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Gilt vs. Ideeli (Members Only Shopping Sites: A Review)

by Ashley on January 11, 2011

This post is from January 2011; since then I have made updates to reflect the changes to how many of these sites operate, changes in policies, etc.  The most recent update was April 22, 2013.

Over the years, I’ve had mixed reactions to the members only shopping sites that have taken over the internet.  It’s been a few years though, and my feelings have grown and changed since I’ve used the sites.  Some I check out regularly, like Gilt and Ideeli.  Others I tend to send straight to the trash can.

Some of the traits that many of the members only shopping sites have in common:

  • Flat rate shipping— typically around $9.95, which can seem kind of inflated for a watch or pair of earrings.
  • Sales that last approximately 48-72 hours.
  • Often the prices are comparable (or more expensive) to what you can find elsewhere. I’ve seen books sold at prices comparable to Amazon, specialty drinks & tonics sold for cheaper on other websites– don’t let yourself get caught up in the rush when you can possibly find it cheaper online.
  • Anyone can sign up (so there’s a sense of false exclusivity)– thanks Amy!
  • Many store your credit card info— awesome when you’re at work and want to buy something, but bad when it creates a mentality of hitting “order” without thinking about whether you have the funds or should be REALLY putting that on your credit card.

These aren’t necessarily BAD things, by the way.

I love member’s only shopping sites because they can be a great way to pick up products by brands you love at a discounted price.  If you’re eyeballing a particular piece, or looking for something from last season, chances are you may be able to score it on one of the sites.

However, I hate, HATE– the rush.  I love the rush, the adrenaline rush of finding something you like at a great price. But then you impulse buy, because who knows if it’d be available in 15 minutes? (My girl friend Beth had a great reaction to that– she goes 15 minutes AFTER the sales start… if it’s still available then, she has a better shot of getting what she wants.)

Gilt: A Review

Invitation to join.

Basic Policies: Returns under $199.99 are available for store credit only.  For items over $200, you can return them in exchange for store credit or a refund (minus a $9.95 shipping fee).  You can make returns within 21 days, and they have an exchange option now– if an item is available, you can exchange it (you will pay the full price a second time, and then be refunded for the full cost of the first one, including shipping).

Gilt focuses on fewer, more high-end sales each day.  They typically run 3-5 women’s sales and have corresponding categories for home, menswear, children, travel, food, and more.  They’ve gotten away from their Gilt Fuse line completely, which offered brands from a lower price point, and instead focus on designers like Missoni, Alexander McQueen, and Marc Jacobs.  Over the years, they’ve refined their brand and niche very well, and have become very focused on their target customer: the middle-to-upper class woman wanting a designer life at a discount.


  • Reliable ship-time.  While all of the sites may not ship immediately, I’ve had the least experiences with Gilt having delayed shipping.  Throughout the year, my only experiences with delays in shipping were during the holidays.
  • Aesthetics. I won’t lie–of all the sites, I find Gilt to be the most easy on my eyes.
  • Refer a friend, get a $25 credit.  Gilt has bounced through a lot of referral programs, and has returned to the old tried & true. A $25 referral credit each time a new friend makes a purchase.


  • Few sales each day— I find there isn’t much incentive to visit when there are 3-5 new sales each day, and they aren’t within my budget!
  • More high-end than low.  Once upon a time, there was Gilt and Gilt Fuse, and they merged into one site. Over the years, they’ve pushed out the more inexpensive lines to focus on the high-end items.  Which is fine if you’re a girl who can afford Missoni, Alexander McQueen, and Hermes.  I’m not, so I’ve shopped there less and less over the years.
  • There’s talk of Gilt overcharging customersraising the prices after an item has been purchased (typically around $10).  They say snafu; it’s never happened to me personally, but it makes me want to be more thoughtful when I check my statements vs. my invoices–with ANY site!


Ideeli: A Review

Invitation to join.

