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Luxury Sample Sale Websites – Do You Buy?

Luxury sample sale websites are the hottest new trend in online shopping. I have memberships to four such websites: Gilt, Ruelala, HauteLook and Ideeli. Fortunately for my budget, I have not yet made a purchase on any of these sites, though I was tempted to do so many times by their colorful frocks, supple leather goods, glittering jewelry, and stylish footwear.

As a New York Times article said, these sample sale websites target consumers’ desire for a great deal (prices are up to 70% off retail) with the urgency of Today Only! sales.

The concept seems tailored to recessionary times. Any guilt that consumers feel over spending thousands of dollars on unnecessary items can be replaced by bragging rights for finding a killer bargain, like a $4,500 diamond necklace that was recently on sale for $2,250 at Gilt.

Whenever I am browsing on these sample sale websites, I have to be careful that I don’t buy more than I need or really want. The temptation to do is strong, because I think I’m getting a great deal and because there’s a giant clock counting down the minutes until the deal expires. The good news is that while most of these sites don’t offer cash refunds, they will let you send back your items for a store credit if you are hit with buyer’s remorse after you’ve clicked the “buy” button. Final sales are usually nonrefundable, so don’t buy unless you’re certain of the sizing and the style.

Because –

A dress, even at 80% off, even by a famous designer, even if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy, is not a deal if it is at odds with your style or figure, or is more than you can comfortably afford. I think sample sale websites are a great resource for getting luxury at a discount in the convenience of your own home, as long as we keep those facts in mind.:)

  • Ewiley - I purchased a really cute tea set for my cousin's wedding shower off Hautelook. It was my big first purchase and I'm thrilled with it. I also don't have to worry about whether it will fit right. ReplyCancel

  • me in millions - I've never used a site like those, but I wonder if it is like outlet shopping. You're getting the label, but it is a downgrade in quality. ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ so alaurable - I'm a member of these sites plus a few others, and I haven't bought a thing yet. I think it's because, for the most part, the discounted item is still over my price point. There was one item I really, really wish I had found before it sold out – an ostrich leather clutch (don't tell PETA) for $25 that was originally over $300. I saw a Calvin Klein dish set that I really liked (but of course don't need), but I found the same deal Googling it. Same with their designer jean sales – $99 for 7s sounds good, but they go for that at my local TJ Maxx where I can actually try them on first. ReplyCancel

  • A. Marigold - I do buy! I've bought two purses, from Rue La La and from Gilt. The purses were things on my "List of Things to Buy If I Get a Good Deal On Them"–a black and a brown nice leather handbag. They were both a lot nicer than what I could normally afford ($500-600 bags priced at $150-175). I'd never heard of the brands, but a quick search confirmed the retail prices. A few years ago this wouldn't have even occurred to me to want, but the leather feels soooo nice compared to what I used to buy. I figure I won't need another purse for a few years now. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - That's what I'd buy too! A quality leather bag never goes out of style, and it's so much easier buying accessories because we don't have to worry about the fit. ReplyCancel

  • Red - This is the one area where me and the female sex completely split off in total opposite directions! I've never cared about the name brand of the clothes I buy. Okay, okay, for a couple brief years in high school, I wore American Eagle only. But compared to designers, even AE is a cheap brand! I like nice clothes, don't get me wrong. But I like to think the clothes I buy at B. Moss or Dillard's are just as nice as Dolce and Gabbana or Gucci.

    That being said, if I did have hot-designer taste in clothing or accessories, I'd use a site like that. It only makes sense to save where you can! ReplyCancel

  • QL girl - I've never tried these, mostly because of the fact that even though I may be getting a great "deal", their sale price is probably still A LOT OF MONEY. I don't normally care who's name is on the tag, so that's probably a big factor too. ReplyCancel

  • Investing Newbie - That has been my issue with those luxury sample sale sites: even if it is 80% off, I still can't afford/wouldn't even imagine spending that much on those things. Maybe in a decade or two. For now, Forever 21 is doing a pretty good job of making me look like a MILLION BUCKS. ReplyCancel

  • Shawanda - I've never purchased from any of these sites either. Being tall (5' 9.5"), I'm extremely reluctant to buy clothes I haven't tried on first. Additionally, I'm with @Laura on the prices being too high even after deep discounts. I was recently eyeing a dress at Rue La La that cost $225. If I had bought it, I'd probably where it, at most, once. If it didn't fit well, I'd have to go through the hassle of selling or swapping it. Seems like a lot of effort to go through for something I'll likely derive very little satisfaction from owning. The money could be better spent on something I used every day like a handbag or watch.

    If I ever do find a deal good enough on one of these sites to break out the credit card, it'll likely be for an accessory. ReplyCancel

  • savvy - Those sites seem intriguing but I'm hesitant to buy clothes online. It's hard for me to find clothes that fit so I'm relegated to B&M shopping, where I can try the goods on first. ReplyCancel

  • Revanche - I've worn the Gilt dress that I bought three times now, and I absolutely love it. It was a high price for me, especially after tailoring, but it's going to serve me well. It worked in New York, it was great in Honolulu, and everything else is in between. :) But I won't be buying anymore, I don't think, just because I don't need to be spending any more money. ReplyCancel

  • AKchanelapron - I love those sites! Haven't bought anything yet either, mostly because the things I wanted sold out IMMEDIATELY… There was a DVF sale and a Louboutin sale that made me drool, but I was too slow. :(

    Anyway, as far as the comments about mid-priced goods being "as good as" a designer label… I think it REALLY depends on the brand, and you have to do your research if quality matters to you. Some designers get way caught up in licensing, and their fancy name/logo gets tacked on some pretty awful stuff- you really don't get what you pay for. In other cases, the extra $100 or so will get you much finer details (even, careful stitching is a giveaway), higher-quality leather that will wear better over time, etc. Stay away from expensive stuff (especially accessories) with tons of bling and distracting accents, it's often a bit of a decoy to distract you from quality. ReplyCancel

  • בלו ביי - קונים מוכרים - מכירות פומביות, מכירות רגילות, לוחות ובארטרים - בלו ביי – קונים מוכרים – מכירות פומביות, מכירות רגילות, לוחות ובארטרים…

    Using pictures is essentially the old way of shopping and is a superior way to buy things. Almost everyone prefers looking through color catalogs to locate what they want, if the catalog contains a good listing of contents or indices that are useful. T…ReplyCancel

  • Chloe - I buy online at this site called beyond the rack all the time . they have amazing designer stuff for like all the others 70% off , however their selection is always amazing , and always stuff i can afford ! my last purchase i received an invitation code , after reading all your comments i think you should all sign up and take a look ! it's worth it and its free !
    http://www.beyondtherack.com/member/invite/M589LW3 ReplyCancel

  • have retailers conditioned customers to expect all sales, all the time? - […] sign hung outside storefronts or prominently displayed on websites. That’s not even counting websites and stores devoted specifically to discounted […]ReplyCancel

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