What to avoid on Cyber Monday has become a growing list of concerns for the savvy online shopper. To help you avoid emptying your bank accounts or maxing out your credit cards — chasing deals and promotions too good to be true or not that much better than any other day of the year — MyBankTracker has put out the following watch list just days before the big day arrives, Dec. 1.
We realize our voice might be a faint cry ready to be silenced by the vast wilderness of online bargain-hunting shoppers — expected to ring up a record $2.8 billion in sales this Cyber Monday surpassing last year’s $1.7 billion — but we persist nonetheless.
1. Avoid making Cyber Monday into some sort of holy grail for online shoppers
In fact, Thanksgiving (Day) is the best deal for online deals, offering consumers an average discount of 24 percent, according to Adobe. Then comes Black Friday, then the Monday before Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday finished out of the money in fourth place.
2. Avoid being late to the online party
The good thing about the Internet is that there are few rules, and the bad thing about the Internet is that are few rules. So, if you’re a serious retailer, you don’t wait until Cyber Monday to offer your best online deals. Amazon certainly didn’t. It jumped the gun a full week ahead of Black Friday by rolling out deals online on Friday, Nov. 21. It’s the earliest the retailing colossus has offered its door-busting deals. BestBuy.com kicked off its Cyber Monday on Cyber Thursday, which also happens to be Thanksgiving Day. By the way, if you live on the West Coast, remember, your Cyber Monday actually starts at 9 p.m. on Sunday! If you wait till midnight, the good deals might be gone.
3. Avoid going unprepared
In other words, don’t expect to start shopping “Cold Turkey,” to borrow a seasonal expression. You have to have done some homework. Many retailers start posting advertisements and coupons well in advance of Cyber Monday. For the best results, go to the sites of your favorite retailers first.
There are general sites as well that do a pretty good job of scouring the online landscape for deals, such as Slick Deals, Deal News, and CyberMonday.
By doing your homework, you might also be surprised to find the bricks and mortars aren’t the pushovers or patsies they once were. Many now price match, so why wait for shipping when you can pick up the same item in the store that same day?
4. Avoid gimmicky sites
Cyber Monday is no time to fall under the spell of some slick website or retailer you’ve never heard of. Stick with online retailers with whom you’ve done previous business. And chances are that the online retailers you’ve dealt with in the past will be reaching out to you. They know where you live.
5. Avoid buying without a list
A list is your shield and suit of armor against the relentless wave of online offers that will pour down on you like New Year’s Eve confetti. It’s your bulwark against a bevy of enticing offers and “there’s-only-one-left” pitches. No matter how seductive the offer appears, don’t click your approval.
6. Avoid buying without a budget
If ever there was day to send you hurtling toward eternal credit card hell, this is it. Follow your list and don’t overspend. If you can’t find the deal you want, relax. It’ll reappear in some other form, soon enough. Walmart now celebrates Cyber Monday over an entire week. If you go overboard and can’t pay off your balances, the interest you’ll be paying will quickly exceed your Cyber Monday savings.
7. Avoid any purchase without free shipping
Shop online at retailers that offer free shipping with no minimums. The last thing you don’t want to do is buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need just to meet the “free shipping with $100 minimum order.”
If you’re really on your game, also seek out sites that offer free return shipping.
8. Avoid buying Christmas toys online
Cyber Monday is a day geared toward electronics and clothing deals. As for most Christmas toys, hold your ground until about two weeks before Dec. 25. When retailers start seeing their shelves overstuffed with Zoomer Dinos, Supernova Battle Rovers and Snow Glow Elsas from Disney’s “Frozen” franchise, they start dealing and offering deep discounts.
9. Avoid buying luxury goods online
Some things just aren’t meant to be bought online: Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, David Orgell. The best brands are often imitated, so beware. About 13 percent of all goods purchased online are counterfeit, according to Stephen Polinsky, vice president of sales for GenuOne, a security technology company specializing in brand protection. It’s one thing to buy a knockoff Hot Wheels set, but quite another if you pay $2,000 for a fake Louis Vuitton handbag. This is the reason why many purveyors of luxury items don’t allow online transactions.
When buying super high-end stuff, go directly to the retailer’s website to find an authorized dealer or store location in your area. Plus, it’s flat-out sexier to buy a premium item in person than to just have it delivered in brown wrapper by the UPS driver.
10. Avoid getting scammed
With millions upon millions of customers shopping online, you can bet the cyber scammers will be out in full force as well. While no site seems to be completely unbreachable, you can take certain precautions to make your online shopping experience as safe as possible.
For starters, make sure you’re shopping on a private, password-protected Wi-Fi network. Resist the temptation to use public Wi-Fi networks found in coffee shops, hotel lobbies and other public watering holes.
During the high cyber-hopping season, steer clear of uncharted waters — those websites with which you’re unfamiliar. If you don’t recognize a URL, take your business elsewhere or at least do a little more investigating before you start sharing your personal and financial information with these newbies. If the URL starts with “https:”, not just “http:”, that should give you more confidence the site you’re using is secure.
Naturally, if you’ve purchased online before, you’ll no doubt be receiving news, coupons and announcements about red hot deals from your favorite vendors. But instead of clinking on the links they send you, just go directly to their webpage. When you click directly on a link, that’s when you’re asking for trouble.
If you’re on a secure site and you’re ready to check out, pay by credit card rather than a debit card. Because if a fraud does occur, a credit card offers more money-back protection.
You might also consider using PayPal, a service with more than 100 million users that enables you to pay, send money, and accept payments without revealing your financial details. The service simply adds another buffer of protection from scammers.
Cyber Monday is almost here
Cyber Monday 2014 promises to be quite a shopping celebration, but to enjoy the shopping holiday the most, avoid overindulging.
Turkey and all the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day taste great too, but past celebrants know that when you go back to the table for seconds and thirds, there can be a cry for relief from overstuffed bellies.
Cyber-shoppers, you’ve been fairly warned.