Basic Policies: Like Gilt, Ideeli accepts returns within a 21 day period, and offers an option for store credit or the option for a refund (sans a $7.95 shipping charge).   First Row members are eligible to start shopping one hour before the sales begin for everyone else (this comes at a yearly fee of $83.88 or quarterly payments of $23.97).

Over the years, Ideeli has become my personal favorite of the shopping sites.  They offer a wide range of brands from a variety of price points, providing women of all means access to great pieces at discounted prices.


  • AMAZING deals. Occasionally Gilt & Ideeli will run the same designer on the same day, and Ideeli always runs cheaper.  Then there are things like the Black Friday Sale (which I didn’t take advantage of) which has things like Betsey Johnson & L.A.M.B. shoes for $30.
  • The first to carry, AND sell weekly, petite and plus-sized brands.  You can catch them every Wednesday. I love that Ideeli is leading the way to making fashion affordable for all women.
  • Great customer service— I bought a L.A.M.B. watch on Monday, found it on Rue La La Tuesday for cheaper– not only did Ideeli match the price, they applied my $10 credit to it to match the $10 credit I had on Rue La La– ensuring I’d receive it for the same price.
  • Even if you aren’t a first row member, you can see the products available for sale 1 hour before you buy.  (Unlike Gilt, who only allows visibility to select members 15 minutes early.)
  • Returns: You have 30 days for all returns, and can return them for store credit or a refund (minus the return shipping fee of $5.95)


  • Design–I find the white/red/black website a bit jarring and confusing (and hard on the eyes!).  I’m also not crazy about the navigation bar they have for upcoming sales; most of the time it won’t fully load for me, and so I never know who is upcoming.
  • Doesn’t bill until they ship— this can be bad if you forget you’ve ordered something and suddenly $100 drops out of your account. (via Birdie)
  • For me, it’s usually a 50/50 shot on ship time– sometimes it ships super quickly, other times it seems like it takes 2-4 weeks before my item ships.  (Again, which can be problematic if they bill when they ship, because I know 4 weeks later I’ll have forgotten I wasn’t charged for it!)

Rue La La: A Review


  • Probably the most limited number of sales going on at once— easy to navigate through the sales and not get overwhelmed.
  • Compare your shopping to Gilt & Ideeli– sometimes prices can be lower than the big 2.
  • Best Return Policy–with the exception of final sale items, Rue La La offers a 30 day return policy.
  • Great customer service— Birdie had an instance where UPS failed to actually deliver her package to her, and sent it back to Rue La La.  She got in touch with RLL and they REFUNDED her purchase… not a store credit, but back to her card. What greatness!


  • A $10 referral system. Compared to the $25 that Gilt and Ideeli offer, it just doesn’t push me or excite me all that much.
  • More complex returns/shipping policy: From their site-“You may choose to receive either a merchandise credit and free return shipping, or a refund to your original form of payment minus return shipping costs.”

Invitation to join.

hautelook, hautelook logo

Hautelook: A Review


  • Crazy great steals on things like Urban Decay make-up ($2 each when they’re cleaning out inventory!).   They’re more  limited in the number of products they sell at a time, so it’s not quite overwhelming.
  • More obscure, less known brands (Miz Mooz, Irregular Choice, etc.).  This is awesome if you know the brand, as it allows you get a great deal on something you love.


  • Like Rue La La, only a $10 referral system. Call me cheap, I won’t mind.
  • More obscure, less known brands.  How do you know what the quality is if you’ve never heard of it?
  • If a product is in another member’s cart, there’s no option to waitlist it to grab it if they don’t buy.  Instead, they want you to refresh the page to see if it’s release.
  • Videos for product previews.  When I’m at work, I don’t want people to know that I’m watching some fancy video to preview an upcoming sale.
  • Extraneous packaging. I ordered shoes. They stuck folded tissue paper with a Hautelook sticker on it.  Really?

Invitation to Join.

Swirly by Daily Candy: A Review


  • Because it’s Daily Candy, the brands are a combo of hip and indie and more mainstream designers.  Think headbands (which I picked up there for about $3o) and Corso Como shoes.
  • Small, carefully curated collections.  About 4 sales a week.
  • That awesome $25 referral credit!
  • 30 day return policy (like Rue La La)–AND FREE RETURNS.


