Flash sales can be hazardous to your wallet

That's a whole lotta ring for $28 on Gilt Groupe. Or is it?

In cased you missed it, the Times style section had a good piece comparing flash deal sites like Ideeli and Gilt to other retail discount sites — and guess what! — the flash sales aren’t always such a bargain. Reporter Stephanie Rosenbloom compared prices on a Kate Spade tote bag, a navy dress by Decode 1.8 and Bjorn leather flats and found that the items were actually cheaper elsewhere:

On Gilt.com, where shoppers vie for limited-time discounts on designer brands, a Kate Spade cabana-stripe medium tote bag was recently $169, plus $5.95 shipping. That same day, the bag was on KateSpade.com for $130 with free shipping — about $45 cheaper.
Leather ballet flats by Born were $49.90, plus $9.95 shipping at RueLaLa.com. At 6pm.com, they were $38.25 and shipped for free.
On HauteLook.com, another so-called “flash sale” site, a navy dress by Decode 1.8 was $75, plus $7.95 shipping. But at Overstock.com, the dress cost $55.99 and shipping was free. Savings: $26.96.
And on the flash sale site RueLaLa.com, leather ballet flats by Born were $49.90, plus $9.95 shipping. Buying the shoes from the shopping site 6pm.com, however, would save about $21.
Another knock on the blink-and-you-miss-’em sales: the return policies suck. Many don’t offer refunds, only credit, and Gilt, HauteLook and Rue La La actually charge you a fee from $6 to $15 to return an item, Rosenbloom reports. Egads! Not that this vital consumer information is going to cure our obsession in any way. By the way, had anyone else ever heard of 6pm.com? What are your favorite hot bargain sites?

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