Fashion

Your New Secret to Majorly Discounted Shopping

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A few days ago, I went to a Gilt event, where Zac Posen had designed a car (apparently, silver is the new cool color for cars). I was standing near him and the pro photographer asked if he could take a photo of us together. I said “No way”, of course — JK! Anyhow, Zac and I chatted for a few minutes (he seemed very down to earth and approachable) before the orchestrators at Gilt decided to open the proverbial barn doors and let everyone stampede into the sale area.

Your New Secret to Majorly Discounted Shopping

Zac Posen with Hilary Rowland

Now, you’d expect a Gilt sale to be super amazing, right? I’d imagined racks of designer clothing, in perfect shape, at rock-bottom prices. But no, actually. Most of the items looked like they’d been stuffed in someone’s closet for a year, and they were clearly returns or items that didn’t sell. There was pretty much one of each item, sooooo hope it fits! Beyond that, the items weren’t any cheaper (as far as I could tell, anyway) than their mildly discounted web sales.

The way most discount or flash sale websites work is this: they take an item, change the name so you can’t google it, and sell it for around what you’d get it for elsewhere (if not more). They flat-out lie about the “original/retail price” then they tack on the extra bonuses of expensive and slow shipping and a final-sale no-return policy. Nice.

One Kings Lane

One Kings Lane hides the fact that they’re selling products for more than retail. They artificially inflate the “retail” price (like, way high) and charge more than retail, all the while pretending it’s on some sort of hugely discounted sale. Oh, and they deliberately rename all the products so it’s hard to find them (and realize that they’re cheaper) on Google.

Your New Secret to Majorly Discounted Shopping

Like the white lamp above? I first saw it for $185 plus tax on OneKingsLane, and loved it, but I ended up buying it for $117 all-in at Walmart (but it’s also only $114 at Overstock.)

Here’s an example: Their “Houston End Table” was on “sale” at One Kings Lane for $329. +$32 shipping ($361.) Yet I managed to find the exact same table (sold on about 10 different websites, at the time) and, at the time of the One Kings Lane sale, the normal retail price was $287. with free shipping, which is $74 cheaper than the supposedly discounted price at One Kings Lane.

Oh yeah, and unlike these daily deal sites (aside from Joss & Main, which actually has some good deals and allows returns), the majority of regular online stores give you the option to return the product if you don’t like it for some reason.

Wondering if the product you’re drooling over is available on other sites? The fastest way to find out is to right-click the image and select “Search Google for this image”. Happy shopping!

Your New Secret to Majorly Discounted Shopping

On the web: $89.95 and free 2nd day delivery — on One Kings Lane: $99.00 + $9.95 for shipping (=$20 more), and it’ll arrive in (get this) literally a MONTH!

Gilt

I think the image below pretty much sums it up. Oh, and Amazon has free shipping, while Gilt’s shipping is $$$ and super slow; it brings the price to more than a 50% markup. Same kind of ripoff as One Kings Lane.

Your New Secret to Majorly Discounted Shopping

Ok, now for my secret…

I just bought a gorgeous new pair of Dolce & Gabbana lace booties for only $160. US (believe it or not, the retail price on these is $1050. US). I also bought a new off-white Coach clutch purse for 50 bucks (the in-store retail price is $140.) In fact, my entire wardrobe is filled with designer clothes, shoes and accessories that I have purchased for a fraction of their retail price. How? I shop online at eBay.

Your New Secret to Majorly Discounted ShoppingLike my friends, you’re probably in disbelief. Last week we all went out for dinner. I wore a skirt to show off my new lace boots. My friends noticed them right away. The compliments didn’t stop all night. At dinner, one of my friends asked where I got them and how much I paid. When I told her there was dead silence, followed by “how do you buy designer clothing for cheap online?” Everyone looked puzzled as if I had just explained a new theory of relativity.

