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Is Cyber Monday a 'Joke'? Here's Why Some Warn Against Buying Into Today's Online Shopping Hype

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"...pretending it’s something special." -- Plus: Tips for online shopping --

(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

If you weren't willing to brave the crowds on Black Friday or over the weekend, perhaps you're logging on today to take advantage of Cyber Monday deals as you begin your holiday shopping. But just how good are these online specials?

Mat Honan, a senior writer for the tech magazine Wired, thinks that Cyber Monday is a "joke." Why? In short, this is because there's a great online sale nearly every day anyway.

He wrote:

There are going to be lots of sales, every day, until Christmas Day. The day after Christmas will have even bigger discounts. This is an end-of-the-year thing. There are a lot of things on sale today on the internet. There are also a lot of things on sale today in stores that you can walk around inside of.

[...]

Cyber Monday exists not to benefit consumers, but retailers who can use it as yet another marketing channel and the press, which can get viewers out of it by pretending it’s something special. The sales are happening anyway. The term of art is just a way to get you to pay attention to it.

It is also predicted that Cyber Monday won't hold its title of largest shopping day of the year -- although it's expected to earn it this year -- in the future. Cyber Monday hasn't always been the biggest online shopping day. In fact, up until three years ago, that title was historically earned by the last day shoppers could order items with standard shipping rates and get them delivered before Christmas. That day changes every year, but usually falls in late December.

Consumer Carol Uyeno looks at Cyber Monday sales on her computer at her home in Palo Alto, Calif., Monday, Nov. 29, 2010. (Photo: AP/Paul Sakuma)

Industry watchers say it could just be a matter of time before other days take that ranking.

"Of all the benchmark spending days, Thanksgiving is growing at the fastest rate, up 128 percent over the last five years," said Andrew Lipsman, a spokesman with the research firm comScore said, according to the Associated Press.

Andrew Schrage from Money Crashers told TheBlaze in an email that the deals associated with Cyber Monday will often continue past the popular shopping day.

"It certainly doesn’t hurt to take a look on Cyber Monday to see what’s out there, but if you should happen to miss a sale for a desired item, you may still be able to buy it at a similar discount before Christmas (or even other times of the year depending on the product category)," Schrage pointed out.

comScore reported that Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up 20 percent from last year on Cyber Monday.

For this reason, we figured some tips for online shopping tactics (including what to avoid) and some of the sales might be in order.

  • Finding the lowest price: Use a search engine that will allow you to compare prices for one item on various sites. SmartMoney compared various price comparison sites in a chart here. Find the one you like the best and use it to narrow down where exactly you should purchase this season's must-have for the best price.
  • Check your email: You know that email address that you established simply send all retail spam mail to? Today would be the day to login to that account. Retailers are sending out emails by the minute, some of which have special codes that will help you get more money off, free shipping or other incentives. Be wary though, today could be a good day for criminal spammers to pose as sites offering deals to get you to click on malicious links.
  • Take to social media: Search stores you think you might want to shop on Twitter or "like" them on Facebook. You might find more exclusive offers this way as well. Who knows, your friends might be posting status updates with good deals they found too.
  • Buying through credit card sites: Schrage from Money Crashers pointed out that if you make purchases with a Discover card, it may benefit you to log into your account and use the "Shop Discover" feature, where you could potentially get an extra 5 to 10 percent off for going through Discover to the retailer's website.
  • Get online, then go to the store: In its list of "nonconformist" Cyber Monday shopping tips, CBS suggests you find deals online and then take that to an actual retailer in person. Many stores, it states, will match prices and then you're walking away with the item.
  • Keep your info secure: As always, make sure sites use an HTTPS (notice the "S") address before you enter your credit card information or other personal data. The "S" shows that the site is secure and info it sends is encrypted. Avoid shopping on a free, unsecure Wi-Fi network. Monitor your online banking statements to keep tabs on potentially unauthorized purchases. Read more tips to avoid getting scammed on Mashable here.

Watch this Good Morning America report for more security tips:

  • Gizmodo has a ridiculously comprehensive list of deals from gadget and tech sites that it is updating continuously throughout the day. You simply have to click on the logo of the site you wish to find deals on, scroll down the page and see all the sales pulled up for you in one place. They also include the percentage the item is on sale so you know if you're truly getting a good deal.

As a final tip, Schrage recommends making a list and not deviating too far from it.

"There is no problem with picking up a few necessities for yourself if you can find them at a good price, but try to be reasonable and don't give into the temptation of purchasing an item you don't really need just because you find it at a good price," Schrage said in his email.

Check out Money Crasher's post for more Cyber Monday shopping tips here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  Featured image via Shutterstock.com. 

This post has been updated to include more information. 

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