Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Sample Sale -Only the Strong Survive

The Sample Sale –Only the Strong Survive

If relapse is part of recovery, I am well on my way.  Some people catch summer colds, well I caught a shopping bug.  How did I topple off the proverbial wagon? Well, as I said in prior posts, seasons change and so do our wardrobes. And unlike a good girl scout, when we had a June heat wave, I was not prepared! (What do girl scouts know anyway?)
So not wanting to spend retail (translation: top dollar) for spring clothes (or early summer clothes), I succumbed to the sample sale. A sample sale is when a manufacturer sells their samples and /or excess stock for near wholesale prices. Wholesale prices for a retail girl on a clothing budget? Sign me up!
Although there are many sample sale sites such as Rue La La ( click here)or Gilt Group (click here unless you are a shopaholic) which allow you to buy designer clothing at deeply discounted prices for a short amount of time . Living in NYC, the fashion capital of the world, I am privy to the brick and mortar sales, where you can physically see, touch and taste the clothing.( Just kidding about the taste part, just wanted to see if you were paying attention).
Spring apparently is sample sale season. The sales are sent via emails, advertised in The Post, and since I work in the Garment District, the latest sales are all the chatter by the water cooler. There was no avoiding it and off the wagon I went!
It started with one of my favorite designers, Tocca, (non-shopaholics click here to check out) which was quite a success. I scored two adorable dresses for $85 bucks a piece that usually retail for at least $300.00. Madison Avenue at Main street prices? I could not resist!
Next was Tory Burch, where the ghetto-fabulous wrestled with Upper East Side socialites for the same tote bags. I won’t say who won the battle of the bag.  I dashed there after work , only to find they did not have many dresses in my size. There were a lot of winter items , lovely wool dresses ,  cashmere cardigans, But I needed clothes to wear right here , right now! No way was I walking away with $500 of winter clothes!
The coup de grace was J Crew. I got there at 5:30pm and there was a line. The security guard,( yes, security guard) turned me away from the end of the line and motions to his left. There was another line half a city block long. It was a LINE to get on the LINE for the sample sale!
Really! What is wrong with women these days? Like people never saw a discounted tank top before! To wait in oppressive heat to possibly try on last season’s clothes in size that probably is not your real size anyway? You have to be crazy!
Call me Crazy.  I got on to the back of the line and waited 20 minutes to get in.
Once you get in, it is like being at the airport, you have to check your coat, and your purse, and relinquish all belonging except for your wallet. For the privilege of shopping below retail, you get to be treated like a criminal!
Chaotic, is an understatement. Girls pushing and shoving as if the never saw a cotton tank top before! As I am sorting through the disarrayed racks, I feel a sharp pain in my rib. A petite Asian woman, barely 5 feet tall jabbed me in the ribs! As if I was really going to steal the last sequined skirt in a  size Double Zero! As if I even look like I can fit into a double Zero!
A male staff worker looks at me aghast, and asks if I am ok. “Guys have Rugby, Females have sample sales. Bruised ribs are one of the hazards of the game.” I explained.
Since there were no try-ons, I had an armload of t- shirts (so what if I hated the colors), grabbed some of last-seasons jewelry, and found this season’s beloved cable sweater that was just too expensive retail. I also found an adorable pair of gold shoes, but had no room to try them on.
While waiting on the checkout line, a mile long, I was able to brace myself against the counter and slip the shoes on. Only to find out they did not fit!  I flung them to the side. For less than one hundred and fifty bucks, I walked away with an embroidered tee, a cotton cable sweater and two bracelets. Not half bad.
Several days later, I learn J Crew retail store is having a sale. And guess what? My T-shirt is cheaper in the store, where they offer an extra 30% of all sale prices.  I wore my cable knit for the first time last week only to learn the inside is chalked in large block letters “SAMPLE”
Sometimes sample sales are great ways to get great stuff at nearly wholesale prices. But it is also a gateway to buy things on impulse that you probably don’t need. The “now or never mentality” can wreck one’s shopping budget, especially when you can’t try on or return, let alone exchange.
So the next time you get on  a line , a city block long , think twice , because you may end up with buyer’s remorse and some very sore ribs!


  1. That is serious shopping! I can't even imagine...waiting in line...a crowded store...being jabbed in the place to try exchange/no refund. ANY ONE of those factors would have sent me flying out of the store. I envy your stick-with-it-ness!!

  2. Some professionals would call it a "compulsion" but thans for "reframing!"

  3. I used to do the sample sale circuit, but it got exhausting. I did end up buying things I didn't really want/need, or walked out empty-handed. So as tempting as all those new sale web postings might be, I allow my lethargy to win out every time. (And from what I've read online over the years, J. Crew is notorious for marking all the pieces as samples somewhere on the actual item, sometimes in a way that can't be removed... you are definitely much better off just hitting the sale racks at the Rock Center or Madison Ave. stores!)

  4. i wish you warned me! Thankfully it does not say SAMPLE on the outside! lol!