01/18/2012 11:12 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

How To Shop A Sample Sale: 7 Tips For Survival

I admit I splurge on luxury items every now and then. Still, I can’t help but cry a little every time -– which is why I scan my inbox and clear my schedule for sample sales.

Sample sales, or sometimes called warehouse sales (or the best things to ever happen to me), occur when a designer or fashion label has too much merchandise and needs to unload. Some of the goods might be out of season, wrinkled or need a bit of tailoring, but who can resist steep discounts? Especially since New York City is the most expensive city in America. I can’t give away all my secrets, but the biggest tip on surviving a sample sale is knowledge. So, I'm passing on my top seven tips to mastering a sample sale in the gallery below. You’re welcome.

1. Get a preview
You don't have to be in the industry to score a preview or an invitation to a sale. Sign up for daily newsletters from sites like, or to get the inside scoop. Alternatively, if you have family or friends who work in retail or fashion, ask them to email around for a preview. You'll be able to see the sale's details, such as the merch and price range.

2. Arrive early (seriously early)
I'm not joking when I suggest arriving to a sale early. You never want to be the 20th person in line at a Christian Louboutin sale -- you might as well go home. Fashion editor Christina has woken up at 5 A.M. for a Manolo Blahnik sale, and was third in line. Needless to say, she always has the best shoes.

3. Get in the back of the line, lady!
"She was holding my spot" -- yea, I've heard that one before. And unsuccessfully tried it. No one likes line jumpers, but it's the friendly ones you should look out for. They sneak up to an innocent looking shopper on the line, ask a few questions about the sale, make small talk about how long the line is and before you know it, "Oh, you don't mind if I just walk in with you, right?" The answer is a big N-O. One more person ahead of you means one more person you'll have to elbow for that Alexander Wang bag.

4. Get a wingwoman
Bring a friend or two to help hold the line when you desperately need to find a ladies room or deciding on a purchase. Better yet, bring a big guy friend to help you hoard items inside the sale. Beauty editor Dana is not ashamed of stealing a pair of shoes behind your back -- I'm warning you now. You can even split up and take half of the room, it's all about how you divide and conquer.

5. Dress for the gym
Sample sales rarely have fitting rooms, and even then, would you seriously want to try on a dress when there's a table of bags at a 60 percent discount? No matter how comfortable you are with your body, standing in the middle of the room in your thong is the stuff nightmares are made of. So instead of stripping down to your skivvies, wear thin, basics layers such as a cotton tank, leggings and shoes that you can easily slip on and off. Try a cross-body bag instead of a satchel to free your arms and don't forget the deodorant. Think of it as dressing for the gym -- you'll probably sweat just as much.

6. Cash only
I can't stress this one enough, because there's always one person who doesn't bring cash and has to find an ATM while praying with the staffers to hold her items. Bring your Benjamins because most sample sales only accept cold, hard cash. Other than the corner store deli, this is probably the only place that refuses credit cards.

7. BYOBag
While the fancy shopping bags are a nice touch at a Fifth Avenue store, that's not the same at a sample sale. Your purchases are usually placed in brown shopping bags, much like Bloomingdale's does, but without the logo. Bring your own bag or drop off your goodies before going into the office. "There was a train delay" won't fly when everyone in the office knows about the sample sale too.

Share your tips in the comments below!


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