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How to Get Invited to a Friends and Family Sale

Step one: Go shopping.

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A woman buying something in a boutique Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images

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Today, writer Miranda Berman wrote about the magic of friends and family sales — private in-store events where “clients” can shop just-marked-down merch without the crowds. She beams:

We are now in the midst of the most wonderful time of the year: sales season! ... And while I love all sales deeply, I do have a favorite kind. You see, nothing makes me feel more alive than a friends-and-family-only sale with the promise of alcoholic beverages and maybe even snacks.

The term “friends and family sale” has largely lost its meaning, the same way that “sample sale” has. Most stores will boast a (somewhat contradictory) open-to-the-public friends and family sale twice a year, but a true friends and family sale is one where there’s an actual invite list, and it honest-to-God does only include friends, family, and, for a sales associate, the best kind of relation: someone who spends — regularly.

So how do you get invited? Here’s your step-by-step guide culled from years of personal experience working retail, from Bath & Body Works to Barneys.

Go shopping IRL. The only way you’ll ever score early access to anything in the retail world is by walking into a physical store and talking to a person who works there. So the next time someone asks you, “Can I help you find anything?” you should actually, you know, tell them what you’re looking for. Exchange names. If all this social interaction starts to freak you out, just tell them you’re good for now but will come find them when you’re ready to grab a fitting room or check out.

Give them your contact info. This is kind of a non-negotiable. Sorry! When a sales associate asks for your email or phone number, give it to them. Don’t be afraid to tell them you don’t want to be spammed and ask if you can be kept off a generic email list; do, however, tell them you’d appreciate it if they’d keep you in the loop about upcoming sales and promotions. They’ll make a note of that somewhere — most sales associates work on commission and have set goals around clienteling, so they’ll be thrilled someone actually gives a shit.

The next time you go in, ask for that same sales associate. This doesn’t mean you have to turn around and leave if they’re not there, but odds are if you shop at a store enough, you’ll sync up at some point.

Buy stuff. This kind of goes without saying, but you’re the most valuable to a sales associate when you actually spend money. That being said, just having some sort of relationship is often enough to keep you in good standing, especially with smaller shops or stores that tend to see more tourists than regulars.

Show up. If you get invited to stuff, attend! Say hi! Mingle! Eat the free snacks and drink the free wine! You earned it. And hey, maybe you even made a real friend out of all this too.