This past Saturday Dallas hosted the bi-annual Gilt Warehouse Sale. Put on by Gilt.com and GiltCity.com, this pop-up sale featured high-end designer brands at up to 90 percent off retail price. The Gilt Groupe is a website-based company that offers exclusive daily sales on designer label products and local restaurant, hotel, and business deals. They put on a warehouse sale every six months in major cities, where they sell leftover and new deals on their designer products – at an even lower price than the website. Translation: every fashionistas’ dream.
I got the inside scoop on this event, and ended up working at the sale on Friday and Saturday. My supervisor Mili Marcetic warned me, “This is gonna get crazy, you have to be fast – these people want their deals!” Here is my account of what happened.
Friday night: The VIP sale
4 pm: I arrive at the warehouse on Glass Street in the design district at 4pm. Setting up is almost done and I help put the finishing touches on the purse table. Another girl and I are instructed to straighten the jewelry table, but everything is tangled up in bags and broken so it is basically useless. We leave to go check out the shoes.
6 pm: By now everything is set and ready for the VIPs to come in and shop. This group is invite only and they come to the event for the open bar and to check out the Infiniti cars that are sponsoring the event. I am assigned to work coat check where we have to take peoples purses and store them while they shop. We’re told shoplifting isn’t a concern tonight, but this is good practice for tomorrow when it is.
9:30 pm: Three and a half hours and 175 people later, the VIP night is a success. We clean up and are told to go home and go straight to sleep because we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.
Saturday: The Real Sale
5:45 am: My alarm goes off brutally early, and I have to remind myself that I am being paid $15 an hour for this before I finally get out of bed.
7:00am: By the time I arrive the warehouse is full of people and the DJ has already started playing Top 40’s music. The sun still isn’t up and I am not sure if it is night or day.
8:00am: People are already at the warehouse to participate in the Infiniti test drives, but really they are just trying to start shopping early.
8:55 am: Now there is a line of women outside that leads halfway around the building. These women mean business. Almost every one is dressed in leggings and running shoes with a coffee in hand.
9 am: Once the doors opened people start running in, not jogging, not briskly walking – running. When the security gaurds stop them to tell them to check their bags their anger is actually visible. An angry mob starts to form around the coat check table and they start to yell things like “Are you insured for this?” and “Can you hurry? All the good stuff is gonna be gone!” One woman sassily tells me “You better not lose my purse!” but the bag she hands me is Celine, so I guess of understand her reluctance to hand it over.
10:30 am: The wait for the checkout line is over an hour long. Some people walk out with up to five bags, while others leave empty-handed and angry-faced.
11 am: The second rush of shoppers come in, this one is a little tamer. The mob still runs in, but this time they are dressed a little trendier, some even in heels. They clearly are not as intense as the 9am group, but are still anxious to get into shop. And yes, most of them still hate me for having to take their purses.
12:30 pm: Two distinct groups of people have formed. Those who got good deals, and those who did not. Those who got good deals are easy to spot, they hold handfuls of clothing and have smug looks on their faces. Those who did not are holding nothing and trying to persuade their friends to leave. Some fight desperately to get into the group who got good deals. One woman, after spending an hour deciding on which pair of Prada boots to buy, had her credit card declined for fraud report. After 45 minutes of frantic groveling on the phone, her card is turned back on and she joins the group of those who got good deals
3 pm: It has started to rain. Torrential downpour is actually the better word for it, and the shoppers are not happy. Terrified that the weather will ruin their new purchases, many wait in the lounge area and complain. We direct them to the open bar, and they are much happier.
4:55 pm: Five minutes till the end and the merchandise is strewn about, picked over and mostly damaged goods but there are still shoppers getting their last look at the deals.
5:10 pm: We end up having to cut the music and turn on all the lights just to get them to leave. I have been standing for 10 hours, and I’m tired, sweaty and hungry. All of the staff gathers and we are told they can go pick out an item to purchase and receive an extra 25% off. Some run to the shoes or accessories to see what they can find, I’m so tired I just get in my car and go home.
The final verdict:
The sale was pretty much everything I expected it to be. For the women shopping it was like a pilgrimage to designer heaven, albeit a very cluttered and sometimes damaged designer heaven. For me working it was exhausting but fun, and definitely worth the $15 an hour. There were definitely good deals to be found, VIP shopper Shannon Lindee said, “The price markdowns were ridiculous. They were practically giving things away for free.” However, Saturday shopper Justine McGregor may have put it best for those in the general entry of the sale, “Don’t expect to find a $400 dress for $50 – you’ll be disappointed. But you can find a $1200 dress for $400, so if you’re still willing to spend a lot it’s a good deal.”
The Gilt Warehouse sale is headed to Chicago next on its nation-wide tour, but it will be back in Dallas in six months. Will I work it? No. Will I go shop? Yeah, probably. But I’ll definitely try to get into the VIP sale to avoid the craziness of the masses.