  • The size–not much incentive to visit often when there are only a few shops a week.  This could be because they’re still in Beta though.
  • They don’t “pretty” the package— my headband came in plastic bag with inventory stickers on it. While I don’t want excess, something nicer (perhaps on’s part) would have gone a long way.  (Really, this may have been’s issue, for which I shake my finger.)

Invitation to Join.

One Kings Lane: A Review

No pros/cons list here– to be honest, while I have an account I haven’t checked out the site much or shopped with it. One Kings Lane is a home decor shopping site.  Looking at a pretty pillow and finding out it’s $200 makes me a sad Ashe. I can say

  • A $25 referral program, which is nice. (Though there’s a 6 month expiration date on that.)
  • 14 day return policy with store credit given.
  • All sales last 72 hours, which is a bit longer

Invitation to join here.

Modnique: A Review

I’ve never heard of Modnique before, but Birdie mentioned she’d shopped their once, after receiving a Twitter recommendation.  She says,

  • $5 credit for signing up via their enrollment promotion.  They claim you can invite your friends for unlimited credits, but they don’t really say how many credits you receive on referral.  Beware, those credits expire after 6 months, and you can only use $200 of them at a time. They only issue you credits after your friend has spent $100+ on a single purchase.
  • Their sales are all 36-72 hours,  which seems longer than many other online sales.
  • Your item won’t ship for about 10-17 days after the sale ends, so it’s a long wait before you get your goods.
  • Their return policy  – you can ask for credit, or a return to the original payment (minus 15% restocking fee though).  Refund credits expire 12 months after they are issued.
  • They accept Paypal in case you’re worried about using your debit card on the internet.
  • You can’t use store credit if you pay via Paypal and credits only apply to credit card sales. “I could not find that in their policies, and their customer service didn’t seem so keen on pointing it out to me, or fixing the issue.”
  • Shipping costs aren’t outlined, and you have to pay for returns.

Do you have a site you prefer over the others– or have any staggering pros and cons of one over the other?

Have you sworn off one because of something awful?

Do you avoid them all together?

Is there someone not listed above that you want to share experiences about?


Upset customer April 20, 2013 at 10:12 am

Had a horrible time w/ Modnique. I ordered something & all was well, first time do so. A few days later I ordered something else, so far great. Then I get an email saying I need to contact my cc company & get an “authorization code”??? I do so & submit it to Modnique. I hear nothing for a few days. Another email saying that “code” you gave us was incorrect so call your cc compnay back & get another one & by the way get one for your 2nd purchase as well. This has nothing to w/ the cvv code on the card either, all cc companies issue auth codes each time you make a purchase & the only way to obtain it is to call them. I call Modnique & explain my frustration. They give me no concrete explanation & say sorry but we need those codes from both of the cc companies before we go forward. I told them to cancel everything. They did & didn’t mind loosing my business. Both orders added up to right around $100. Wonder how many other people have had the same issue? They told me that my issue is highly unlikely but when you call they an automated message set up that says if we need additional info from you press whatever #??? They know all about it & don’t care if the loose business. BTW the emails were supposedly sent from their “fraud” dept. If someone was using my cc’s w/ out my permission & it was indeed fraud I would be covered by both banks nevertheless. Modnique doesn’t care & responded to my email. Bottom line get yourself set up to be hugely disappointed w/ Modnique ladies. I do not recommend. Stick w/ ideeli or PLNDR, they are both awesome!!! BTW ideeli does offer refunds not just store credit but when you return the item you have to pay to ship it back, not good imo. If you chose store credit you don’t have to pay S&H to return the item. I just did this. (the store credit) Once they received my item it took them four days to give me my in house credit, not bad at all. Just trying to help anyone who was wondering. Happy shopping to all.

