Updated on 06.03.09

A Deal-Collecting Email Address

Trent Hamm

A while back, while checking out at a Williams-Sonoma (this place is my guilty pleasure – what can I say?), the cashier asked me if I wanted to sign up for their email list. I said “Sure!” and gave them an email address.

On the way out of the store, my wife chided me. “Don’t you always say on The Simple Dollar that it’s a bad idea to open yourself up to more advertisements?”

I smiled back at her and gave her a little wink.

In fact, whenever I’m asked for my email address at a store or a restaurant I might ever return to, I’m quite happy to give them my address.

Seem like a contradiction in terms?

Well, the truth is that I don’t give these stores my real email address – my personal one or my work one. Instead, I have a separate account that I use for just this purpose. That address has helped me out time and time again to save a few bucks here and there – and even better, I’m never tempted by ads that come in via email.

Here’s the game plan.

Sign Up For a Webmail Account
All you have to do to get rolling is sign up for a fresh new email account with one of the web-based email services. I find GMail to be the most convenient – but Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail work just as well for these purposes.

Choose a name you’ll easily remember. Your first name + “stuff” will probably be available, for example. If it’s not, try putting a very simple memorable number on the end. So, you might end up with something like “trentstuff2009” for your name.

The key is just picking something you won’t forget, because you’ll want to pull it up from memory fairly often.

Sign Up For Your Favorite Retailers’ Lists
From then on, whenever you’re at a retailer and they ask for your email address, give them this new address. The retailer will almost always begin mailing things to this address – sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly.

If you’re anxious to get started, most websites for such retailers have sign-up forms somewhere on the site that will get you on their mailing list.

So, for me, I might visit the websites of various booksellers (Borders, Barnes & Noble) and, of course, Williams-Sonoma.

Once you’ve done that, don’t worry about it. Everything is good to go.

The Next Time You’re About to Shop There Anyway…
… just sign in to that email account and search for the retailer you’re about to visit, then check the most recent two or three mailings. You’ll often find a few coupons and notices of any sales that are going on.

Since you’re not receiving this stuff in your normal inbox, you won’t be tempted to go chase “bargains.” However, you still get the advantage of coupons for your favorite retailers without having to dig through coupon sites (and the resultant popup ads and the like that such sites typically bring).

Good luck!

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  1. James says:

    Don’t forget restaurants to. Many locations like Ruby Tuesdays, Red Robin, Coldstone, etc. will give you free food for your birthday and other valuable coupons for places you would be going anyway.

  2. Jamie says:

    You should try http://www.otherinbox.com. Basically, it allows you to create your own email for every service that you subscribe to. Then (and this is the time-saving piece), you can subscribe to the email box with your Reader (I use Google Reader) and tell OtherInbox to mark it as read. I love it!

  3. GMT says:

    This is an excellent idea. I’m starting this now.

  4. archdiva says:

    I’ve done this too. It also keeps your primary email address’ exposure to potential 3rd party emails and spam to a minimum.

  5. And to add on to that, use a filter to send it to folders or tag them to store names (if there’s time to do that automation step).

    The coupons and news on latest discounts do come in handy at most times. :)

  6. AnnJo says:

    Here’s a similar trick to keep from getting assaulted daily by advertising in your inbox:

    I set up separate folders in my email program and installed rules to have emails from my retailers automatically redirected to those folders, so I never see them in my inbox but have them readily available when I need to check for coupons, sales, etc.

  7. Brent says:

    If you’re using gmail, you can do this without signing up for a completely new address. Just attach a plus sign to the end of your current address and add anything after it. Then you can set up a filter to automatically label any email coming into that new address, make it bypass the inbox, and mark it as read (so you don’t even know it’s there until you go look for it).

    For example, myregularemail+deals @ gmail.com. Bonuses are that it’s easier to remember, it’s more convenient to check (no logging in to another address), and even if you make a mistake remembering the part after the plus, you’ll still get the email. The downside would be that since it is in your regular account, it’s easier and therefore more tempting to just browse the offers.

