Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Buyer's Remorse

Here's what you need to know about me and flash sales aka timed online designer clearance aka One King's Lane, Joss & Main, Gilt, Rue La La, Zulily or any of the ilk of websites that deal in discount premium sample sales:

I think that the spirit of nearly all my blog posts can be captured in
someecards format. 
All that pressure of knowing that there are only "3 left!" or that it's the "last one!" and that it will be removed from my basket in 15 minutes if I don't buy it has forced me to into the worst impulse purchases. I only have myself to blame by getting distracted by the timer in the corner of my computer screen and failing to note details like size and materials of products. I am incapable of selecting items properly and, as a result, I have all these random things that I don't like and I can't return. Here are some examples of my worst mistakes.

Example 1: "Rustic Fish Sculpture" -

This was a recent Joss & Main purchase. I ordered it late at night and I blame grogginess on my failure to read any of the specifications on this bad-boy, including size and material. In the above picture you can see that I used a Monopoly house to show scale. It's easily over a foot tall and made out of a resin product that has been unconvincingly textured to look like old wood. Any sighted person would not be fooled into thinking that an old fisherman in a New England fishing village whittled this out of a piece of driftwood. After it has served out its purpose by being publicly called out in this blog, I literally have no idea what to do with it. Like everything from these companies, there are no returns and it just sits around giving me the fishy eyeball:

It's totally mocking my stupidity. I can tell.
For some reason, I thought that the fish would be the size of a stick of butter or a newborn panda (does anyone else think it's funny that baby pandas are always described as being the size of a stick of butter?) Instead it's the size of a regulation football, if a football also had a tail. Clearly, I would have been a terrible engineer or architect for many reasons, but one is that when I see a measurement, I have a very poor sense of how much space that measurement occupies in real life. And yes, I know that there is an off-color joke at my expense in here somewhere, but I am too much of a lady to make it. Ahem.

2. "Nautical Flag Rack" - This was part of the same late-night shopping with the fish and I'm sure you're begin to wonder whether drugs or alcohol played a part in my buying spree. I promise that it was good, old-fashioned bad judgment.

As a possible explanation, I ordered these items a week or so after we returned from Maine, so maybe I was in a coastal mindset. I really try to control my love of beach decor because such items don't make a lot of sense when I live in a 1920s bungalow six hours from the coast. I guess the nautical flag thing and the fish slipped through in a moment of weakness. Again, it is way bigger than I thought it would be at probably two feet long or the size of many, many panda newborns lying end-to-end. On the plus side, the rack does appear to be made from real wood from a real tree, even. However, the fake distressing is, well, distressing and, this label on the back worries me a bit:

"This product made with safe paint. We care."
This is one of those statements that concerns me for the negative implication - that the previously-used paint was unsafe and that they didn't care.

Just for kicks and giggles, I decided to see whether the flags a) were real nautical flag symbols and b) spelled anything. In fact, they are real-ish, so props to the ten-year-old in China who painted it for 6 cents an hour. It turns out that it spells out C-U-P-S. So, I've decided to give it to the Boy because now that baseball season is starting, he will have a place to hang his cups. I know how much he loves them!

3. Satin Throw Pillows - I've mentioned before that I have an obsession with throw pillows. I have a hard time making big-ticket purchases because I'm afraid I'll screw up, but pillows I can totally handle so I have a lot of them. My throw pillows have become more important since this happened:

Now the throw pillows serve the functional purchase of hiding stains and finally justify their existence. Prior to this, they were just something that annoyed the K and he threw on the floor when he went to sit on the couch.

Somehow these throw pillows snuck in during my maritime shopping spree:

Alright, I hear you girls saying, "Oh, it's not terrible and it matches your rug." Well, that's what I thought when I saw it on the computer. Wisely, they didn't mention that the other side looked like this:

Minus the stain, of course. We did that all on our own.
Nothing says cheap pillow more than faux satin. Also, there's no zipper so you know it's a P.O.S. Even pillows from Tar-jay have removable covers so you can wash the darn things. This one just presumes it will be tossed the first time someone spills gravy on it. (Which, why is someone eating gravy on the couch? No one listens to me.) And then the makers have the nerve, THE NERVE, to put this tag on this disappointment:

Oh, I beg to differ.
Lies. Damn lies. This pillow is the accessories version of that super-bright kid from high school who aced the SATs while stoned, but had horrible grades, and now drives a taxi and quotes from Camus. So much wasted potential.

4. Greek Fisherman's Floats - I feel a little badly about lumping these in with the prior lapses in judgment, because I do like them, but this was another example of me not reading the fine print and probably confusing diameter with circumference or possibly a compass with a protractor. Good grief, how did I graduate from 5th grade? Anyway, here they are:

So, while I am certain that no Greek fisherman every laid eyes on them, they are nice on our screened porch. However, I purchased them in a misguided attempt to replicate this display from Dixie Delights:

Check it out here
I even have a big oyster shell that someone gave us for a wedding gift before you saw resin fake versions in every HomeGoods store in America. However, my big oyster shell is only about as big as the largest of those Greek fisherman's floats, so clearly the float cannot fit into the oyster shell as I envisioned. Honestly, this is just sad. Are you all ready to send me a tape measure and the sense that God gave a rabbit? Is this a good place to make a blue balls joke? No. Okay, I'll skip it.