We then entered an interesting conversation about online shopping. Some think I’m crazy. They say that they would never shop online. They need to touch the fabric and try on the clothes before they buy. Some thought they’d get ripped off and lose money. Others wanted to get in on the deals. The funny part is they seem to believe I’m the only one capable of finding these discounts. The reality is anyone can do it, here’s how:

eBay

If you want deep discounts on clothing, the best way to get them is to shop on eBay. This is how I get all my clothing at 90% off. Don’t just buy the first thing you see. Here’s my 6-step process, and how to get the best prices (I go into more detail below):

  1. Figure out what brands you like and what size you are.
  2. Search for it and narrow down the results until the descriptions for the items showing up are basically what you want. Select a price range (keep it low) on the left, and specify your size.
  3. Click “save search”, so it’ll email you daily with the new listings. In your email, filter them into a folder and check that folder every few days.
  4. When something good comes up at a low price, copy the Item ID.
  5. Paste the Item ID into www.myibidder.com (it’s free), and it’ll bid for you in the last few seconds, so you don’t have to wait around for the auction to end. Say the item is at $50 and you’d pay a max of $120 for it, well MyiBidder will bid $51, and if someone else has a max of $80, then the price will go up to $80, then MyiBidder will bid $81, and you’ll win it for that.
  6. Pay via PayPal using your AMEX (which has great buyer protection), and wait for your item to be delivered. Fun!

Your New Secret to Majorly Discounted Shopping

Here’s everything you need to know, in more detail:

 

Know the value of the merchandise

It is important to know if an item on eBay is listed at less than its regular price. You will be upset if you pay more for an item online than it sells for at a department store. Peruse catalogues and visit shops to know the retail price of an item. When shopping online, read the item description closely to find the material, as well as whether it is new or used. Both help determine its value.

Look for keywords

When buying designer items, look for the word “authentic” in the item title or description. Beware of descriptions that say “designer-like” or “designer-style”. Most likely these items are knock-offs. Also, locate misspelled listings – they are likely to have fewer bidders.

Set saved searches

Your New Secret to Majorly Discounted Shopping

I search for items I like, in my size, and narrow the search down until I think it’ll capture when someone lists the items I want. Then I save the search. eBay will then send me a daily digest of the new listing that fit that search. I filter these into a box in my email (so they don’t clutter up my InBox), and look through them every so often. I usually find what I’m looking for after a week or two.

Know your measurements

Most power-sellers include size charts with their garments or will have exact measurements in the item’s description. I personally prefer to stick to brands I know fit me well. Keep in mind that a used item may have stretched or shrunk from its original size.

Check feedback

Always look at the seller’s feedback. This feature rates sellers on service. They don’t need to have 100 per cent positive feedback. For example, a seller who has sold more than 500 items and has 98 per cent positive feedback is more credible than a seller who has sold three items with 100 per cent positive feedback. Their rating should be at least 95 per cent and the more items they’ve sold the better.

Check delivery charges and payment methods

An item usually lists delivery charges. Keep this in mind when bidding. If a listing does not specify the delivery charges ask the seller BEFORE bidding. All auctions require the buyer to pay for shipping and handling unless stated otherwise. As for payment methods, PayPal is the most common. Again, check which payment methods are accepted before bidding.

Check the location

If possible, bid only on items that are from the country where you reside to avoid being slapped with a customs surcharge. Be cautious of sellers from Asia as they produce a lot of replica (fake) items.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

eBay shopping is straightforward to find exactly what you want because a photograph and description accompanies almost every item. However, if you are not provided with enough information, feel free to ask questions about an item. Ask questions BEFORE bidding though. This is proper eBay etiquette and will save you and the seller from frustration.

Use a sniper

Your New Secret to Majorly Discounted ShoppingBidding too early can raise the price of an item. It also decreases your chances of winning the auction. I learned this the hard way a year ago when I bid on a fabulous Roberto Cavalli dress three days before the auction ended. I was outbid in the last half-hour of the auction. I wanted the dress so badly that I entered a higher maximum bid. I was outbid again in the last five minutes of the auction. I bid again. I won the auction but spent much more on the dress than I intended. You can avoid all this by using an eBay auction sniper. It’ll bid for you (automatically) in the last 5 seconds. That way you’ll keep the bids low and you won’t have to be by your computer when the auction ends.

Look at the seller’s other items and eBay Stores

Many eBay power-sellers have an eBay store where you can find great items at low buy-it-now prices. Look at the seller’s other items or their eBay store if you need an item in another size or color. Also, if you have interest in buying more than one item from the same seller, ask for combined shipping to save money. Periodic visits to eBay stores help me find exactly what I want. You can buy styles that are impossible to find anywhere else. This is ideal for anyone who lives in an area with limited access to stores and outlets. I always do an eBay stores search in addition to a regular search because sometimes different items pop-up. Some of my favorite eBay stores include bm-co, prada-m and designer-exchange.

Pay using AMEX

American Express also has fantastic chargeback policies that favor the buyer (you). If PayPal fails to do a chargeback on an item that the seller won’t refund you for, AMEX is a guaranteed backup.