  8. Gumnos says:

    Like Brent’s Gmail tip, I use my own domain-name to concoct addresses as I need them. So for the New York Times site, I’ll provide them nyt.com@mydomain.com This allows for easy filtering, and if/when you start getting spam, you can tell who the culprit was and shut them off. Though I’ve gotten a small bit of pushback (you can’t have a PayPal account with “paypal” in the name, so I couldn’t use “paypal@mydomain.com”; and when on the phone with tech support, they ask incredulously if I *really do* mean “dell@mydomain.com”)


  9. Abbie says:

    I have a yahoo account just for this purpose. I also use it for any sweepstakes/drawings/etc, commenting on blogs, and any websites that require me to register (also useful for relatives who won’t stop sending forwards ;) )

    I’m glad to learn about some of gmail’s features. My personal email account is there, and it sounds like I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I could be doing. Amazing…

  10. Jeremy says:

    If you own your own domain (like @thesimpledollar.com) see if you can configure one account to be a catch-all account for any mis-typed email addresses.

    This way you can write down williams-sonoma@thesimpledollar.com and it will end up in that catch-all account.

    An added benefit to this is that you can track who sold your email address, i.e. lots of spam starts coming in for your will-s. account you know they leaked/sold it.

    The account may end up catching too much spam as spammers try admin@thesimpledollar.com, but it may be worth a try.


  11. Hannah says:

    I wanted to mention the same thing as Brent- If you like the simplicity of having one email address, but you also like the idea of filtering out this stuff, gmail has the + sign feature. When you sign up for websites without a convincing privacy policy, you can use
    yourrealemail+nameofspammysite@gmail.com and if spam starts appearing in your inbox, you’ll know where it came from and can filter it out. You can use yourrealemail+stuff@gmail.com, as Trent suggested, for emails you solicit from retail stores, etc.

    Rather than just turning down the clerk at your favorite store when they ask for your email or phone number, keep in mind that they are often expected to meet quotas for collecting your info. This practice sucks, in my opinion, but if you want to help a friendly clerk out, give them a fake number and a modified email address and everybody’s happy.

  12. Ryan says:

    The gmail + trick is a good one.

    Keep in mind that it DOES NOT work for Google Apps for Your Domain. But there’s an easy work around for that: Go into the control panel and you can setup “nicknames”. So instead of giving them trent@hamm.com, you tell them retailers@hamm.com and it all goes to trent@hamm.com

  13. George says:

    Seems to me that, if I were a potential spammer, I would quickly figure out the Google trick and truncate all email addresses at the + sign.

    Hannah – why do I have to keep the clerk happy? What rule of business transactions says that is needed? All you’re doing is perpetuating the cycle of tactics that are bad for the consumer.

  14. Xoke says:

    I use spam gourmet (spamgourmet.com). You sign up with them and give them your actual email address and they create an account (lets say ‘bob’). Then you can use an almost infinite amount of email address like simpledollar.20.bob@spamgourmet.com. The 20 says I want to allow 20 emails through, bob is of course your account name and the simpledollar is something so you know which one it is.

    You can whitelist email addresses so you get more then 20 from that one, and can reset the count (either up or down). That way if you sign up for something and they sell your email onwards, you can simply shut that account down and all further emails will be eaten.

    This way you don’t have to set up new email accounts, and can filter what you do and do not want to see :)

  15. Hannah says:

    George- I do agree with you on the one hand that by giving in and supplying my personal information, I encourage the annoying practice to continue (even though I use a known fake number and fake email address). But on the other hand- I’m 19 and a lot of my friends work retail jobs where they have to do this. When I look at it from their perspective, I feel better giving out some info just to give them a break, knowing that I am never going to have to deal with the annoying consequences of it anyway.

    This debate reminds me of the one about clicking ads on your favorite website to give a “tip” to the owner of the website. Some argue it’s a great thing to do, other argue it’s harmful because when you don’t actually buy anything from the advertiser, they realize their ad isn’t working, and pull it.

    For now it really depends on your perspective. Eventually the online advertising industry will evolve and we probably won’t have to debate this.

  16. Ashley says:

    Another idea, rather than signing up for offers, is to search for a company’s offers online prior to shopping. I’ll often google,”Barnes and Noble coupons” prior to going to the bookstore. I can always find great coupons this way without having to search through my email for them or having them directly sent to my email. Sometimes retailers will send different coupons to different customers, and this way you can often find the best coupons that may not have been sent to you anyway.

  17. Brent says:

    George — Sure, they could do that. Couple things though:

    1) If you give the +deals address to all retailers, and all of a sudden one of those retailers starts mailing to your actual address (sans the plus), it’ll be pretty easy to figure out who, and you can either stop doing business with an untrustworthy, spammy company, or you can contact them to ask why they changed your address and request they change it back.

