Focus Group

I have always been a rather competitive entrepreneur. Whether I was selling Girl Scout cookies or working in retail, I wanted to be #1. As you can probably imagine, I was a great team player … as long as I was Team Captain. Based on that fact alone, I recognized that in order to reach my personal and financial goals, I had to be in business for myself.

Living in Hawaii, I sometimes forget the basis of my true personality. I’ve adopted the laid back, “hang loose” approach in both my social circles and day-to-day life. Most often I go with the flow, not caring where I sit or what wine I’m drinking. My desire to be the one “in charge” teeters between minimal and non-existent.

WJJ and I do attend lots of social functions. I suppose I could compete with my friends about who can devour the most filet mignon and drink the most champagne or Cabernet?  But I’d probably win and it wouldn’t be pretty. So thank you, but no thank you.

The other morning, I participated in a focus group held by a local bank who wants to launch a “Black Card.” Currently there are two types of Black cards. First ever made, is the very prestigious Amex which has an initiation Fee of $7,500 and was designed for the very affluent — the benefit was with this card you could buy “anything.” Visa then created its own Black Card which has a yearly cost of $495 — it does not have the same prestige as the Amex Black Card nor does it have the same cost.

At any rate, this bank is thinking of launching a Black Card similar to Visa. They put together a focus group of women who like to shop to give their opinions. No surprise I was among those selected for this. When invited however, I clearly reinforced that I hate to shop, but I do like to buy.

It was a breakfast meeting consisting of three bank employees and three women, including myself. Coincidentally, I knew the other two women on a social basis. One was a younger gal with an eight year old son. She is part of a family business and quite lovely. She tends to be rather low-key and clearly her son is the center of her world. The other woman is an incredibly creative entrepreneur. Her creativity manifests itself mostly, in what I would consider, unusual art.

I met the creative entrepreneur several years ago while she was writing a book on how to pack simply and efficiently. She learned that when WJJ and I went on the World Cruise, I literally had 42 boxes of clothes shipped for that 5 ½ months at sea. Obviously, not simple. That was the first indication that we might be polar opposites.

We both arrived on time, both wearing brown… That was the end of our similarities. We were asked questions and with each answer it became increasingly clear and quite funny that we probably couldn’t “hang out” together. In fact, I said on several occasions in a very humorous way, “I don’t think we can be best friends.”

While her favorite way of spending free time is staying in her PJ’s and creating all day, my free time would be enjoying a small group of friends and socializing. I take pleasure in food (and drink) where she eats to nurture her body. She exercises – I don’t. She thinks about how others will view her – I don’t. She stated that she is uncomfortable driving her husband’s Mercedes on the North Shore because it is too showy. My whole life has been showy, so give me the keys.

She and I bantered in the nicest way throughout the entire breakfast. I would LOVE to know what the bankers thought. No, this was not a competition but truth be told, we are both accustomed to being “in the limelight.” And while both of us were fun and respectful of each other’s lives, our quips were non-stop and actually hilarious. At one point, speaking about myself, I actually sang “One of these things is not like the others.” This focus group could have easily become a reality show.

The best-of-the-best was when I mentioned that I was “The Groupon Queen.” Everyone burst out laughing — I guess people find it amusing that here I am, living beachfront in Hawaii, having appeared on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous… “clipping” coupons. Damn it, yes! And when asked “the car” question, I guess the group found it even more hilarious that we own two Bentley’s and… drumroll please… a ten-year-old Ford Focus that WJJ takes to Costco and Home Depot. Is my life a dichotomy?

Last but not least, I suggested to the bank that in order to attract female clients to a Black Card, they should offer more “girly” benefits — perhaps like a spa special, etc. I then shared with the gals the most amazing spa located right here in Hawaii called the Sullivan Estate. As I was singing its praises, my cohort jokingly said, “Did you find that on Groupon?”

ImageAha — to her surprise and my pleasure I said, “Actually, yes, I did. That’s why I went the first time.” She replied, “Then ok. We’ll all go with you and you can drive your Bentley.” I then responded, “Ok we can go. And two of us can each drive a Bentley and one of us — not me — can drive in the Ford Focus.”

All in all, I had a great time. I loved sharpening my wit and I really enjoyed and respect my fellow “focus gals.” In fact, while we had little in common, there is something to be said about “opposites attracting.” Maybe we could become friends – a complimentary pair. But I still say we would make a great reality show. We could call it “Ying and Yang.”

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