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Protecting yourself

On Cyber Monday, shoppers had to stand in virtual line

Susan Ladika
Cyber Monday resulted in lines

Traditionally, Black Friday has been the battle ground, with shoppers scrapping for the best deals on TVs or toys.

Now the fight is shifting to Cyber Monday, with online shoppers fighting for a place in the checkout line.

Unwittingly, I became one of the combatants, when I found a great deal on a piece of furniture at Target.com. I was tempted to buy the cabinet on Sunday, when it was 40 percent off in Target’s weekly ad.

Imagine my delight when an email popped up in my in box the next morning, showing all merchandise was 15 percent off for Cyber Monday at Target.com.

Like any savvy shopper, that was my cue to pounce. Seems like a legion of shoppers had the same idea. In fact, 121 million consumers were expected to shop online on Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation.

I found my cabinet online and tried to check out. Instead I spent a half-hour wrestling with the site.

Extra items were placed in my cart. I deleted them.

Then I waited. And waited and waited and waited some more for the checkout process to move to the next screen.

Then I tried to pay, only to be told repeatedly the security code I’d entered for my credit card wasn’t valid.

I’d had enough of trying to duke it out with the Target.com site and walked away.

While some shoppers apparently got notices on the Target site asking them to hold tight because of delays, I wasn’t one of them.

A Target spokeswoman later said, “As we experience spikes in traffic, our systems place guests in a queue and prompt them to access the site later.”

Again, that’s a message I never received, but really, who has time to try to access a site again and again and again?

And Target wasn’t alone in its online misery. PayPal, Neiman Marcus, and Victoria’s Secret all reportedly had website outages during the Thanksgiving weekend shopping blitz.

You have to wonder how much merchandise is still sitting in all those carts that shoppers like me abandoned.

Even with the glitches, shoppers spent $3.07 billion on Cyber Monday, which is 16 percent more than last year, according to Adobe Systems Inc., a provider of digital marketing and media services to merchants.

While the $81 cabinet I had in my shopping cart when I jumped ship won’t put a dent in Target’s holiday sales figures, having that kind of experience doesn’t help spread holiday cheer.

So where can bargain-conscious consumers safely shop without having to battle for their merchandise?

Despite its Cyber Monday meltdown, Target is one of several retailers, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Amazon.com, that stretched out sales over Cyber Week. In theory, that should thin out the Cyber Monday deluge of consumers, though clearly that isn’t necessarily the case.

Instead, technology might help you master the technology of the online retail world.

You can use price comparison tools such as InvisibleHand and ShopGenius when you’re shopping online to determine if what you want to buy is cheaper on another site. CamelCamelCamel alerts you when prices on Amazon.com drop, while the Nifti app tracks prices at hundreds of retailers and lets you know when prices falls.

They’re all ways to help you shop smart and not take a bruising.

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