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How to know if buying into a Cyber Monday deal is worth it

Torn between the need to catch up at work postholiday and the lure of those "unbelievable" deals only available (maybe) on Cyber Monday?

© / bet_noir
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Torn between the need to catch up at work postholiday and the lure of those "unbelievable" deals only available (maybe) on Cyber Monday?

Perhaps we can help.

Forty-nine percent of professionals will shop at work on this most glorious of deal days, reports a new study from the staffing firm Robert Half Technology.

A large share (64 percent) of them will do the deed during their lunch breaks, the RHT study says. But only 17 percent will use their own smartphones, most putting company computers and their livelihood at risk if they accidentally land on a virus-infected fake sales site.

Eight percent of "working" cyber-shoppers even bargain-hunt during conference calls, and 3 percent do so during in-person meetings, RHT found. Afterward, 13 percent will feel so guilty about their low productivity that they'll stay late or work from home in the evening.

Cyber Monday - not even a blip on many shoppers' computer screens until the National Retail Federation's crowned the day in 2005 - has become a really big deal. This year's pile-on will produce sales of $3.36 billion, estimates Adobe Digital Insights, surpassing the $2 billion in purchases made between courses on Thanksgiving Day, and the $3.05 billion in expected online sales scored on Black Friday.

Less frantic in tone and customer courting, Cyber Monday doesn't offer many of the wild-and-crazy, inventory-reducing deals on 2015 leftover televisions, computers, digital cameras, and headphones that busted down the doors this Black Friday.

But Monday cyber-shoppers will find a whole lot of satisfaction, the bargain-tracking website reports, if they're looking for bargains on clothing and shoes (Who buys footwear online? Everybody!), getaway adventures from major cruise companies and Travelocity, and beauty products from the likes of the Body Shop, Sephora, and Perfumania. Plus, lesser but lingering deals will still be available on 2016-series electronics like high-end Ultrahigh definition TVs with HDR (a feature set not found on last year's UHD models), Android phones, and worthy add-ons like Roku streaming-TV boxes.

Taking a sales site as gospel when it announces a "limited time" special can be a dangerous thing, though. Even the biggest site, Amazon, was recently caught artificially inflating the "suggested retail price" of goods to make its "deals" look better. Adobe Digital Insights warns that "lack of price [comparison] shopping could cost you 20 percent during the holidays."

So what should a hungry customer do when the "flash sale" sign is strobing on the computer screen and you need to get back to work - and soon?

Before hitting the "buy" button, call up a price-tracking tool on your smartphone and enter the item you're looking for. On the obsessively detailed (a personal favorite), you can instantly see how the price of the item has been fluctuating on Amazon, including from third-party sellers, then hit the buy button if you want. Or, if the deal's not so hot, get CamelCamelCamel to send you an alert if/when the desired piece falls to your designated "will buy" price.

Site comparisons run broader and sometimes better on rival services such as Price Grabber, PriceJump (a feature of, and Google Shopping.

Smart shoppers also can research rapidly by taking a picture of a desired item, uploading it to the Pinterest app, then tapping on the magnifying-glass icon in the upper right corner to trigger a visual search.

The CamFind app is more versatile, shopping for the best price from a picture, bar code, or QR scan. Another popular scavenger,, specializes in bar-code searches and chain-store touts.

Even just putting an item into a "shopping basket" and then leaving the online store without buying could have beneficial results. If the seller is hungry, it might come running after you - gotta love those cookies - waving a discount coupon. Or the next time you visit the site and click on the shopping basket, you might find the item's price miraculously reduced.

Be forewarned, though: Some first-time-visitor discounts are actually legit, and may not be there when you next return through the same browser, even just minutes later. So return via a different browser route (it's a new you), or just wait awhile.

Like trains, there's always another deal coming down the track. And today's hot thing is next year's 75 percent off, Black Friday/Cyber Monday "remainder."