Now that I've survived my first sample sale, here are some tips!
Get there early.
The warehouses have a fill capacity and the bouncers (I'm not kidding) at the door strictly enforce these safety rules. There will be lines and the earlier you get there, the more likely that you'll be able to get in at a reasonable time and before everything has been completely picked over.
If you can't drag yourself out of bed at 6am on your day off, you'll have a pretty epic line to deal with. That brings me to tip two.
Bring a book.
Or schedule a catch-up call with your old college roomie. Find some way to entertain yourself, because sample sales almost always mean waiting in lines.
Know the policies.
Some sales are cash only, some are cards only, some accept everything. Know what the deal is before you go, so that you have what you need! It would be such a bummer to spend a few hours in line and shopping, only to get to the checkout and not be able to get what you want.
Sample sales don't allow you to reserve things, even just to run home and get a different form of payment.
Go on either the first or the last day (or both, if you're that committed).
The first day has the best stuff (lots of sample sales don't restock wares), but sometimes the last day has additional markdowns and you can get the same exact thing for way cheaper. The risk with that plan is that what you want might be gone!
Still, if there's something you would have bought on the first day, but it was still just too expensive to be worth it, it can be worth a shot to come back later in the work. It might still be around and, if so, might be at a price that you can go for!
Check for damages.
Some of the stuff is just overstocked stuff and completely fine and unworn, but a lot of the clothes at sample sales are, as the name suggests, samples.
Some have rips, some are missing buttons, some have defective zippers, some have sSharpie marks, some have glue splotches - make sure you inspect each garment carefully, so that you don't end up buying something that has damages that you're not okay with.
Be sure about your purchase.
It's easy to get swept up in the shopping frenzy, but these two words should be an adequate deterrent: No. Returns.
That said, there's a difference between taking enough time and taking your time.
Grab whatever looks good to you and take your pile to your corner to sit down on the floor and look it over - seriously, that's what people do. If you take your time thinking about something on the rack, someone else may literally snatch it off the rack under your nose.
'I'm looking at this' isn't an adequate excuse, it's either in your hands or you have no claim to it.
Why? Because a woman's true colors come out and a sample sale and a lot of New Yorkers' true colors are not pretty. Maybe they're mean because they're cleansing or their heels are too high.
Either way, there are a lot of plain old unpleasant ladies at sample sales. Being nice may not help you get an Alice & Olivia embellished A-line dress for 70% off, but karma's a b*tch and a pretty dress is not worth being a jerk for.
Beware of the pervs.
This is probably more the case at lingerie sample sales, but I have definitely seen men who show up (sometimes with buddies!), aren't actually shopping, and are just checking out the women who are changing in public (because yeah, most sample sales are in warehouses without changing rooms).
It's hard to try on a bra without showing all, but be aware that when you're standing in the shop naked, there may be someone looking and/or taking iPhone photos.
There are definitely pros and cons to sample sales, but overall I think they're really fun! You can strategize as much as you please, but ultimately it's important to not take them too seriously.
Sure, you can get some sicknastyawesome deals on couture, but it's also your day/time off from work and you should have fun with it! Fashion is about expression and self-expression should be fun!
Have you been to a sample sale?
Do you enjoy/think you would enjoy them?
What's the best deal you've gotten recently?