Janice H E Major February 26, 2013 at 12:24 am

I absolutely love shopping with Ideeli. Prices.. I checked last week was almost half the price of the same outfit on Amazon. My shipment usually arrives on time and sometimes ahead of time. Quality very good most of the time also

LeeCap December 17, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Buyer beware. I was a loyal customer for almost two years. When an incident occured recently with I complained and instead of helping they told me I could “take my business elsewhere” if I wasn’t happy. I asked to talk to someone else and the customer service rep said there was no one else to talk to. I find that hard to believe that they only have one manager. After insulting me and calling me “confused,” the “manager” then deleted my subscription! I’ shop almost 90% online only. This was an issue that could have been resolved easily especially considering all of the business I gave them. Never did I have any such encounter with a customer support team. The representative was insulting and demeaning so much so that I filed an official complaint with the BBB.

Mar November 18, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I really like this Website. If you find an item though, get ready to wait for quite a long time to get it shipped to you. Customer service is pro though. Very accomodating.

Yuliana Dyukareva November 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Ideeli is VERY disappointing!! IF YOU EVER need ANY customer service — YOU WILL NOT GET ONE!! I had a question regarding my return and it has been a week – NO one bother to get back to me, while they sent me a note that i will hear back in 24hours.. MOREOVER — i have contacted them via email, phone, chats — the reps DO NOT know anything about your case — though they have records… LONG STORY SHORT — I love Gilt — cause if i ever have a question or an issue — i get IMMEDIATE assistance! ideeli — do NOT buy anything UNLESS you 150per sure about he designer and the size.. it’s really the WORST customer care! i still have a credit and once i sell that credit, — i will be out of that website! Gilt or Ru la la — are 200 times better!

Larissa September 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Ashe, this is the best round-up I’ve found, well done…bravo! I’m sooo overwhelmed by these daily deals and figuring out which ones are worth following. I also put together my round-up here and just featured your post on my page (which has already received over 2k views!) – check it out and would love for you to chime in on your faves:

Jessica May 20, 2011 at 10:25 am

I’m not a fan of Ideeli. I’m not a first row member and while I can see sales an hour before they happen, I never get any of the good stuff because by the time the sale starts it’s all gone already.

Ashe May 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm

That’s totally fair, Jessica! I’m not a first row member either– sometimes I wish I could upgrade just for a month (or just for the day) and pay a couple extra bucks to do so….

Amy January 18, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Wow, this is a thorough review!

I have memberships to a couple of the shopping sites (Gilt, Ideeli, Rue La La, I forget the others) but I’ve only bought from Gilt and Rue La La. Overall I prefer Rue La La with the faster shipping, return policy, and easy navigation – plus their iPhone app helped a lot when I was on the bus and freaking out about some sale that just opened…

I’ve been suffering shopping site overload, though. There is just so many and pretty much all of them have daily emails with today’s sales. How does a girl keep up???

And, thanks for the link. :)

Judy January 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Thank you for the thoroughness of this post. I was debating the idea of joining a members only shopping site, and your post has greatly helped me in making considerations as to which one may be best suited for me.


Liane from SampleSaleSites January 16, 2011 at 7:41 am

My favorite right now is The Foundary. Love their home items. 3 weeks for Beyond the Rack is good – I’ve had them take 4 or 5 in the past. It’s because they are Canada based and have to wait for suppliers to ship to them, where they then re-package and ship to you. IMO they should already have product in house when the sales start to lessen shipping time. The fastest seems to be Foundary and Rue La La for ship times – and BULX is quite fast too.

Ashe Mischief January 16, 2011 at 9:26 am

@Liane from SampleSaleSites: “IMO they should already have product in house when the sales start to lessen shipping time. ” Yes! I totally agree with that. What if they somehow oversold what they were able to get?

myheartblogged January 16, 2011 at 4:25 am

Thanks for the review of the sites. It’s great to have all this information in one spot.
My Heart Blogged

Erika @ Health and Happiness in LA January 15, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I bought an amazing Badgley Mischka dress on ideeli a while ago and got a great deal and it arrived quickly, so I was really happy with that.

