Bargains at flash sale sites not all they’re cracked up to be

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Flash sales sites that offer high-end designer goods on sale for short periods of time don’t always deliver the amazing savings they promise.

The New York Times  compared prices on a number of designer offerings and found that flash sales sites are generally more expensive than other shopping destinations on the web. Typically, you might pay 20% to 40% more on a given item at a flash sale site.

Here are just three examples:

  • A Kate Spade cabana-stripe medium tote bag was recently $169 (plus $5.95 shipping) on flash sale site Gilt.com. But KateSpade.com had it for $130 with free shipping that same day.
  • A navy dress by Decode 1.8 was $75 (plus $7.95 shipping) on HauteLook.com. But Overstock.com had it for $55.99 and shipping was free.
  • Leather ballet flats by Born were $49.90 (plus $9.95 shipping) on RueLaLa.com. But buying them on 6pm.com would have saved you about $21.

In addition, as the Times notes, “flash sale sites generally charge for shipping, have limited return policies (that often include ‘restocking’ fees) and take more time than other shopping sites to deliver an order.”

Several years ago, I went on air with early enthusiasm for these mentioned above and other flash sale sites as well. But now I’ve obviously had to temper that recommendation.

Here’s my advice now: Before you buy from a site that does not have an unconditional right to return for a full refund, open another browser window and comparison shop for that item. If it is better deal and you’re willing to have limited return rights, go ahead and buy from a flash sale site.

But if you don’t comparison shop and do your homework, you’re almost certainly throwing money down the drain.

Editor’s note: This segment originally aired Nov. 3, 2011

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Clark Howard About the author:
Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust.
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