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Cyber Monday: Online Shopping's Not Just for the Lazy Anymore

Black Friday who?

If you'd prefer to surf for deals from behind a screen rather than risk being trampled and left for dead at the doors of a department store, Cyber Monday is for you. Black Friday has a history that is decades old, but its cousin, Cyber Monday, is more of a recent phenomenon. As soon as retailers decided that the day after Thanksgiving was the perfect day to start the "Holiday Shopping Season," the next iteration of the idea was underway. Businesses started with Black Friday, soon expanding to offering deals that lasted the entire weekend, the weeks before and after, and now many stores even open their doors on Thanksgiving Day itself, drawing criticism from the pro-family crowd.

But thanks to the good old Interwebs, we no longer need to be slaves to store hours and limited stock at our local retailers. E-commerce has taken holiday shopping by storm, and we are reaping the benefits. The most famous day for web shopping, Cyber Monday, was first called such in a 2005 press release by, a division of the National Retail Foundation. Back then, it was essentially documenting a naturally occurring phenomenon--that online retailers were seeing huge sales increases the Monday after Thanksgiving. Now, scores of businesses offer huge discounts and promotions to capitalize on this trend. And you get a half-price LED TV delivered to your door. Win-win.

Consumerism at its finest (or just plain disgusting).

Since 2005, online sales on Cyber Monday have steadily increased by the millions, from $608 million in 2006 to the first billion-dollar day (2010's $1,028,000,000), to $1.465 billion in 2012. That's a lot of iPads and Tickle Me Elmos. The capitalism parade has quickly become global as well, with Canada, the UK, Germany, France, and many other countries branding the Monday after Thanksgiving as Cyber Monday, "Mega Monday," and "Click Frenzy," among other terms. This move has often been made out of necessity as foreign retailers want to keep sales from being completely taken over by American companies.

Buying Gifts OnlineWhat could account for such a dramatic increase in online spending? By Monday, many people fresh off a weekend of intense shopping have either not found what they need in brick-and-mortar stores or have done some shopping around and are ready to pull the trigger on some purchases. Just like the rest of the year, people are "showrooming" more and more--that is, comparison shopping and trying things out in physical locations only to find a better deal online. And Monday often brings people back to work, where bandwidth is plentiful and people can make purchases away from the prying eyes of their loved ones. Just don't risk your job by shopping online or you won't be able to pay for all those deals, no matter how good they are.

I'm scared that the Internet will eat my credit card. Help me.

If you're bringing your Christmas list to your computer on Monday instead of braving the insanity of Black Friday, you are already making a safe choice. But as with any day of online purchases, Cyber Monday has its risks. Staying ahead of the hackers, scam artists, and generally bad people takes a little forethought. At the very least, make sure you remember the following items before clicking "buy."

Safety tips for shopping on Cyber Monday:

  • Make sure you are on a trusted, secure website ("https" at the front of the URL).
  • Don't click links from untrusted sources in emails or on social networks.
  • Don't fall for impossibly good deals--they probably ARE too good to be true.
  • Shop on secure, private, and password-protected networks.
  • Make sure your operating system, browsers, and antivirus software are up to date.
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card--there are more layers of protection.
  • Never give away too much info. No business needs your social security number or birthday.

Simply deciding what to get all of your loved ones for the holidays can be a daunting task. Add to that the stress of physically searching stores for presents and you've got yourself a holiday headache. On Cyber Monday, you can find gift inspiration, compare prices at different retailers, and give your poor feet a rest. So put on your sweatpants, boot up your computer, and let your fingers do the walking.

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