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Feeling Guilt About Gilt

My Ebay habit was short but intense. For about six months, a few years back, I browsed the bidding web-marketplace for my favorite designers several times a week and ended up buying quite a few clothes that didn’t look as good once they arrived as they did on the site. But the next week I’d be back again anyway.

Now there’s a whole new genre, adding to the temptation by landing in my e-mail inbox each day: the “invitation only” shopping websites that offer short-lived sales on top-name clothing, accessories, even furniture. They have fixed prices rather than bidding, but the time-limited nature of each sale and the awareness that some of their goods sell out quickly leads to the same feeling of “gotta buy it now” urgency.

You know what I mean? These sites — which include Gilt Groupe, Ideeli and Rue La La. — are addictive.

Outlet shopping is always an outlet, but all shopping is a serotonin-releasing experience, and these sites offer a few minutes of pleasure in otherwise taxing days. And it’s not only the actual shopping experience; I then get to enjoy a little frisson of excitement when Johnny, our UPS man, shows up with the package. (A little sad, I know, that I’m on a first-name basis).

These sites present “curated” sales of designer merch that last a day or two, and then end. Most offer only the briefest descriptions of what they sell, and don’t permit returns on many things, which cost me when I bought what appeared to be a good-looking high-end(ish) handbag on one of the sites, only to find that it was unlined and not nearly as nice as it had appeared (and not something I would have bought if I’d seen it in person first).

They market themselves with an air of exclusivity, but the only thing really excluding anyone from shopping on them (once they register to be “invited” to shop on the sites) is their credit card limit.

Addicted? Moi? Slightly. Well, at least according to this website about online shopping I’m not. Online shopping may lead me to procrastinate over work, but hasn’t led me to neglect my kids. At least not yet.

But I’m still spending money on things I can live without. That’s it, I’m resolved. I’ll unsubscribe from their daily email alerts and take a break for a while. But I have a feeling it’s going to be like when I kicked my Diet Coke habit. Even years later I remember the pleasurable sensation of drinking a can of the soda over ice and have the impulse to open one.

Maybe I’ll start a support group for those of us trying to get over our love of these sites. Or just our guilt over our love of Gilt. Will I see you there?

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