In today’s retail world, every day is Cyber Monday.
Just ask any bricks-and-mortar retailer who laments their loss of market share to a website like Amazon.com, or takes steps to fight showrooming – the phenomenon where consumers inspect products in stores, then order them online at better prices.
But with stores opening on Thanksgiving and Black Friday becoming more of a hassle than it’s worth, Cyber Monday is becoming more popular than ever. One website even circulated video footage of a chaotic Black Friday stampede as a way to entice people to stay home and shop with them from the comfort of their own homes.
“Move over Black Friday, the Internet is here,” said Don Levy, director of Siena Research Institute, in its annual report about holiday spending by New Yorkers.
While 23 percent of people polled said they planned to shop in stores on Black Friday, 34 percent of all consumers anticipated that they would shop online today.
Thanks to successful marketing around Cyber Monday – named after the large numbers of workers who spent that day shopping online at their desks the Monday after Thanksgiving – many online retailers will offer great deals today.
If you decide to go bargain hunting on the Web, keep these tips in mind.
Be cautious about limited-time and mystery deals
Some websites offer mystery deals that aren’t revealed until the minute they go on sale. Others are offered with a time limit or in limited quantities.
These types of deals are designed to drive impulse purchases; to get you to spend money without thinking or doing your homework. Take your time when deciding whether to buy something. Ask yourself – would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale?
Don’t forget to factor in shipping
Shipping costs can vary widely. When comparing prices, be sure to add shipping into the total cost before making a decision.
Don’t use public networks. Open networks make it easy for cyber thieves to steal passwords and credit card numbers. While you’re at it, look for the “s.” Secure website URLs should start with the letters “https” instead of just “http” and show a picture of a padlock in the browser window.
Don’t forget the coupon codes and cash back
Search for coupon codes on websites such as RetailMeNot.com and CouponCabin.com. If you belong to a cash-back site such as eBates.com, FatWallet.com or UPromise.com, make sure you’re logged in.
Ship to store
Many sites with a brick-and-mortar retail presence will let you pick up online orders in stores for free.
Don’t register with a site or allow it to save your payment information on file
The more information you have sitting around, the more vulnerable it is to being stolen. If you cannot shop as a guest and must register, create a unique, long, complicated password.
Use a credit card
Debit cards don’t offer as many protections as credit cards do. Also be sure to check your statements carefully to be sure you were charged the right amount, and check each month thereafter to make sure no one is siphoning anything out later.
Down with pop-ups
Don’t click on pop-up ads, which can infect your computer with harmful software. To be safe, install pop-up blockers.
Save the evidence
Print or save a copy of all receipts and confirmations, terms and conditions, warranties, descriptions and product information, suggests the state Division of Consumer Protection.
It’s OK not to buy anything
If you can’t find good enough prices on the gifts on your list, consider waiting until Dec. 18. That’s the last day most online retailers will guarantee to ship by Christmas and therefore the day during the holiday season that prices are lowest and the most coupons are offered. That day is also considered “Free shipping day.”
Update your browser
Go to whatbrowser.org to see which version you’re using, whether it needs to be updated and how to do that, recommends security firm Rapid7. Older versions have known weak spots that hackers can attack. Keep your antivirus and anti-spyware protection up to date, too.
Beware “fly by night” e-commerce sites
These are fraudulent sites that trick you into downloading harmful software, steal credit card information or take orders for merchandise that will never be shipped. To protect yourself, stick to well-known, credible, established websites.
If you do business with a company you’ve never heard of, there are a few ways to check its credentials, according to security company Thirtyseven4. Be sure the site is professional and user friendly, that the company name shows up near the top of the search results when you Google it, and check to see when the site was created by doing a “Whois” search at www.internic.net.