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Monday, April 15, 2013

Flash Sales: Zulily, Wayfair, Groupon and the Likes ...

Post Bye Buy challenge, I consider myself a reformed shopoholic. As a reformed anything, the will almost always be triggers wooing you back to your old, evil ways. My triggers include things like clearances and sales, special events and special shopping opportunities like "flash sales". Flash sales generally refer to a one-day or very limited time offer. It feels like you are in on a big secret and you have to act quickly lest everyone find out about the amazing offer. Hesitate and it sells out. Flash sales are a gigantic, flashing red warning sign, spending spree waiting to happen to a reformed shopoholic. Yet, I subscribe to a few websites that offer daily flash sales. My first was Zulily

Zulily got my attention with eye-catching ads that showed up alongside my email. The items, usually clothing, were attractive and my feeling was that these waere an "insiders-only" offer. I, of course, wanted to be an insider. After signing up (it's free) I received a daily email with the limited time offers. Selection is limited to what is pictured, so the colors and styles are limited. After watching for a while, I finally made my first purchase of a casual cotton dress. Casual dresses are on my "need to re-stock" list. I was not familiar with the brand (Gretchen Scott Designs) but the style was nice and the fit appeared somewhat forgiving. The dress was priced at just $19.99 but I would have purchased it at a higher price. Shipping was $5.95 (but if you buy anything else from Zulily within a 24 hour period, that shipping is free).One complaint I had was the time it took for shipping. In this next-day world, waiting 2-3 weeks for a purchase can seem interminable (or in my case, you can forget you even ordered it and enjoy a great fun surprise when it arrives.) The dress was really cool, so much so that I found the Gretchen Scott website to see what else they had. Whoa, giant price increase on the regular site! My particular dress was not pictured so I am thinking that Zulily items may be close-outs or last season stuff (which is OK with me, sort of like TJ Maxx.) Brands run from the very familiar (Avia) to the obscure. Quality seems vary as well. For me, it's like browsing the mall without leaving the house, which is kind of nice. I recently purchased a bra from Zulily for my hard-to-fit daughter. After the very long wait, the bra arrived with oddly discolored spots. The quality of the fit or support did not appear to be affected but I would not purchase an item in a store that appeared dirty. During checkout at Zulily, you are informed that items are not returnable. I am generally too excited about my purchase at this point to turn back. In this case, I was unsure what to do about an item I was not satisfied with. I sent an email with photos of the bra to Zulily customer service but honestly, did not have high hopes. In just a few hours, I received a message with an apology and a refund. The nature of the limited-time sale meant there wasn't another to exchange for, but at least I got a refund. I have to say, I was genuinely surprised and delighted. Real customer service! Despite the long delivery wait, customer service response time is very fast.

Groupon is another of my favorite sites. They, too, offer special, limited time offers with great deals. The deals are based on locale so you will only find offers for your area. Customer service is good and refunds are available. Watch the fine print and don't lose the voucher Groupon sends, most retailers need that piece of paper. 

I consider Wayfair to be the Amazon of the home decorating world. Lots to choose from and they, too, offer daily deals. I was excited to find that the Coastal Living Magazine product collection is sold on Wayfair.

Groupon and Zulily also reward you for referring friends. This is nice, but try it out yourself before referring others (it's just the nice thing to do). 

SO--the pros: A little browsing for sales each day. Small enough in quantity that you won't take too much time (hopefully) but some variety. Check the policies, but there is still some good customer service out there.

The cons: The shipping time for Zulily was irksome. Be aware of return and refund policies. And, by all means, if you don't need or can't afford things, don't subscribe!

I think that pre-Bye Buy me would have gone crazy on flash sales. The new and improved me is more thoughtful, less panic-y and makes better decisions.  It is smart to save money where possible and there are some good deals out there. 
 Flash sales: proceed with caution and shop smart. Good deals can be had but like always, if it really seems to good to be true, it probably is. 

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