I wonder, is now the time – we were talking about restaurants and we've been talking about buying things on Craigslist, if someone's looking around for an apartment, is this a good time to try to negotiate on rent?

GARY: Yes. The market happens to be flooded right now with rentals. And actually a friend and I were talking about this yesterday. She has a rental and she's looking at the competition that's out there and she couldn't believe, you know, some of these places with pools and gyms and so forth are really inexpensive and a lot of them are throwing in that first month's rent free, etcetera. It's also a good time to buy right now, you know, because the interest rates are still down…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

GARY: …and the prices are starting to go up but, you know, jump on it, you know?

CAVANAUGH: Right. I'm wondering, how do you know when you negotiate if you're actually in – offering a fair price? Is that important to you to be ethical while you're negotiating for a bargain?

GARY: Oh, yes, absolutely. You've got to believe in karma and what goes around comes around. And you don't want to, you know, what I say is screw somebody out of something. That is not comfortable for me. So, oftentimes, I will even like offer more if I think somebody has been a little foolish, you know…

CAVANAUGH: That's interesting.

GARY: …and wasn't in the know. Not at first, you know. And I, you know, like at yard sales and so forth, if I already have a whatever that's sitting there and I know it's worth a lot more, rather than take advantage and – in buying it from this person, I'd say, you know what, you can get a lot more for this. Or, go sell it at Karen's furniture Consignment store or, you know, give them some advice because some people really don't know and I don't care to go to the sales where there's stress – a distress sale, you know what I mean. I mean, a stress sale, and you see that sometimes where they're selling off the children's toys and clothing and so forth. That's not comfortable, no.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Sally Gary. She is the author of the ninth version of "The Best Freebies, Bargains, Deals and Steals in San Diego (sic)." Let's take another call now and speak with Kristin in Fallbrook. Good morning, Kristin. Welcome to These Days.

KRISTIN (Caller, Fallbrook): Good morning. Thank you. I wanted to talk a little bit about services and negotiating prices on services. I actually offer children's art camps throughout the summer and I often talk to parents who have, you know, maybe this year's a little bit difficult for them and so I'm very willing to speak with them about how we can arrange for discounts and I think that it's a very acceptable thing to ask for sibling discounts or membership discounts, those kinds of things. If you – I find that if people will ask me for these kinds of discounts, I'm very willing to work with them and provide as much of a discount as I can.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Thank you for that.

KRISTIN: So I just thought it's worth asking.

CAVANAUGH: Great.

GARY: Definitely. Definitely. I believe in always asking, yes. That's one of the ways that I found out about like See's Candy, when I was in there one day and this lady asked is there a way that I can get a discount on this. And much to my – You know, I really had to tune in on the answer to that one. You know, it was right up my alley. And, yes, you know, when you belong – well, like probably KPBS has a discount card and school districts and the government and so forth where you can get a big discount on it. Do you know that it's $15.00 a pound for See's Candy, which is made of sugar and cream and chocolate. And, you know, that's more expensive than filet mignon and they have to raise this animal and feed it and butcher it and so forth. So it's amazing that we pay that. And I think in these tough times we ought to like make our own.

CAVANAUGH: Make your own candy.

GARY: Make our own candy, yes.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I'm wondering, you know, when – it's summertime, lots of people want to get out of the house, maybe they're not taking a vacation out of town this year but if you're staying in San Diego, can you go to any of our major attractions or find some interesting way to entertain yourself and perhaps the family and get a bargain?

GARY: Absolutely. There are so many free things to do in San Diego. This is just an amazing community. And with this perfect weather, of course it is warm, so tonight I would suggest if you want to get out of the heat, you can go to a free concert tonight in Balboa Park at the Spreckles Theatre (sic) every Monday during June, July and August. They have, at 7:30, you know, a concert there, and it's so beautiful. A wonderful thing to take the kids to and, of course, they have them also on Sundays at 2:00. Another thing you can do is – to get out of the heat, would be to go to Arts Tix, sdartstix.org, where you can get half-price tickets to tonight's performances – for the same night's performances, actually nothing much on Mondays. And the Starlight in Balboa Park is included in their list and of – you know, where you can get half-price tickets and that is such a treat to take your kids to. It's a wonderful thing. And I think a good one coming up is the Del Mar Racetrack. Ta-da! Yes, and if you go to the Del Mar Throughbred Club dot-com, dmtc.com, and you can sign up for their Diamond Club which will get you in free on Wednesdays and half-price on hot dogs and so forth. So, I mean, there's just like a gazillion things that we can do. I like free computer classes that get you out of the heat, especially the ones that are held through San Diego Continuing Education at sdce.edu. If you want to check some of them, they've got all levels of computer classes and so forth.

CAVANAUGH: Let me take another call. Roxie is calling from University Heights. Good morning, Roxie. Welcome to These Days.

