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
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 customers–raising 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
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.”
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?
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 ban.do 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 ban.do headband came in plastic bag with inventory stickers on it. While I don’t want excess, something nicer (perhaps on ban.do’s part) would have gone a long way. (Really, this may have been band.do’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?