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On the surface, flash sale sites look like a bargain, offering prices for name brand items that your mother, sister, or girlfriend would love.But according to the New York Times, they might not be giving you the deal you thought.
Recently, the paper did an analysis of three popular flash sale sites: Gilt.com, HauteLook.com and RueLaLa.com, and found the same products these sites sell can be found elsewhere on the web for much cheaper.
Gilt.com, for example, charged $169 plus shipping for a Kate Spade handbag on the same day Katespade.com priced the same product at $130 with free shipping. The difference: $45.
Other sites shared similar stories, with Overstock.com being almost $27 less expensive than HauteLook.com for a Decode 1.8 navy dress, and 6pm.com being $21 cheaper than RueLaLa.com for Born leather ballet flats.
Still, Americans love flash sites and visits to then have increased by 68 per cent compared to the same time last year, Experian Hitwise, an Internet tracking firm, told the Times.
But turning online shopping into a competitive sport has its downsides. To win you have to be one of the first to put the product in your cart, and then you have limited time to make the sale final. If you take too long, you’ll lose your item.
This race makes it difficult for buyers to compare prices over the web, though it does keep shoppers excited. The competition makes them feel as if they’re one of the few to steal away that special offer.
Nowadays brands use flash sites as an advertising tool. The Times found Saint Parfum, for example, sold its candles half-off for a limited time on the flash site One Kings Lane. After the stunt, 20 retailers called asking to buy their products and their site’s traffic jumped from 250 to 6,000 visitors a day.
That’s not to say all flash sale sites are gimmicks, because some do offer deals. You just have to be wary of only using these sites to shop online as they usually charge expensive shipping fees and maintain difficult return policies.
And of course, sometimes their products just aren’t cheaper.