I like to think I’m a logical person.
Then I realized that while Dr. King did have a dream, I’m pretty sure said dream didn’t involve me writing a passive aggressive column about silver screen starlets who are skinnier, richer, and lets face it, better exfoliated than I. So instead, I’m going to write about the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning — flash sale sites.
It’s the dead of winter, and it’s safe to say the majority (save those lucky individuals whom the equator doesn’t have a restraining order against) of us don’t feel like dragging our SAD-stricken selves out of bed to face the perils of the real world (sub-zero temperatures, non-elastic pants) to shop. Thats why we have flash sale sites like GiltGroupe, RueLaLa, Hautelook, and Fab.com — through which you can experience the same rush of euphoria from stimulating the economy without having to leave the house (take off your bathrobe and turn off that Bridezillas marathon). Here are some tips on how to navigate flash sales with flair:
Show Some Restraint
The “time is running out” impulse spending trick is what turns human beings into crazy consumer zombies and makes businesses rich. Oh, there’s a 24 hour hurricane warning? Let me go build a shelter in my front yard out of 124 cases of bottled water (that’s all they had left at the grocery store). One day sale at Barney’s? Let me buy these $24,000 elk hide moccasin stilettos. No, they’re not my size, but they were 15% off and this redheaded chick was eyeing them, so I had to work fast.
The notion that time is not on our side is how these businesses make their money. The race to lock down those leopard stilettos in your size (before some size 8 skank in Tuscon beats you to the punch) is how these sites move inventory so quickly. Still, cyber shopping (or in-real-life shopping, for that matter) in a paranoid haze doesn’t exactly make for optimal decision making. Read on for reasons why you should stop and think before you proceed to checkout.
Do Your Homework
This is the general idea behind flash sale sites:
Super exclusive (invite only) limited-supply designer sample sale where you can bag the best deals on a deadline (except it’s online, so less hair-pulling). Except last October the New York Times did a little detective work and found that as much as these sites want you to think they’re the Mecca for savvy fashionistas, that’s not always the case. The nature of the retail industry has changed dramatically over the past few years and it’s difficult (even impossible) for one retailer to claim the lowest prince every time. So shop around (shopstyle, ebay, amazon) just to be certain you’re truly getting the best deal.
True story: back in December I found a gorgeous Kate Spade bag on Gilt Groupe that I wanted to buy for my mother. Unfortunately, my fingers weren’t fast enough and it sold out before I could make it to checkout. Slow reflexes turned into a Christmas Miracle when I found the same bag on sale at Bloomies for a whopping $80 less. There’s one reason brick & mortar is still a wardrobe staple and why even if you’re out of school, you still need to do your homework.
Have you read the fine print?
While Rue La La has something called “The Rue 30” allowing customers to pay a $9.95 shipping charge once and receive free shipping for the rest of the month, other sites can tack on hefty charges (and you still might not receive your purchase for another month – so much for wearing that Elie Saab dress to your sister’s engagement party). Also educate yourself on the return policies, which can become a massive headache. Final sale items and arranged marriages have a lot in common in that some third party initiates (“I think you two would go great together!”) and before you know what you’re getting into it’s, “Til death do us part” with something that just doesn’t fit right. Plan accordingly.
Have a Budget
So what if your fiancee left you, your boss keeps giving you the death stare, and you’re retaining fluid from the 3.5 bottles of wine you’ve been knocking back daily? Those cheery daily emails with to-die-for offers can really brighten up even the worst of days. It’s like having a chisled blond underwear model stop by your cubicle every day at 11:00 am to give you a neck rub and tell you how cute your outfit looks and that everything will be alright. Still, spend with caution. Giving yourself an online shopping allowance will save you and your FedEx boxes full of e-commerce conquests from being evicted. Those new House of Harlow boots don’t go with homeless.
Any advice/comments/horror stories to share re: flash sale sights? Spill some juicy details in the comments!