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Penny-pinching pointers

Free samples. Free coupons.

Cheryl Dresen found a gold mine in 800 numbers listed on the back of certain products.

The 55-year-old downtown Las Vegas resident has saved thousands of dollars in the decade she has been giving companies suggestions about their products.

“I look at it as a service,” Dresen said. “That’s why they put the numbers on their products. I thought it meant for bad things; if you have the product there, call this number if you have bad comments. But I’ve never had any bad comments.”

Frito-Lay potato chips became too salty at one point for Dresen. So she called the company, which sent her some coupons. A short time later, Frito-Lay came out with a lower sodium product, including its line of baked potato chips.

“When I see families in stores, I tell them to call those numbers,” Dresen said. “I’m not shy. I’ve saved with Nivea (lotion and body wash) and Hillshire Farm, too. They’ve all sent me a booklet of coupons. At first, I wanted to see if it actually worked, but then the recession came in, too.”

Companies also have sent her free candles, carpet freshening samples and 1-ounce containers of lotion and body wash, among other freebies.

“You can go to the store and write the number down; some don’t need the UPC code,” she said. “They ask you on the phone what you like about the product and if you have any suggestions of how to better it. It’s probably nice if you’ve tried the product.”

Dresen’s frugality doesn’t end there.

For the past six months, she has gone to see Heart, Eddie Money and The Rascals, among other performers in concert, on a local radio station’s dime. She’ll be seeing the Doobie Brothers in June.

“I have a good time,” Dresen said. “I couldn’t believe it. Every 30 days you can win. I have the best redial. Sometimes I have my cell phone and my home phone going (at the same time), but my home phone is luckier.”

Sometimes the radio station contests ask trivia questions that require listeners to have watched a television show the previous night.

“The contest was where you had to watch ‘Two and a Half Men’ and answer a trivia question the next day,” Dresen said, laughing. “The question was why did Jake want to go to a funeral, and I knew the answer was because he had never seen a dead body before.”

She won an entire DVD series of the sitcom, placemats, a pen and some other smaller prizes.

“This does work,” Dresen said. “It does save you a lot of money. This is money that I can use for other things.”

Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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