I just bought a pair of boots off Beyond the Rack and didn’t realize it would take about THREE weeks to get to me. That’s too freaking long (especially when you’re paying for shipping) so I’m not sure I’ll go through that again.

Adelle (Fashionista Lab) January 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Billion Dollar Babes is another sample sale site, and they often offer vintage Chanel, Gucci, or other like brands; they also frequently promote SeenOn, so I’m sure they’re owned by the same company. Billion Dollar Babes actually used to do brick & mortar sample sales, which were always really fun.

Jaclyn January 13, 2011 at 7:24 pm

It’s so nice to see all of the different sites lined up with each other. I originally started with Gilt, but it has gotten pretty high end and most of the times the discounts aren’t that good. My favorite right now is RueLaLa because they seem to have the deepest discounts. One Kings lane is great for stationary things as well.

Great review, thanks for reminding me of a few sites I’d forgotten about!

Ashe Mischief January 15, 2011 at 11:32 pm

@Jaclyn: I think I need to check out Rue La La more often! It seems to be a really big hit for people…

Hayley January 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I do like Modnique, but what sucks is if you want to have your order delivered somewhere other than your billing address, you actually have to call their customer service line and verify the new address. It took a while when I had to do it.

Ashe Mischief January 15, 2011 at 11:33 pm

@Hayley: Oh, that’s a huge pain in the ass! Thanks for letting me know about that…. I like my online shopping to be as easy as possible…

Liane from SampleSaleSites January 13, 2011 at 7:52 am

Great review! There are over 80 sample sale sites now – so many that we started a blog about them all! Check out!

Beautifully Invisible January 12, 2011 at 11:26 am

Ohh I love this post, and I basically agree with everything you said! I am a total sample sale site addict (I think I have over 15 listed on my blog, and that isn’t even all of them!)

Although I’ve purchased something at each, I actually find myself shopping at Rue most often because, so far, no other site has been able to beat the price.

I also love Gilt for their selection (but miss Gilt Fuse), but many times I can find the same items for less on other websites (the Amrita Singh jewelry, especially, can often be found for less on her own website).

SeenOn is another favorite, although they don’t have nearly as many sales as the other sites do. There selection is much more limited, but they also have some unbelievable deals (ie – Tom Ford sunglasses for under $100 recently).

Ashe Mischief January 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm


My wifey loves Rue La La the best… so far I just haven’t found a ton of brands on there I want. I really miss Gilt Fuse, too…. it’d be nice if they let you know WHICH Were Gilt Fuse… that might make it easier…

Ooh, I should check out SeenOn… damn me for missing that Tom Ford sale! Though to be fair, I bet the ones I’m lusting for weren’t on it.

Laura Connell January 12, 2011 at 10:12 am

Thanks for these comparison reviews. If you are into eco-friendly fashion (and I hope you are!) Enviius is also a good one with time-sensitive deals and many wonderful brands.

Ashe Mischief January 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Oooh, thanks for the rec, Laura! I love Eco-friendly goods, so that sounds like a great site to check out.

homer December 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm

DO NOT ORDER FROM ENVIIUS. They have an F with BBB. They do not ship merchandise.

Eli January 11, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Wow, thanks for taking on the effort to explain these. I havent even seen a few a them!

I remember the first time I saw Gilt I was all excited about it and downloaded the iPhone app and checking every day for a few weeks. But I felt like the prices were never really that cheap or anything I wanted. So I kind of gave up…I think I’ve just come to a point where I need to try everything on but also not consume as much.

Ashe Mischief January 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm

“I think I’ve just come to a point where I need to try everything on but also not consume as much.”

Yes– that’s definitely been part of what I’ve been working on too.

Gilt Support January 11, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Hi Ashe!

