Claudia Buck

Cyber Monday lets you shop in your pj’s – many prefer it over going to mall

Take a breather. Turkey Day shopping, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are all behind us. Oh, but wait, there’s one more celebrated shopping day ahead: Cyber Monday.

For those who’d prefer to do their holiday shopping from a keyboard rather than on foot, Cyber Monday is a chance to click and pay your way through the holidays. But is it the best way to get deals?

To talk a little Cyber Monday shopping strategy, we chatted by phone with Edgar Dworsky, who’s run ConsumerWorld.org, a Boston-area-based consumer website, since 1995.

A recent Nielsen survey of consumers said 55 percent plan to fire up their computers for Cyber Monday. So who’s the Cyber Monday shopper?

They don’t want to get up at midnight (on Black Friday) and shop at the mall. They would rather (shop) in their pajamas – or at work.

Where should consumers be looking for cyberdeals this year?

Use the (advertising inserts) in Thursday’s newspaper as a reference. Look at CyberMonday.com (which aggregates online deals from more than 800 retailers).

Go online to your favorite retailer and sign up for their rewards program. On some sites, you can get immediate deals. I signed up for Toys R Us and immediately was given access to pre-Black Friday sales. Look for bargains on their websites and deals and coupons listed on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

But, you’ll start to get bombarded by emails from e-tailers. The bargain is you have to give up your email address in exchange for getting exclusive deals, coupons and previews of store sales. Also look at “Hot Deals Forums” for veteran bargain hunters on sites like FatWallet.com and SlickDeals.net.

Given all the early store openings and preseason discounts, is Cyber Monday too late?

There are deals to be had on Cyber Monday ... but for some retailers, it’s almost like an afterthought.

If your aim is to get the lowest price of the season, it probably already happened (on Black Friday or Thanksgiving evening). The closer you get to the weekend before Christmas, the less incentive there is for retailers to drastically cut prices. Because they know there are a lot of procrastinators.

With gas prices down and consumer confidence up, retailers are certainly hoping that consumers will spend more freely this holiday season. What’s your sense?

I think people are still a little bit cautious … still looking for deals. But they need to take that “50 percent off regular price” with a grain of salt. Consumers are lured in by that.

To see if the savings are real, go to PriceGrabber.com or Shopping.com. Type in a name or model number, like a camera or big TV. You’ll see what a number of different sellers are (charging). It’ll give you a sense of whether that discount off a “regular price” is real. ... If everyone is charging $100 and you find a retailer charging only $59, you know it’s a deal.

Call The Bee’s Claudia Buck at (916) 321-1968 or read her Personal Finance columns at sacbee.com/claudiabuck.

More holiday shopping tips

Use your best card. Some gold or platinum-level cards offer added valuable benefits, like extended warranties on products. Rather than buying an extended service contract for an expensive appliance or electronics, check if your credit card provides an extra year of warranty coverage – free. Some credit cards also offer “return protection” guarantees (refunding the purchase price within 90 days if the store won’t) or a “sale price” guarantee (refunding the difference if an item goes on sale within 60 days of purchase).

Compare retailers. Use the “Price Checker” tab at ConsumerWorld.org (to compare prices at many online stores) or Pricespider.com (to compare today’s price to what was charged over the past year). Check the seller’s reputation using BizRate.com or ResellerRatings.com.

Get gift receipts. Make returns easier for your recipients by asking stores for a gift receipt and include it with your gift. Without a receipt, a refund may be denied outright or limited to an equal exchange or a merchandise credit for the lowest recent price.

Check for a “price match.” Some stores and credit cards offer a price-matching feature that lets you get money back if a store or competitor offers a lower price before Christmas.

Source: ConsumerWorld.org

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