Best when: You’re hoping for a major deal on upscale goods or services and you’re willing to do some surfing, watching, and even waiting.
Flash sales have turned impulse buys into an online phenomenon: Sites offer deeply discounted and generally high-end products in limited quantities on a first-come, first-served basis. Deals at flash-sale sites, such as Gilt, Lifebooker, Ideeli, Groupon, LivingSocial, and Amazon’s MyHabit, can get you up to 90 percent off. These sites often buy from their sources in bulk, allowing them to sell goods at a reduced price. You’ll find sales from established brands, but you can also score serious savings from up-and-comers. And you’ll even find deals from salons, since the sites offer coupons that can be put toward haircuts and facials.
Start at the bottom. Most visitors to flash-sale sites start snatching up bargains from the top of their screens. So if you do the opposite, you’ll have a better chance of scoring a steal.
Get on the waiting list. Although flash sales go by in, well, a flash, most sites have wait lists for particularly popular items that sell out fast. Your odds of nabbing a product off a wait list are higher than you might think, says Michelle Zara Evans, a senior manager at Gilt. Because flash-sale sites work directly with companies, they can often ask for more supply when an item is in high demand.
Surf strategically. Sunday nights are low-traffic times. To entice you to shop, sites sometimes offer additional discounts then.
Synch it up. Aggregators like Yipit.com track daily deals in more than 100 cities from flash-sale sites, such as Lifebooker and Groupon, and send them to you in one e-mail.