Shop, shop, write: The life of a pro shopper - Metro US

Shop, shop, write: The life of a pro shopper

One year, Sandra Phillips opened a separate bank account and deposited all the money she saved in it. After 12 months, she had $1,500.

It pays in more ways than one to be a smart shopper.

“I’m from New York City. I kind of have shopping in my DNA. There, you knew you never had to pay retail,” she explains.

She fell in love with a computer consultant from Montreal, so she married and moved north. The prices charged at the malls there surprised her.

But the high school art teacher was too busy to do much about it. She soon had three kids and took time off from her career to raise them.

When her youngest was a toddler, she met a woman who’d written a pamphlet-sized guide of the Chabanel Street fashion district. The author no longer wanted to update the guide, so Phillips bought the rights.

She took her two-and-a-half-year-old son out in the stroller every day, cruising the city streets looking for stores and deals. (The toddler soon coined the term “work-shopping.”) Phillips collected newspaper articles about stores and talked to people about where they shopped.

In 1986, she published the first edition of Smart Shopping Montreal. It sold 5,000 copies in three months and Phillips suddenly found herself fielding media calls while trying to finance a second print run of the book.

A female bank manager loved the book and helped Phillips secure a loan. As the years passed, Phillips became a pro at the business and marketing side of her newfound profession.

Her status as an expert on consumer issues also led to media work, including regular columns in Montreal newspapers.

In 2003, she and her travel-loving husband published a guide to all the exits along Interstate 95. That book also became a best seller.

These days, Phillips spends ten weeks on the road with her husband updating Drive I-95. Back at home, she heads out work-shopping when the weather is nice — she visits half of the 1,500 businesses listed in her book every year, and alternates French and English editions annually.

At home, she updates her blog and works on the writing and layout of her books. Some days, she’s out doing media appearances or book signings. Although Phillips buys little when she’s visiting all those stores, she admits: “I don’t ever pay retail if I can avoid it.”

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