We always enjoy browsing your blogs and appreciate the shout out in this recent post! Today we are reaching out to you because we noticed that you mentioned some aspects of our return policy when you were discussing the Pros and Cons of shopping at Gilt. Did you know that we ask our members to schedule a return with 21 days of the date their order ships as opposed to 14? We weren’t sure if this was a typo or if our policies were confusing. Either way, we really appreciate that you are sharing your thoughts regarding our site! We will definitely share your feedback with our product development team. Members like yourself help us create a better experience for everyone… we hope you continue to share!

Feel free to contact us at any time with questions or concerns:, 877.280.0545.

Warmest Regards,

Gilt Groupe Member Support

Ashe Mischief January 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Hi Caitlin,
Thanks for commenting! I’ve updated the post to reflect that– I may have written that based on way past returns, without checking the updated return policy. It was written over several days, so I can’t remember if I was confused or what. I definitely thank you for clearing that up.

I appreciate the positive feedback too– no company is without flaws, but I think overall you guys provide a great experience!

Superalzy January 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Gilt also never lets me log in properly. I have to request a new password every single time I want to log in and then even when I go change my password to something I’ll remember, I still have to request a new password next time I want to log in. Needless to say, I’ve stopping logging in because it’s too much of a hassle.

Ashe Mischief January 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Boo! What a pain! I have that problem sometimes with Swirl. Mostly I just forget my password D:

hillary January 11, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Gilt got rid of the money for referrals. BOOOOOO it is still fun and not fun to shop those sites. Like you said usually I can find it elsewhere for cheaper. Or its a cheap item and I refuse to spend $10 for shipping.

Ashe Mischief January 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I did just get a $25 referral credit. I think, maybe, if someone joined with your link before a certain date, you can still get the referral credit, but all new ones go towards the free shipping? Still not great, but at least maybe SOME way to still get those credits…

Allie January 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm

What a phenomenal recap of these sites! I have to admit I have never purchased from any of them, think I have some credits but have never seen anything that has really blown me over. I have set it up now that all their emails go right into a folder.

have you seen Nomorerack? I almost bought something from them but their site was tooooooo sloooooow and by time I got to the shopping cart my item was gone.

There are Woot-like sites out there too with one deal per day. Not sure if there are any for designer duds, but I do get them for stuff for my daughter and some eco-friendly goods. However those too go in that email folder to prevent online shopping temptation. ;)

Ashe Mischief January 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Aww, thanks Allie!

I’ll check out Nomorerack– I haven’t heard of it, but slow– yikes! That’s not fun at ALL.

Is Woot like similar to Groupon?

The temptation is SO bad…

Andrea January 11, 2011 at 11:41 am

This is a very thorough review – how dedicated you are to check all this info and compile it!
I will have to look into one more pro/con comparable factor: who ships to Canada and for how much.
Nice work!

Ashe Mischief January 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm

I admit, my US-centric-ness didn’t even think about international shipping!

Samantha February 16, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Yes! I love looking at these sites but because I’m from Canada, I’m hesitant to buy things, or I can’t buy items at all because I don’t have a US billing address.

Alyson January 11, 2011 at 10:26 am

I am in full agreement with you on gilt. There are so many sales, that it is just incredilbly overwhelming.

I also had the same issue with swirl, got a pair of shorts and not much packaging. Which was honestly fine since I got them for $20 and they were originally $189.

One site that you did not mention is Lucky Daily. They just e-mail you one daily deal. Usually on just one product, but you get anywhere from 40% to 70% off. Sometimes it is hit or miss but you can get really great deals on things.

Out of all of them, I love Swirl the most. It is clean, and easy to navigate. I’d rather they have less sales so that I know exactly what is going on instead of the way gilt is.

Gilt is like the Wal-Mart of member’s only flash sales. You can go and have a trip, a candle, gourmet chocolate, men’s underwear, a blender, and a designer evening gown all in your shopping cart at one time.

Ashe Mischief January 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm

“Gilt is like the Wal-Mart of member’s only flash sales. You can go and have a trip, a candle, gourmet chocolate, men’s underwear, a blender, and a designer evening gown all in your shopping cart at one time.”

HAH! This is kind of a perfect, great comparison.

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