    2) If the company sells your address and an actual spammer starts using it, you can’t catch them that way. But Gmail, for me, has been very, very good at catching actual spam (as opposed to legitimate retailers I sign up for). In a few years of having a Gmail account, I can remember maybe a few occasions where actual spam has been sent through unchecked. So you might be covered there.

    If you really wanted to go all out, you could do what Jeremy or gumnos said, and just make up a new one for every retailer. You’re at Sears and they ask? Sure, it’s [myemail]+sears@gmail.com. You’re at Barnes and Noble? It’s [myemail]+bn@gmail.com.

  18. Gwen says:

    Good Idea. I created a “stuff” email account today.

  19. Michele says:

    I also use the other inbox. It is a great alternative. Yahoo also has disposible emails with their premium account. The other inbox is free.

  20. CathyG says:

    Trent – As an extension to Ashley’s comment 17:
    “I’ll often google,”Barnes and Noble coupons” prior to going to the bookstore. I can always find great coupons this way without having to search through my email for them or having them directly sent to my email. ”

    I’d like to see a blog post about finding coupons on the web, and solicit folks to comment on their own experiences. I usually have very bad luck with online coupons. Most of the sites returned by google are not actual coupons or even coupon sites – they are additional search engines which search for coupons, and they often don’t return any results.

    If I do get to a coupon for a store, it usually is very specific about what it will cover or how much else you have to buy to use the coupon. Since I have already done all my research and chosen exactly what I want to buy, the coupons usually don’t apply to me.

    I just wondered what experiences other folks have had and if I am the only one who doesn’t get good results.

  21. Darin says:

    I pay $20 a year for the Yahoo Mail Plus account. One of the benefits is that I can create up to 255 email separate email addresses that route back to my main email account. They all have the same base address “somebaseaddr-xxxx@yahoo.com” which is separate from my real email address (unlike Google) so that someone wouldn’t be able to guess the real one.

    Each email addr can be routed to a folder, and can be configured to be in-only or in/out (i.e. you can send email out using that address). You can also delete any of these addresses or create new ones at any time. If you start getting spam on one, just delete it.

    I typically create a new email addr for every site, business, or mailing list I sign up for.

  22. Luke says:

    I have a domain, let’s call it ‘mydomain.com’. For EVERY website I do business with, I pick an on-the-spot unique email address for that business’ domain. So, at The Simple Dollar my email is ‘thesimpledollar@mydomain.com’. At Amazon it’s ‘amazon@mydomain.com’ – and so on. Only friends get my ‘real’ email address.

    At the receiving end everything goes into the catch-all bucket and I see it all. If anyone abuses the address and sends spam, I simply make a rule to move emails sent TO that particular name into the trash. For example if this site sells my address to Nigerian ‘entrepreneurs’, I can make a rule that moves anything sent to ‘thesimpledollar@mydomain.com’ into the trash. I also know that The Simple Dollar just sold my address, and know who to complain to.

    This is great for logins. Most sites use or accept email address for their usernames, and I always know or can guess my username even for sites I’ve forgotten I ever registered at. At Amazon, for instance, my username is ‘amazon@mydomain.com’.

    There’s an anti-phishing benefit too: if some crook sends a “please review your PayPal account information” email, and it’s not sent to ‘paypal@mydomain.com’, I know immediately it’s a fake.

  23. Luke says:

    I see that my comment is very similar to Darin’s above – great minds think alike! :-)

  24. StephiB83 says:

    Excellent idea, Trent! I feel dumb that I hadn’t thought of that before! Thanks!

  25. Kevin says:

    Have been doing this for many years now on an old yahoo account I made.

  26. Lou says:

    Just want to comment that for books if you are only using Amazon, Borders and BN, you are missing out. Take a look at Powells.com for ease of finding books.

  27. Amy says:

    What a great idea! There are coupon/bargain sites too that offer emailed feeds that could go into the inbox to search for later. http://www.CrazyBargain.com is one I just added.

  28. Jamie says:

    I just use the labels and filtering tools on Gmail to have all my advertisement emails labeled and archived so I don’t see them unless I click on that particular label: it’s a lot easier than creating a whole new email account!

  29. Ryan:

    The +aliases do work if you’re using google apps for email with your own domain.

  30. KH says:

    I got tired of all the deal emails flooding my inbox, so I created a filter to a separate folder. Now I only check it when I want to, and I’ll get together a few coupons/deals to go shopping (stores like Stein Mart, Penney’s, Express, Bath & Body Works, etc.)

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