Relax

Your New Secret to Majorly Discounted ShoppingRemember that eBay shopping is safe. Both eBay and PayPal have fraud protection programs that are effective. I recommend that you do NOT make any purchases outside of eBay as you will not be protected, regardless of how attractive an offer from a seller may seem. Remember that eBay works on an effective feedback system and that the majority of fraudulent transactions are reported to the eBay community.

Once you get into it you’ll find that the reward is well worth the effort. At first, I was hesitant to shop online. But now that my entire wardrobe consists of designer shoes and brand name clothing, I am hooked. Shopping for clothes on eBay costs a fraction of original prices without having to waste time rummaging through sales racks at department stores. Your eBay shopping experience will be uncomplicated and valuable, and you’ll have the best wardrobe imaginable.

——-

UPDATE:

I got an email from GILT’s PR / media relations, who wanted us to change this article. This was the rationalization:

“We take this very seriously at Gilt.com, and have many processes in place to verify retail. [The “retail/original” price listed on GILT’s sales] of all products on our site reflects […] the price reported by the manufacturer [and] may not always represent the prevailing price for retailers or department stores on every day or in every community. For international sales, the Full Retail Price is based on what such items would be sold at in the US market or in the worldwide online market, plus taxes, shipping and additional international surcharges, if applicable.”

So it sounds like they basically figure out how they can make it sound the highest, between what the manufacturer says, the highest price it’s selling for anywhere, and what other charges they can add to the “retail” price like tax, duty and shipping that some customers may have had to pay depending on where they would have bought it (but the sale price doesn’t include that, of course). Hmmm….

I personally think that strategy is very misleading at best, and I replied and said that the only price that people care about is the item’s current price at other stores — not the absolute maximum price it has historically sold for anywhere, including duty and tax, etc!

What experiences with online shopping have you had?

A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

11 Comments

  1. Randie Cadiogan

    I think it’s important to note that we should always be cautious especially when shopping online. No matter how much it is that we are spending online, it’s still “hard-earned” money that of course, we don’t want to waste.

    I believe a “trusted” online seller is someone who has been in online business for  5+ years and have gained more than a hundred comment. A trusted online seller is someone who has sold both expensive and cheap products. Particularly for eBay, these points can always be checked which I really appreciate 🙂

  2. Very useful tips!!! One downside: now I’m obsessed with calculating all the money I wasted paying full price for everything! :/ LOL

  3. Joanne Samonte

    Mmmm… I'm so glad I came across this article in time for my holiday shopping 🙂

  4. Sarah Evanston

    Hi, I want to say thanks for giving valuable information regarding online shopping. This article was really helpful because use eBay and other online shopping sites frequently. This article is worth sharing!

  5. Jen Garcia

    Beware of online scammers! There are a lot of them present online. Online shopping is good (or I can say it’s the best because I don’t have to waste so much time in line at the cashier especially during holiday rush) but every online shopper NEEDS to be careful ALWAYS!

  6. Courtney Watson

    I just recently tried shopping via eBay. And I definitely agree with the author that if you bid early, there’s a big chance of spending more than what you actually allotted for a particular item. What I do now is if I want an item, I set a budget and I stick to it. I make sure to have 3 choices so that if I get out-bidden, I still have options.

    Checking the seller’s feedback helps a lot! In this time and age, it’s hard to just spend your money to “dishonest” sellers.

    Always shop with caution!

  7. I'd never thought of visiting eBay for discounts, but that's a great tip! Will definitely try it out next time I need something.

  8. Once you said Ebay!!! I knew exactly what you're talking about. I'm a bargain hunter myself and manage to always find great deals on ebay for possibly anything. I always tell my friends about it, and they seem to still not try it. Last year I decorated my whole room from decals to even bought a canopy to put over my bed for all cheap prices. It's simply amazing.

  9. Jen Spillane

    I love eBay! Thanks for the tips!

  10. Reading this article was extremely helpful; now I will definitely visit eBay to find online shopping options and skip the expensive "discount" designer websites. Being careful online is super important, so ironing out shipping or any details that may confuse you will increase your chances of a successful (and gorgeous) purchase on eBay.

  11. Francis Woods

    I love online shopping! To successfully shop online:
    1. I make sure to bookmark / follow “trusted” sellers.
    2. I go for those who offer free shipping. It’s very economical and convenient. 🙂

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