• Thu, Jun 2 2011

The Aisle New York’s Flash Sale Scam

New flash sale sites are popping up these days as quickly as all the pretty flowers this Spring. But just as much as those flowers are giving me terrible allergies and making me want to stay inside at all times, flash sales often make me want to run in the other direction.

For starters, flash sales tap into all of the guilt, emotional turmoil and joy involved in shopping and then turn up the dial with a clock quickly ticking away, forcing you into impulse purchases of often very expensive items. Then there’s the competition of other shoppers frantically clicking away at the products you actually want, threatening to sweep them out of your grasp if you take too long to hit the purchase button.

It’s all a great way to get shoppers to spend money. But it’s not always great for the people doing the purchasing. And the prices on these sites are not always the bargain they claim. Take the above example from The Aisle New York. Why would you spend $99 on a purse that retails for $55?

Granted, The Aisle New York is a wedding site, so you can probably expect some markup of their products. But this seems particularly egregious. Of course, we could give them the benefit of the doubt. That $55 price is probably a typo. But it reminds me. This site is ridiculous. I’ve been engaged for the last five months and I’ve become accustomed to the fact that everything related to weddings comes at a steep markup. A sample:

“Oh, you’d like flowers? For a wedding? Just pay me double. Thanks.”

“Oh. That dress in white? Add $600 to the price.”

“You’d like to have a wedding reception here? Why don’t you just give me your credit card say goodbye?”

But on a flash sale site? I occasionally go the site to browse for things I might need for my wedding and to see how much people are willing to pay for them. The wedding dresses are almost categorically outside the budget of what I’d be willing to pay.

Granted, my wedding dress budget is lower than probably 90% of what most of those dresses sell for. But I still find myself shocked at the price point of wedding dresses that are sold online. (How do you go about buying a wedding dress you’ve never tried on anyway?)

And considering that most wedding dresses aren’t sold online, it’s hard to do a price comparison unless you know exactly what price point a designer’s dresses usually go for.  Besides, who has time to check prices when you’re rushing to the payment page?

Which gets back to my issue with flash sales. The hyper competitive environment for super cheap luxury goods is designed to make people rush into spending money. And when it’s an extremely good deal, that’s just fine for the consumer. But often these sites don’t actually provide the deals they promise.

And most people shopping on a clock don’t have time to do price checks. The first time I did just that on Gilt Groupe, I found out that the $40 Bodum Ice Tea jug I was about to purchase was actually cheaper on Amazon. And there I could take my time purchasing it. Given more time, I decided I didn’t really want it at all, and actually purchased an entirely different product.

That experience has made me much more wary about purchasing items on similar sites. And in the case of TheAisleNY, I’m not likely to purchase much at all.

According to the company’s about page:

“The Aisle New York is the world’s premiere online home for designer bridal fashion and wedding, all at sharp, insider prices…We’re wedded to fashion and committed to bringing you the most coveted finds for your once in a lifetime moments, all at once in a lifetime prices.

But one time, I decided to check. The first time I saw these weddings shoes made by Loeffler Randall, I decided to see for myself how much they went for at retail.

They’re not really my style,  but $595 seems like a lot for a “once in a lifetime price” and I was curious what they normally sold for. As it turns out, they sell for EXACTLY THE SAME PRICE:

This particular pair of shoes has been on The Aisle’s site for months, so hopefully their members have noticed that it’s not such a good deal. But there were plenty others by the same brand that seem to have been snapped up. Which makes me a bit sad. But I guess I’ll just add it to the list of things I find ridiculous about shopping for a wedding. Onward!

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  • Dove

    The thing I hated most about wedding-related shopping was the pressure everyone puts on you to make decisions NOW. I went to Priscilla here in Boston with a friend who was getting married on the same day as me (no Kate Hudson/Anne Hathaway drama for us though) and they made her cry because they were so insistent if she didn’t buy THAT DAY she wouldn’t get the dress in time, and she wanted her mom to see it.

    Then 2 months later I get a call from Priscilla, asking if I want to come look at dresses for my wedding, and I said that I figured it was too late, based on what happened with my friend. They said “ohhh, no, you still have time, but you should probably come in THIS WEEK if you want any chance of getting a dress in time.”

    That was a nice reality check.

  • MNiM

    It might be an idea to put an update on this article, given:

    http://thegloss.com/fashion/the-aisle-ny-will-give-you-10-off/