Are Sample Sales Really A Bargain?

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When retailers have excess merchandise, sample sales are often used to move the surplus and unload the extra supply. These sales are usually advertised as offering sharply discounted items, but are the deals really as good as they say? Sometimes the discounts are less than spectacular, but if you use the right shopping strategies, you may be able to score a terrific deal on some great stuff. Here are a few tips on shopping sample sales to help you get the best bargain.

1. Evaluate the discount carefully.

Sample sales, especially the ones on the web like or, are notorious for offering unbeatable prices on high-end merchandise. While these aren’t necessarily bogus claims, shoppers should be aware that retailers sometimes try to move their excess merchandise at prices that, while low, may not be as good as they make them out to be. One way of determining if the deal is really a steal, is to figure out how much the item would normally go for and compare it to the offered discount. If the discounted price is no more than 50 percent of the suggested retail price, then you’re getting a good deal.

2. Know what constitutes a real sample.

True samples are usually prototypes from manufacturers or designers. They aren’t necessarily the same thing as surplus or overstock merchandise. If you’re buying a true sample, you stand a much better chance of getting a great deal.

3. Check for any imperfections.

This applies to sample sales you find in stores or warehouses. Many places will offer discounted items (particularly clothing items) that have slight or moderate imperfections. These items should be properly marked with an identifying tag that says something like “imperfect” or “defect” and notes the details of the imperfection. These imperfections could be superficial, like a seam that isn’t completely straight, but they could also involve something that could potentially affect the item’s functionality. If you find an imperfection that isn’t marked, don’t be shy about asking the merchant to give you a break on the price, but don’t be pushy about it either.

4. Sizes may not be accurate.

Garments that are true samples (see above) are often not true to size. This is because real samples have been tailored to a specific model’s sizes. The inseam may be a little long, the waist may be cut a little narrower or the neckline may be slightly deeper, and so on. Always try the sample on and if it needs altering, consider the cost of alterations into the price to see if the deal is really worth it.

5. Don’t be tempted by urges to “Buy NOW While Supplies Last!” online.

Web sales can’t rely on impulse buying the same way a physical store can. When shoppers are in the store, they can see the item in person, touch it and hold it in their hands. Researchers have claimed that the ability to see and pick up an item increases a shopper’s tendency to purchase that item. With web sales, advertisers have to be a little more strategic if they want shoppers to click the “add to cart” button. The most common way to do this is by getting you to sign up for email offers or exclusive discount mailing lists. Once you do that, your inbox may be bombarded by “limited time offers” and urges to buy quickly. Resist the temptation to buy right away, even if the items are going fast. Ask yourself if you really want the item and if the price is really that great.

6. Delaying gratification can save you more money.

While we’re on the subject of resisting the urge to buy right away, it should be noted that web sales are generally better the closer an item gets to being out of stock or the closer it gets to the end of a season. You can sometimes save an additional 10, 15 or even 20 percent if you shop during the sale’s final hours. Keep an eye out for keywords like “blowout,” “inventory clearance,” “year end sale” and “final sale.” This applies to just about any retail store, not just sample sales, so it’s worth noting.

Do you have any other tips for shopping sample sales? If so, what’s the best deal you’ve found? Let me know in the comments!

Here’s a video on how to find and shop for sample sales in New York City:

Lisa is a cost-cutting, money-saving, life-simplifying guru, ready to share her secrets and the tricks up her sleeve. As a mother to a teenager and a twenty-something, avid surfer, and world traveler, Lisa knows how to live the good life on a budget. She covers topics that help us let go of wasteful and costly habits, and embrace those that do our wallets, our bodies, our families, and our planet some good!

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