Apr 1, 2010

Mizhattan's Survival Guide to Sample Sales

There are over 8 million people living in the 5 boroughs. 1.6 million of them, live on this small island we call Manhattan. Logically, about half of these 1.6M must be women. And putting it bluntly, the women I know...love and die for a bargain.

Manhattan has its perks and Manhattanites are spoiled. There are 24hr drugstores, 4-star restaurants, and quick deliveries. Nightlife is unrivaled and everything is within reach and catered to. Then, there are the stores. Oh~ soooo many stores. We have touristy 5th Ave, classy Madison, vivacious Soho, and trendy MeatPacking. But the pinnacle of perks for Mizhattanites are the sample sales. Women flock to these semi-annual sales like they have homing beacons. And if they can't make the pilgrimage, they will call their friends, friends of friends, or their enemy's enemies to procure them those coveted items (you know who you are). Of the many outposts, towns, and cities that dot this world, Manhattan is one of a handful of places where stylish frugalistas can enjoy the bountiful sample sales held every year. Take for example the Metropolitan Pavilion. It's a sample sale mecca. They advertise themselves as a special event venue for dinners, receptions, and weddings. But I've never seen a reception held there, have you? My guess is "No, you haven't". But you HAVE seen sample sales....once a week perhaps? Maybe even TWO that the same time. My point is that there are many many women and many many sample sales. You don't have to be a math genius to put one and one together and understand that you NEED TO BE PREPARED. So here is my humble survival guide submitted for your review.

The Early Bird gets the Hermes Paris Bombay
Like the adage goes (albeit a minor change), the earlier you rise the greater chance you have getting first dibs on certain "limited" items. I emphasize "limited" because, well...items are limited. This is a sample sale, remember? So unlike a boutique, there may only be one piece of a certain item. I have personally seen when being one person ahead has gotten me that bag that I wanted. If I hadn't been there early, I wouldn't have been able to grab such a steal. So get there quick! (But there is one exception to this rule, and it's explained right below.)

Not All Sample Sales are Created Equal
There are sample sales and then there are SAMPLE SALES. The latter, no doubt, attracts the lines and usually the quality of the merchandise is better. If you chose to go to the former, there really isn't a need to head out too early. A lunch hour drop-by is enough time to peruse the goods.

Be Prepared and Travel Light
Since most sale lines don't offer a reprieve from the elements, it's a good idea to see if the weather will cooperate with your plans. No need to stand in torrential rain or howling winds if it isn't a do-or-die sale. But if it is a do-or-die sale, by checking the weather, you are prepared for the elements. Also try to travel light since most sample sales require you to check your belongings. If you leave your personal property at home/work and only bring what is necessary (eg: id/credit card) you can simply skip this requirement and begin your shopping immediately. This also alleviates the occasional problem of shady coat-checkers stealing people's belongings.

Patience, Patience, Patience
If god-forbid, you can't make it to an EPIC sale early and you are acquiesced to waiting in line, don't fret and have patience. We live in a technological age of multitasking. Just pop out your smartphone and get to work. Have no work or smartphone? Talk to the people around you to pass the time. Since they are in the same line as you, chances are you will have similar interests. This could be helpful in networking and/or finding out info about the next fabulous sale.

Comfort is Key
Since the line can't be moved by will alone, try to wear something comfortable. This may be a faux pas to the fashion elite, but if you're standing for a looooonnng period of time, at the very least, you should wear comfortable shoes. Also, it wouldn't hurt to have something to eat beforehand and staying hydrated goes without saying (though too much and you'll be leaving the line in search of a restroom). Nothing brings on a bitchy attitude faster than standing on a 2 hour line hungry and uncomfortable.

Do unto Others as You would have Others do unto You
Please please please follow line protocols. Racked, recently reported on an infamous line-cutting incident being discussed on blogs and forums. Furthermore, just because you are in an enclosed space outside the view of society, doesn't give you the right to act like hooligans. Frantically running about and hoarding items isn't appealing. Ladies, lets be civil.

Inspection is Crucial
Since most of the items are indeed samples, there is a possibly that the item you have chosen could have a defect. It might be as minor as a lipstick stain or as major as a tear. So do diligence, and inspect the item for flaws. Speaking of which, companies usually mark their sample sale items so they cannot be returned to stores for credit. Usually it is a small marking (I've seen gold stampings and red "S"s) in a discreet location, but at other times it could be the word "SAMPLE" written with a marker in huge bold print(I'm talking about you, J.Crew). So if you are anal-retentive about that sort of stuff, maybe sample sales aren't for you.

Wait till the End
Like the title says, sometimes waiting till the last day will get you bigger discounts. Companies don't want to be lugging back merchandise to their warehouses because the point of having the sale was to get rid of excess inventory. So if you aren't eyeing a specific item, don't want to deal with the lines, and really want a bargain; waiting till the end might be just for you.

Finally, take a little time to do some research beforehand to see if it's actually worth going. The internet is abundant with information. Sites, like yours truly, have dedicated people doing the grunt work so you don't have to. 

*A tidbit that I've learned along the way. Sample sales don't always mean you get the best deal. Department/retail stores sometimes have markdowns on par with sample sales, and these items are usually newer and in better condition. In addition, you don't have to go through the trouble of waiting in line and fighting the masses.

{Image from Confessions of a shopaholic}
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