Thursday, June 11, 2009


Q&A with Michelle Madhok: CEO of
Online shopping expert reveals everything you need to know to shop like a pro.
Posted by Kristin Larson on Wednesday, June 10, 2009 1:31 PM

When it comes to shopping online, are you more of an amateur than an expert?

Do you shun the whole online thing because you’re afraid you'll get stuck with stuff you hate or doesn't fit?

To solve any and all questions you may have about online shopping, we turned to online shopping expert Michelle Madhok, founder and CEO of SheFinds Media Inc., a company that publishes and

Here, Madhok dishes on everything from the secret to finding the best online deals to her favorite online shopping sites.

So tell us, what are your insider secrets for shopping online? Here are my top five smart shopping tips: Sign up for e-mail lists. If you’re on a store’s list, you’ll often be the first to know about sales, special coupon codes, and other money-saving promotions. Shop on eBay. There’s a ton of brand-new stuff at lower-than-retail prices – all you have to do is bid! Ask for a post-purchase markdown. Many stores will pay you back the difference in price if an item you bought goes on sale a short while after you purchased it for full price – just remember to keep those receipts organized. Shop now, buy later. There are a bunch of Web sites—,, and to name a few—that will allow you to bookmark certain items, then alert you when they go on sale. Get all your holiday shopping done when you have the time, then snag the items for less a few weeks later Finally, do your (Google) homework. Find an item you want to buy, then enter the name of the item plus “coupon code” or “promo code” into Google. You may come up with codes that will save you a percentage off your purchase.

What are your favorite retail sites?
I love Bluefly, because it's as easy to browse and navigate as any other online retailer, but the merchandise is all marked down from retail. The SheFinds crew has also been addicted to the sample sale sites lately—Gilt Groupe, Editors' Closet, The Top Secret, and a bunch more—for in-season merchandise at steep discounts. We post about the different sales every day, and they only last for a short time, so getting in there early is a must if one of your favorite designers is having a sale. It's fun, and it's cheaper than going to the mall.

What tips can you share for scoring the best deals and hottest trends?
Definitely visit the sample sale sites for deals on right-now pieces. A lot of them open their sales between 11 a.m. and noon EST—so take your lunch early! To receive alerts when your favorite stores get new stock or run coupon codes, sign up for their e-mail lists. We send an email out every week to our newsletters subscribers with a list of upcoming sales.

What if someone is a hard fit—is shopping online for them? What sites are most accommodating in terms of returns?
I recommend spending one grueling day trying on a few pieces from your go-to brands in bricks-and-mortar stores, recording your sizes, and using that fit guide as a resource when shopping online. Big, national chains are usually accommodating about returns - but make sure to read the policy thoroughly, especially if you're buying a garment from a company whose fit you're unfamiliar with. Some shops will let you buy online and return in store—J.Crew, Banana Republic, Saks Fifth Ave. Others do offer free shipping and returns— and

Do you recommend ordering a ton of stuff and then returning what you don't love?
If you're super pressed for time and need a bunch of new clothes, absolutely. It's like having someone bring the store to you!

Is there anything you don't like shopping online for?
Sometimes makeup colors don't render correctly on certain monitors—for instance, I wouldn't order a new foundation online. For refills, however, I wouldn't do it any other way.

If someone is still nervous about the online thing, what advice would you give them?
Make your first purchase at a store with a return-friendly policy to ease your anxiousness, and use a credit card, not a debit card—it's easier to correct billing mistakes on a credit card.

Are blogs helpful to find great deals online? Why or why not? What are your favorites?
Absolutely. We're on all the stores' e-mail lists, and we also work with them in other ways to get readers coupon codes and information about sales. SheFinds posts fashion deals every day, along with coupon codes to the best sales going on that day. We also write one post that tells you what sample sales are opening every weekday, so you don't have to sign into every site and open a ton of tabs in your browser.

What if you're totally clueless about what looks good on you—how can you shop online successfully? Is there a site that can help you?
If you're unsure about styles, figure out what suits you best by going through your closet and pulling out your absolute favorite pieces. What do they have in common? Are they all A-line skirts? Jersey dresses? Once you see the common thread among your favorite clothes, you can search online for things that have similar cuts and styles.

SheFinds Media publishes shopping advice sites, and that help busy women shop online.