Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Learning to Pitch

When my sister and I were young, we had three channels to watch on one TV in our farmhouse in rural Missouri. Weekend choices were typically sports that we weren’t into or infomercials. This was of course all before we moved into town and suddenly had *gasp!* cable and my mother had MTV ‘scrambled’ for fear it would turn us into rebel promiscuous teenagers.

One lazy afternoon camped in front of that TV in the basement, we saw it. We became enthralled. We could make our own fruit roll ups. We could make banana chips. We could even make beef jerky. Did I just say that? You’d better believe it. WE COULD MAKE OUR OWN BEEF JERKY!

It was the Ronco Food Dehydrator. We were sold.We memorized those message points, relayed so melodically from that oh-no-she-is-not-scripted hostess. We were as amazed at the demos as was that of-course-they’re-not-actors audience. We readied ourselves and went in for the pitch.

To mom.

We sat her down on the couch and convinced her that we would eat oh-so healthfully since all of our snacks would be sugar-free dehydrated fruit and such. We would waste less produce because once it started giving those about-to-start-turning-brown signals, we would just chop it up and make banana fruit or dried tomatoes. Or whatever. And we would make our own – healthy – fruit roll-ups! We would save money! And it’s so easy to clean! And so many trays – you can dehydrate so much at once! It’s a wave of the future – right here on the farm! We HAVE. TO. GET. IT!

She listened. She processed. She even had questions. But how much electricity does it use? Oh yes, she played right along. Except we were serious.

She must have admired the effort. The pitch. She made the toll-free call. We were in.

It came in the mail a little while later. We did make the banana chips, though they were a little more gooey than chippy. And we made the tomatoes. We put them in plastic baggies and snacked on dried tomatoes – because we could. We had a Ronco Food Dehydrator so we could snack on weird things like that that kids just do not snack on. Never got around to the fruit roll-ups or the beef jerky (can’t imagine why – I didn’t even learn how to brown hamburger until my senior year of college, yes I’m admitting that). But it was great.

Many years later, I gifted it to a friend in exchange for helping us move into an apartment. He was a fraction as excited as we were on that presentation day.

And now here I am in PR. Thanks Ronco Food Dehydrator.

And thanks, mom.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This one time…at the check-out stand…

“Sometimes at the check-out, I look around to see if anyone’s looking and then I pull some coupons out of my purse…”

WHAT? YOU USE … WAIT … COUPONS? Say it ain’t so, Flo.*

Flo works with me. We happened to both be caught in an around-the-water-cooler discussion recently about getting good deals. I mentioned I got my skinny jeans at TJ Maxx. I am not ashamed to admit it. Yes, I love to find a steal of a deal. Even at TJ Maxx. I get giddy. I run home and tell Hubby about my find and how much money I saved us, as if I unlocked the answer to some ancient secret code. I think about how my frivolous jeans aren’t taking anything away from the Hawklets, or our 401K funds, or our babies’ college savings. I feel good.

So it never occurred to me, I suppose - particularly in the current economy - that wanting to get a good deal could be embarrassing, something you’d want to hide, even from perfect strangers behind you in the check-out line.

Sshhhh! Don’t let them think we paid anything less than full price for this 12-pack of paper towels! Gah! I mean, we’re rushing right home to wallpaper the dining room with $10 bills after this, okay?!

Do you know these people who are embarrassed to use coupons? Are you embarrassed to admit you might use a coupon every now and again? That you might pop into Tuesday Morning to pay 80% less on that Ralph Lauren down comforter than you would at Dillard’s? (Well, only if your anonymity is protected by dark glasses and a wig, of course!)

Current studies show coupon usage is up by 15% over last year. We as a consumer society have enough stress to manage right now. Let’s give ourselves a break. Pull out those coupons and be proud. Wave them around. Tap dance on top of the check-out stand and sing a little song of defiance, “I got the best de-al! I got the best de-al!” Saunter into TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning with your head held high!

What’s the big deal? Exactly. It’s the big deals you could be missing out on. Too embarrassed to save? Seems that now’s the perfect chance to join the rest of the world and refuse to pay full price. Go on, you can do it. You know you want to. Your 401K wants you to, too.

*Names changed to protect the innocent over-spenders.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blogging Therapy

Hubby and I have had the unfortunate need to discuss grief recently.

I believe when people die, we grieve not necessarily for them, but for the sadness inside the hearts of everyone they left behind who loved them and miss them like crazy - for their loss. For those people who knew them best and have to go on without them.

Can you grieve for the loss of someone you didn’t know at all?

I’ve been reminded of this strange phenomenon of our digital society recently having stumbled upon a number of parent bloggers – both moms and dads – who digitally document the painful necessity to go on with life after death. I find myself fascinated with this blog genre. It’s not about product reviews or money-saving tips. To them, this is about putting one foot in front of the other each day, desperately hoping that with each step they are not moving further away from precious memories.

When parents have to go on without a child, or the other parent, their unique grief is so moving, so heart-wrenching to the naive rest of us. I find myself enthralled with their writing and shedding tears for these virtual strangers who have decided to share their intimate lives with the blogosphere. I grieve for their sadness. I don’t even know them.

The idea of ever losing one of my children or my spouse is so incredibly painful I cannot bear to think about it for fear my heart may stop beating.

And yet, these blogging parents - like this mother, this father, this mother and this wife - have decided to share their journeys with anyone who cares to follow them.

Perhaps it is therapy for them. And us.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cell Phone as Sitter

I received an email from a friend this week:“My cell phone has become water logged. Can you send me your numbers to save in my new phone?”

Been there, done that.

Hubby Hawks and I have replaced more than one mobile device thanks to Hawklet slobber rendering them useless after a few months. Are we bad parents because we allowed our babies to chew on our cell phones? If you’re judging, go ahead and consider the hoards of parents who give their kids cell phones to play with, to keep them occupied in the car, or to serve as mediator in the midst of a public tantrum, in the middle of the grocery store, strangers staring. If you’re judging and you’ve never mothered a toddler, oh you just wait.

We give them our old cell phones when we upgrade to replace the water logged broken down versions. They become beloved additions to the toy box. The Hawklets walk around the house pretending to talk to us, to their grandparents, to imaginary friends. They don’t want no stinking toy cell phones – puh-lease! They know the difference. Toddler-intended ‘cell phones’ are just not as exciting as the real things. (And don’t try to give them a kiddie lap top, either! Hellooo - Mommy’s lap top isn’t brightly colored with gigantic yellow buttons that play music!)

Now, organizations like PBS Kids Sprout have developed new ways to leverage the phenomenon of cell phone as baby sitter. Oh yes, plopping Junior down in front of the TV is so amateur! Now you can hand him your iPhone and he can walk around the house or sit in his carseat edu-taining himself with emerging digital media. This is not your mother’s motherhood.

The great cell phone phenomenon becomes a bigger issue when those toddlers get bigger. Now we are seeing the emergence of teen issues like sexting. What’s that, you say? It’s yet another reason that the thought of parenting teens scares the bejesus out of me.

But still, as a marketer, I’m fascinated at the idea that I don’t even know what these devices (let’s face it; they’re not just ‘phones’ anymore) have in store for us even three years from now.

And by, 'us,' you know I mean moms. Will we pre-order our groceries via iPhone, while simultaneously taking advantage of mobile coupons? Will our kids get homework help via a virtual iPhone tutor? Will I be able to scan the Coach store with my iPhone from outside and find out exactly how many of the Op Art Juliane handbags in black may or may not be in stock without having to find a parking space and lug two toddlers inside?

We likely won't have to wait even three years to find out.