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8 things to know about sample sales sites

  • Do your homework. Sites almost always offer previews of what they’re selling, so you can comparison-shop at other retailers to make sure you’re getting a deal.

  • Don’t sleep in (as if you were anyway!). Many sales start at noon.

  • Pick your spots. Sign up for too many sales and your inbox will quickly be overwhelmed with bulletins.

  • Website merchandise is likely not to be “sample” at all, but mere unsold inventory, or even pieces specifically ordered after administrators gauge shoppers’ interest, hence the long wait times – over two weeks in some cases – to receive packages.

  • Unlike live sample sales, most of the sites let you return goods, often selling them later in “blowout” sales (though kids’ clothes tend to be returned less).

  • To simulate the aura of exclusivity and heart-pounding excitement of in-person sample sales, some sites have countdown clocks for items and call subscribers “members,” even though anyone can join.

  • Things can sell-out quickly. As a friend told me, “I bookmarked something the other day, adorable shoes with frogs for $16 instead of $30 and then went to do something and they were gone.”

  • Watch for shipping and possible return fees, which can turn a deal into a dud.

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