A Dispatch From the Front Lines of Lululemon’s Warehouse Sale

Photo: Courtesy of Carlye Wisel

After a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call, a LIRR train to Long Island, a shuttle bus, and an accidental security breach, I survived the first day of Lululemon’s epic warehouse sale today. What follows is a diary from the front lines of discount yoga-gear madness — including a run-in with the Lululemon fanatics who flew cross-country to be there.

5:35 a.m. The city is dark. The streets are dead. The only people in Penn Station are elderly homeless men and scattered, fit-looking women gazing haplessly at the LIRR announcement board.

5:50 a.m. In my mostly empty train car to Westbury, Long Island, there are a few girls in cross-body purses. The collective insanity of waking up this early for a sale drives us to camaraderie and conversation. A group consensus against wearing Lululemon to the sale — “I don’t want someone to take my pants while changing!” — leads to laments about the baggy sweats everyone is wearing. We’re equally nervous and excited.

6:38 a.m. We arrive at the Westbury station. A mini-exodus streams from the train to the street, but the promised Lululemon Sale Shuttle, a.k.a. Caravan of Dreams, is nowhere to be found.

6:45 a.m.  These Luon pants aren’t as well-insulated as we thought. Fifty women (and two fit-looking men) stand shivering giddily, starting to wonder what the hell is going on.

6:55 a.m. Things we Lululemon deal-seekers have seen together: a sunrise and an elderly man’s temper tantrum at young women blocking his way “to catch a train to support someone’s life.” Things we haven’t seen: the goddamn Lululemon shuttle bus. A cab driver bargains to pack us in for $6 a head, but no one budges. The company’s inspirational manifestos against adversity and for togetherness may have more influence than I realized? “Do one thing a day that scares you,” Lulumon advises, and I’m pretty sure bordering on frostbite to save cash on Wunder Unders counts.

7:05 a.m. “I could have slept for another hour!” one girl exclaims, before the Magic School Bus of Leggings Free-for-All pulls up, to cheers. We push onto the bus and tuck in three to a seat, field-trip-style.

7:35 a.m. We made it! A security guard shouts that we can’t bring food or drink into the arena. (The irony is deep; Lululemon retail locations have a chilled water fountain in each location.) As I approach the door, the guard announces, “We’re letting a hundred people in at a time.” I am stuck again, standing outdoors and on concrete indefinitely, reaching The Day After Tomorrow levels of desperation to find warmth. Noticing that employees are about to be waved through, a few girls in front of me lie and say they’re working the sale, too. I follow suit. My co-conspirators disappear as soon as we enter. I am terrified that some angry female authority figure will find me out.

7:45 a.m. I stand in Lululemon’s pre-sale waiting pen. It’s like a college orientation full of women who know their Pilates instructors by name. They have straight hair and wear black leggings. An employee runs through the hallway in a lemon costume (oh God) and it quickly becomes apparent that these people are much happier to be there than I am.

7:50 a.m. In the distance, a T-shirt cannon goes off. The sound alerts us to just how massive the line outside has become. We’re talking long. One Direction Kissing Booth long.

7:55 a.m.  IT’S HAPPENING. We slowly push forward. Rows and rows of ribboned barricades separate we shoppers from the well-organized racks of stretchy nylon wonders in this grandiose hall. A savasana dream come true.

8:28 a.m. The sale is calm, but it’s a rabid calm. The most intense shoppers burrow through the shorts bins in search of skirts — apparently a lot of these women play tennis? — and I realize I am the first one to start fishing through the overstock boxes buried beneath each table, nabbing several pairs of plain black shorts. The racks are full of neon tops, flared pants, and tank tops that don’t seem to fit anyone.

9:05 a.m. Crops are flying. Sports bras are snatched. A long line of women still waits outside, watching helplessly as we on the inside pick over everything.

9:10 a.m. Among the hordes of women sitting with friends, contemplating heaps of DayGlo shorts like kindergarteners hoarding Butterfingers at Halloween, an important-looking man pulls aside a pair of employees to discuss shoplifting. I eavesdrop and learn that popping out to the arena bathroom is a kleptomaniac’s wildest dream. The staff is informed that, upon seeing anyone with double layers, they must approach and ask, “May I help you with anything?” Apparently a yoga enthusiast’s preferred security measure is passive-aggressive helpfulness.

9:25 a.m. That’s weird, the girl from the bus who snuck in with me looks kinda like she’s actually working here? Am I the only one who lied?

9:38 a.m. For a dressing room filled with alpha women, the crowd is surprisingly friendly. One asks for an opinion on wide-legged white pants (cute, if hemmed) while another isn’t sure which bottoms her daughter will like (the blue with flowers, for sure). A third chimes in with war stories from Chicago’s Lululemon Warehouse Sale (much crazier than this). Turns out she and her friends booked a flight to New York the second they heard Long Island would be hosting this year’s sale, and flew in specifically for it. “Last night, we got in and literally slept two hours because the flight was delayed. And here we are! I feel like we’re cracked out, like total zombies.” They were staying at a hotel across the street. People don’t fuck around when it comes to these leggings.

10:05 a.m. Though the website claimed we would have to check our coats, purses, and everything besides our wallet contents, there are baby strollers err’where, being used as makeshift shopping carts. The best accessory for a Lululemon Warehouse Sale is human spawn.

10:35 a.m. After waiting in a never-ending checkout line full of shoppers butting up on the twenty-item maximum, a woman cutting the tags off my new cycling shorts rolls her eyes at an older female customer to my left. “It’s her second time through. She was harassing that girl earlier about keeping all of the tags on, which we can’t do. She’s buying stuff to sell it online, definitely. Why else would you want the tags on?” Terrified of conflict, I look to my right instead — and see the other girl from the bus who snuck in with me, smilingly working the checkout. Oh my God, I am the crazy girl who lied her way into a Lululemon Warehouse Sale. I am now in the same category as the women flying in from Chicago, and the harassing eBay re-seller. Holy Christ. What has this sale done to me?

10:40 a.m. For journalistic purposes, I ask an important-looking woman (the organizers wear royal blue zip-ups with headsets, like more approachable versions of Hunger Games officials) what the weekend merchandise will be like. “At this rate, it’s gonna be slim pickin’ by Sunday,” she replies.

11:25 a.m. I throw on a new pair of eggplant-colored leggings and head back onto the Magical Shuttle Bus of Luon Dreams, which deposits me at the Westbury LIRR station for the journey home. On board, I immediately dig into the contraband food a friend smuggled in her purse and spill oily grease directly onto my brand new, hard-earned pants.

I guess I could always go back tomorrow.

From the Front Lines of Lululemon Warehouse Sale