Gilt City DC needs to get a hold of itself.

Until yesterday, I have only used Gilt – a short-term sale site for apparel and travel – to impulse buy clothing at steep discounts (my most recent purchase? A pair of Cynthia Rowley studded tights.) Apparently desperate to piggyback on the success of local services like Groupon and Living Social, Gilt has now introduced Gilt City. The new service promises to provide cheap experiences in one’s immediate surroundings.

The first DC-based event through Gilt City happened last night, and is spared my denunciation as a complete disaster due to the eventual open bar. The event was poorly planned, the staff and attendees hostile – in short, it was a mess. It is difficult to say whether it was the fault of Gilt Groupe or the Regal Cinemas in Chinatown, but someone dropped the ball, and it subsequently rolled down a staircase.

Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate saving Benjamins (err…Abrahams.) I enjoy the opportunity to try things I wouldn’t try ordinarily because it happens to be cheaper than usual. Apparently, Planet Earth agrees with me, judging by the immense success of these Recession-booned discount sites. So when Gilt City offered free tickets for July 19 for a cocktail reception and screening of the upcoming Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis movie Friends With Benefits, I figured it was a good excuse to laugh with some girlfriends and eat movie theatre popcorn for dinner. My friends and I reserved tickets within an hour after the offer sprang up on Gilt’s website. Here is the problem – Gilt obviously set an irresponsibly high cap on the number of tickets available.

The movie began at 7:30, and I arrived at 6:05 – there was already a long and snaking line. My friend Maggie arrived at 6:15, and she was able to join me in it. The cocktail reception was slated to begin at 6:30, so this seemed reasonable. Lindsay called a few minutes later from outside – her bike lock had snapped, and she needed me to lock her bike to mine. In most human scenarios, this wouldn’t cause a problem. I met Lindsay outside and returned to the line, whose crust had been fortified with those irritating little rope posts that create snaked lines. (Bonus points for whomever knows what they are called.)

An approximation of the scene

A pushy, rude crowd had amassed itself all the way to the escalator. People were arguing about the line. I tried to get back to Maggie, but was barked at by a security guard and a girl with heavy lipliner told me to “fucking get to the back of the line.” My explanation that I was already up there, that my friend Maggie was waiting alone and I needed to help Lindsay downstairs was met with an equally sour “well, that sucks for you.” She reminded me of a bitchy cartoon character. Other people were raising their voice at others, shoving and arguing with employees – you’d think they believed that Justin Timberlake would actually be at this thing. And that he would touch them. The line finally began to proceed past the barricade over a half hour after the cocktail reception supposedly began. Slightly after seven, we reached the front of the line. We were told that there were no seats left for the movie. We were still permitted to enjoy a free drink.

I simply don’t understand the marketing theory here. Whatever the purpose of this marketing stunt, the gimmick failed. I understand why Gilt might be inclined to release a block of free tickets greater than the amount of seats – after all, many people who RSVPed probably didn’t show – but they obviously weren’t anywhere close to striking a good equilibrium. Regal Cinemas seemed confused and unprepared for the angry mob snaking around the lobby. I also see why a slight surplus of turned-away guests might produce the image of exclusivity or popularity, but hundreds of pissed-off Gilt users waiting in an abrasive line for an hour isn’t a stellar way to promote your brand. And this was no case of an unexpectedly large response – Gilt knew this many people had RSVPed. It didn’t care. And Regal Cinema’s other screens were too tied up with Harry Potter and the Seventh Book Title to free another screen. They screwed up too.
Don’t get me wrong – I know it was a free event. But my chain still feels pretty yanked by the Gilt Groupe and Regal Cinemas. Their crappy and ill-conceived promo wasted a few hours of my life. Sure, I got a glass of wine out of the deal – fine, two glasses – but I waited over an hour in a cauldron of assholes to get them. My hourly rate is more than two glasses of wine – I mean, at least the kind I drink.

Mercifully, we punctuated the evening with a barbecue dinner at Hill Country on 7th and D. Say what you want about chain restaurants and independent eateries – but I will be damned if you can’t find an awfully good meal in Chinatown.

- Natalie

About Natalie Shure

literature, life and latte lady

10 Responses to “Gilt City DC needs to get a hold of itself.”

  1. I attended the event at Urban Chic on Tuesday night. It sold out within minutes of being released, and I was one of the lucky to get the $25 deal that presented me with an evening of shopping while sipping prosecco, eating cupcakes and spending the $100 gift card I received. The store was not crowded, the staff were extremely helpful and shopped for me while I was changing into the many pricey items I decided to try on. And in the chocolate dipped and almond encrusted fortune cookie, I received an additional 20% off of an online gilt purchase as a nice surprise. I feel like I got the chic experience I was looking for, and it certainly felt exclusive. Hopefully this is a better portension of what is to come from Gilt DC.

    • Thanks for sharing your more positive experience, Noelle. That sounds so much nicer! It seems like in that instance, Gilt City DC worked with Urban Chic to determine a reasonable and pleasant amount of people for their event, and didn’t exceed it. That level of planning was completely absent from the event at Regal Cinemas…I feel like Gilt City just bullied me into being a marketing mule for the night.

  2. I tried to buy the shopping event offer Noelle wrote about. I clicked on it after it had been my inbox for a measly 8 minutes and it was already sold out! I was so disappointed.

    At that time in the morning the movie event was showing as sold out. Later I looked again and it appeared available. I wonder what the heck really happened.

  3. As far as I know, the movie didn’t officially “sell out” until the morning of the show. Maybe it was a glitch or an oversight, but I sure wish they’d have sent out an “oops, sorry, billions of people RSVPed” e-mail before we showed up.
    Yesterday afternoon, a Gilt City DC rep sent out an apology to everyone who had RSVPed to the screening and offered each a Gilt City credit. I appreciate that they are trying to right the wrong, but I the tone of the apology was basically, “sorry it was so crowded! It must be because JT is so popular!” So I guess I’d like some sort of explanation of the snafu to evaluate whether I’d like to attend another Gilt City event. I will keep readers posted!

  4. You have some exciting ideas! Perhaps we ought to consider about attempting this myself.

  5. It is in point of fact a great and useful piece of info. I’m happy that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Gilt City DC responds to Broads of the Beltway | broadsofthebeltway - 2011/07/22

    [...] Gilt City DC contacted Lindsay and me regarding my last post, I was privately excited. The post in question detailed the ways in which their Friends With [...]

  2. Confessions of a Broke DC Girl Trying to Get Her Hair Done | broadsofthebeltway - 2011/09/28

    [...] last week when I saw a Gilt City (yes, the very same company we featured here and here) daily coupon for full highlights at Urban Style Lab in Dupont Circle, I jumped at the [...]

  3. Compiling a DC dream meal | broadsofthebeltway - 2011/10/12

    [...] dish: Macaroni and Cheese, from Hill Country Lindsay and I have been creepily open here and here about our affection for this Chinatown tourist gimmick, but the moment I tried the sloppy [...]

  4. How to fix Groupon and Living Social | broadsofthebeltway - 2011/11/08

    [...] experiences, not just discounts Even though I have bitched in the past, I can’t help but think that Gilt City DC is onto something with some of their [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,661 other followers