5. Cloches - Last year I decided that I needed some cloches because I like buying things that I don't know how to pronounce. I also like the idea of putting some random stuff under a dome of glass. I'm sure I was also inspired by Dixie Delights again:

Cloche done right here
My cloche display looks similar, in the same way that the Boy and I look similar: There is a family resemblance, but some pretty major differences.

My communist-Russia no-frills version of the DD display.
I got a pair for my dining room table. 
So, I got my cloches because I'm going all Single White Female over Dixie Delights. But, like Jennifer Jason Leigh, I am a poor imitation of Bridget Fonda. You see that "pair" of "matching" cloches. Well, not as advertised. One of them is noticeably heavier than the other and the glass looks different upon close inspection. If you flick the dome with your finger, one of them goes, "ding," while the other one goes, "duhhh." Which is pretty much what I said when I realized that they were different and, yes, final sales from One King Lane.

6. Successes - All of this complaining is not to say that I haven't had some luck on these websites. I have found that if lightening strikes and you happen to see something that you already scoped out or a brand with which you are familiar, purchasing that item without seeing it in person is less risky. I got a Coach purse on Rue La La that I like and use, as well as some Bernardo shoes and a pair of 7 for all mankind pants. I'd bought items from those designers in the past, so I knew the correct sizes. I would never, ever get something like a couch or a room-sized rug that I hadn't seen in real life. What if it didn't work and you were just stuck with a 9 by 12 foot rug that looked red on the computer, but turns out to be bubblegum pink?

7. Advice - The K always tells me that I shouldn't curse the darkness without lighting a candle. In other words, stop your kvetching and solve your own damn problem. Prior to yesterday, I wouldn't have had any advice to offer, but I happened upon the latest issue of Real Simple magazine which has a feature on online shopping. Quelle chance! I have a fraught relationship with Real Simple because, on the one hand it does give really good suggestions, but I can't help feeling totally incompetent and inadequate when I read it. It's like Pinterest with better research.

Anyhoo, It had three pages of information on how to get the best deals from flash sale sites and internet retail sites in general. Timely, no?

The Real Simple suggestions include:

  • Start scrolling from the bottom up - Since most people scroll from the top down, there will be fewer people fighting for the items at the bottom. (Trust me, no one was fighting me for that fish)
  • Even after purchasing an item you might not be locked into to buying it. Some sites have an hour-long grace period for you to change your mind. 
  • Google an item before buying it because it might not be that great a deal.
  • Look at shipping costs. If they are really expensive, you might not be getting such a bargain.
  • Check if the item is marked "final sale" and nonreturnable. If the sale isn't final, see if you can get your money back or if you'll be stuck with merchandise credit. Return shipping can also be super expensive. Even if it's a final sale, contact the company to see if they'll take it back. They might do it, just to keep you happy.  (Oh, Real Simple, can you call for me? You make it sound so easy)
Real Simple also had some alternatives to spending your time trolling the internet looking for deals:
  • - This website will track items you select and notify you when they are on sale. You put a button on your toolbar and just click it when you are looking at items that you like, but don't want to buy for full price.
  • - This website purports to be like a personal shopper. You input the brands you like and your sizes and it begins "scouring the web" for items it thinks you will like.
Some other cagy suggestions:
  • Indecision sometimes pays off. Put an item in your basket and then leave the site. You might get an email offering you a discount or free shipping.
  • Change your web browser. If a site recognizes you, it might quote you a higher price based on your spending history or ZIP code. You can clear out your cookies (I have probably never done this) or open a new browser. 
If you've made it to the end of this post, you were rewarded with some actually helpful information, and how often does that happen around here? Anyway, I hope that I am not alone in suffering from buyer's remorse. My current plan is to wait until Halloween rolls around and sneak some of my foolish purchases into trick-or-treat bags. I would love to be known as that house where a kid got a two-foot tall faux-wooden fish for Halloween. 


  1. Thanks for the advise- I have filled my cart full at both of the above mentioned online shops, only to change my mind or forget their existence until too late. Perhaps it was for the best. If-nothing else, I do get some good ideas when I brows the many "sale" items. Oh, and I love Dixie Delights as well!

    1. I am fan-girl crazy about Dixie Delights, mostly because how does she think of this stuff? I have to admit, my favorite posts are when you see wee glimpses of reality slip through like when she took the boys to have their pictures taken with Santa at Phipps and the little one peed all over a big ottoman at the newly-opened Lilly Pulitzer store. I almost peed myself laughing at that. There was another one when her car broke down and she lamented that her father always took care of all the car issues in her family, which I took as a subtle dig at her perfect husband. It's like the best vicarious living experience.

  2. I felt compelled to buy a cloche a few years ago. I do love it. Save the fish for the supper club holiday white elephant. It'll probably look pretty good after you've had 10 drinks. Who knows, people might actually fight over it. Thanks for the hukkster tip!

    1. You'll have to show me how to style the cloche because I'm clearly doing it wrong. I'm kicking myself for not including some pendant lights that I bought for like $15 each that I mistakenly thought would look good in the kitchen. Turns out that they would not. I may have to edit the post to include them. I seriously might just Freecycle some of this stuff or maybe I'll get ambitious and open an Ebay shop for my problematic purchases.

  3. I loooved OKL a couple of years ago, when the merch was good and they gave little gifts like candles! And stationery! Now, after too many bad purchases (the latest being last month), they are DEAD TO ME.

    I do love Rue though (rue 365, yo).

    1. Agree. OKL customer service has gone down hill. The gifts were a nice touch. Who wants to receive a package with no surprise inside?