Shop Zara Like A Pro

January 11, 2012

Zara's online store is still in its infancy but I wanted to write a quick post about my experience so far. I've ordered a few times from them and gained a great deal of insight into their online system that I want to share with you. If you have any other tips that I've left out, please leave a comment.

Pay by Paypal vs. Pay by Credit Card

Even though Zara has a fairly prominent brick and mortar presence in the U.S., credit card purchases online are treated as foreign transactions (I was told by my credit card company that it's being charged by a Dublin-based entity) and most credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee.

Edited: from the comments it looks like most credit cards don't charge a ftf!

You can avoid paying the foreign transaction fee if you pay with paypal, which I started doing. Refunds take about a day or two more because it takes a little more time for the return to go back on your card after paypal receives notice of the refund.
The Early Bird Catches the Worm

Online sales technically start at midnight the day that physical stores go on sale. I always check two hours and then an hour before the sale starts in the event that the sale goes live before midnight.

Zara does three cuts for their bi-annual sales, with prices becoming increasingly more affordable with each cut. Popular styles are typically sold out by the last cut and what remains in stores are often defective products. Occasionally there are a few gems left but I suspect online deals will be sparse at best.

 The two sales are in June and December with each cut about two weeks after the previous one. We are currently on second cut.

Alternate Methods May Be the Answer

I like using Suddenlee to look for items that are out of stock online. I can't say enough good things about their service. The service fee is reasonable and the next day shipping for people in the NE is a huge plus. They may not always find the items you are looking for but about 40% of the time they do. I believe they recently expanded their service and now serve the contiguous 48 states.

The first time I ordered from Suddenlee two of three items that I ordered came with manufacturing defects (the skirts were coming apart at the seam), I was told Suddenlee has made improvements on checking the quality of the items they pick up but I would still  urge you to inspect the merchandise carefully for any flaws.

Free Shipping and Free Returns

The most attractive feature for Zara online shopping is the promise of free shipping and returns. Pick up in stores is also free. Even express shipping is less than $10 (but not necessary for east coast friends).
The return process is also easy, if you have a FedEx drop box or service center near by. The last time I sent something back it took about a week to get my refunds. You can also return to a store but if you pay by paypal I am not sure how refunds would work.

Northeast Residents, Pass on the Express Shipping.

It would appear that one of Zara's distribution centers (or the only one, is located on the East Coast. Thank you Irene for letting me know that the distribution center is located in MA). I live in Connecticut and have always received my orders exactly one business day after the orders are placed. I am extremely impressed by the speed of delivery. If you live near me, express shipping really isn't necessary unless you want guaranteed delivery.

Subpar Quality 

While many of Zara's coats and shoes are of fair quality, I can't say the same for its knit tops, skirts, and pants. From my personal experience shopping in stores, the ten or so different stores that I've stumbled into are all littered with clothes that have minor or major holes, seams that are coming apart, and various other imperfections. I want to think that rough customers may play a part in why so many pieces of clothing have major blemishes but I think construction and quality play a role too.

I haven't had a problem with receiving defective goods while shopping online but it doesn't mean that they don't fall apart quickly either. I would inspect everything thoroughly and return everything that looks suspect. After all, Zara at retail isn't exactly a steal.

I hope I didn't miss anything important. If you have other tips that you would like to share with me, I would really appreciate it.

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