1. Have I got an ab-fab deal for you.
Word of so-called secret sales on the Web has spread fast. The idea
is to promote an illusion of exclusivity. You must be invited via
e-mail to be a member to get deep discounts on items such as lavish
vacations and designer clothes. Don't have a friend who is already
a member? No problem. Apply to the site directly. Most applicants
are granted access within a couple of weeks, and some sites let you
in instantly. The veil of secrecy serves another purpose: It allows
high-end hotels and fashion icons to unload unsold inventory
without sullying their brands in public.
2. But you'll have to act fast.
These offers are "flash sales" that typically last one day to one
week, giving you little time to mull over a purchase before you
commit. Travel deals are available for a limited time, too, but you
usually just have to book your trip -- not take it -- within the
3. Get stiletto heels at down-to-earth prices.
The sites work best to save you the steep prices of luxury goods.
At Ideeli.com, for example, you can bag bargains of up to 80% off
retail on fashion, home and beauty products. In early March, the
site was offering BCBGeneration's Zuton ankle boots, with peep toes
and stiletto heels, for $65, down from $139. Other fashionable
sites to drool over:
4. Spend a weekend in Rio or on the Riviera.
Private-sale travel sites work best for "more spontaneous people,"
says Anne Banas, of SmarterTravel.com. Most sites feature only a
handful of offers at a time. The exception: JetSetter.com, which
offers 15 to 30 deals at once and can save you up to 50% off
published rates. In early March, membership in JetSetter.com could
have saved you 30% at the four-star Sofitel Sao Paulo Ibirapuera,
in Brazil -- $185 a night versus $264. And we've wangled you
. For other travel sales, check out Vacationist.com, SniqueAway.com
5. Go with the crowd.
You can score a big discount with a bunch of strangers via sites
such as Groupon and LivingSocial. Sign up and you'll get deals from
local restaurants and businesses delivered straight to your in-box.
The goal is to get a certain number of people to buy in; once the
target is met, everybody gets the deal. And if too few people buy
in, no one is charged. (A similar deal is coming soon to
puts a travel spin on the Groupon model. The site displays possible
deals, and you vote for the ones you want. The trips with the most
votes become available for booking. Here's the really cool part:
The more people who book the trip, the lower the price.
6. Ignore the countdown clocks.
Take your time and make sure you understand what you're buying.
Suzy Gershman, author of
Where to Buy the Best of Everything,
recommends sticking with brands you're familiar with. "Unless you
know exactly what size looks right on you, using these sites is
like shopping blind," she says. For travel deals, watch out for
booking restrictions and blackout dates. And with Groupon and
LivingSocial offers, check the fine print for expiration dates and