ROXIE (Caller, University Heights): Good morning. I wanted to say that, first of all, I love this topic so thanks a lot for doing the show. And, second, I wanted to go back to one thing that Maureen said earlier and then I think Stephanie called in about? Which is this idea of asking for discounts, and I think the caller was on the other side of that coin; she generously gives discounts. And I think that's great advice, and that's basically become my mantra during this recession, just kind of trying to ask for a discount and seeing what happens. And I've been amazed at what I've gotten, so I think that's really, really good advice.

CAVANAUGH: So basically everywhere you go, every transaction you have, you ask for a discount?

ROXIE: Actually, that's true. I have this – Basically, I – Every day, I have this goal where I do ask for something and I have a blog that's called The Daily Asker where I've been documenting this and so it's been focused – part of it is on money and discounts, part of it is on other wacky things like asking a pedi-cab driver if I can try driving his pedi-cab around downtown San Diego and that guy said yes. So some of them are kind of more fun things but the discounts, I mean, have been, you know, focused on boutiques, restaurants, and my lease at the gym so places where I never would have imagined would be possible to get 10% off, a couple hundred dollars off, it really depends on the scale, I've managed to get a discount there. And it's – I don't know if it's the recession or if it's how you're asking or it's simply just, you know, I think the idea is to try to speak up and the worst thing that the other person will do is say no. You have nothing to lose.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that, Roxie, so much. What if somebody does say no? Do you leave? Or do you pay full price, Sally?

GARY: Oh, I accept no. I may not accept it the first go-round, you know, but ultimately I would. I would try another way to ask, too. Is there – You know, can I have any kind of a discount? Or, you know – I think that is very valuable to ask because these businesses aren't going to turn away most people. They're going to give you some kind of deal. Now, there's some secrets to it, too, in that you wouldn't ask in front of a crowd of people, you know, for a discount. You would probably try to take the person aside and say, you know, hey, I've been laid off or I'm on a budget or whatever your schtick is for the day, and say, you know, could you work with me and give me some kind of a discount here?

CAVANAUGH: I see, not in front of a crowd because then if the person says yes, they're going to have to give a discount to everybody.

GARY: Exactly. Exactly. So you don't want to put the person in a position of having to tell you no because that – you can see that they would have to.

CAVANAUGH: And any other secrets? I love these secrets.

GARY: Oh, my goodness. Just go for it, you know. I try it all the time myself, too, you know, in a nice way. You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar so doing it in a sweet way so that it's a win-win situation, so the person feels good about giving you a discount rather than feeling like gkkk!, you just nailed it into the wall.

CAVANAUGH: Let's quickly take one more call. Katherine in Rancho Bernardo is on the line. Good morning, Katherine. Welcome to These Days.

KATHERINE (Caller, Rancho Bernardo): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, how can we help you?

KATHERINE: Well, actually I wanted to say a couple of things. One is a way that I have found to be able to ask for the discount without saying, you know, can you give me a discount, one thing that I do is let's say I've found a jacket or something that I like in a boutique. Instead of coming out and saying can you give me a discount to the manager, I will say, you know, I really love this jacket but I just can't pay the full price for it. Is there anything you can do?

CAVANAUGH: Right, exactly.

KATHERINE: And…

CAVANAUGH: So you go get around it that way.

KATHERINE: Yeah, and that way you don't feel like you've – you're like coming after them about money necessarily. I mean, it's – and the thing is, it's even honest, you know…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

KATHERINE: …most of the time. The other thing I wanted to bring up is that I haven't heard you guys talk about a San Diego Freecycle?

GARY: No, huh-uh.

KATHERINE: There are Free – It's a website that the address is sdfreecycle.com and San Diego Freecycle is one of many Freecycles that exist around the country. San Diego has one of the biggest ones in the United States…

GARY: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: And is…

KATHERINE: …and that is entirely 100% free items that people are – They post, say, you know, I have this item that I'm not using anymore, with a photo, like Craigslist, but it's all free. And every day, you can sign up to have e-mail sent to your mailbox with all the Freecyle things that are being offered.

CAVANAUGH: Katherine, I have to stop you here because we are actually out of time but thank you so much for that. That is one great thing to know. And, Sally, we're just going to have to do this again. There's so many people on the line who wanted to join the conversation and we just couldn't get them in. I want to apologize to them and I want to thank my guest so much. Sally Gary, author of "The Best Freebies & Bargains and Deals & Steals in San Diego." You'll have to compile your best stuff and come on back.

GARY: All right. Can – People can go to my website, too, at sallygary.com and print out a list that I call a refrigerator hang-up of 25-plus free things to do in San Diego…

CAVANAUGH: Terrific.

GARY: …which'll be – yeah, really fun for the summer for sure.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you.

GARY: Really money saving.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that, Sally, and I want everyone to know, too, that These Days is looking for your comments at the debate over healthcare in America because we're having an upcoming series on it and we want to hear what you think. What do you think about the current ideas in congress about changing the healthcare system? Tell us at TheseDays@kpbs.org or go to KPBS.org/These Days. And the second hour of These Days continues is just a few minutes.

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