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When I started writing this column in Fall of 1998, the idea of doing all your holiday shopping online rated quite daring and trendy.
Fast-forward to today and online shopping represents a very sizeable share of all retail commerce.
In fact, just like the "Black Friday" after Thanksgiving gets many retail stores "into the black" financially, they've coined a name for one of the biggest shopping days online: "Black Monday!"
Black Monday or "Cyber Monday" refers to the Monday after Thanksgiving when everyone goes back to work and does all their shopping online (presumably on their break -- yeah right!)
Either they couldn't find what they wanted in a brick-and- mortar store over the weekend or, like me, couldn't stand the thought of standing in line for hours, so they shop online.
Since their workplace often carries the fastest Internet connection, many people find playing "Cyber Santa" at work too tempting to resist.
Despite a "sluggish economy," this past Black Monday should turn out to be the biggest on record, though the actual results may not get tallied for weeks.
However, if you plan to play "Cyber Santa" this year by making holiday purchases online, the following tips should help the little online elves make all your dreams come true.
** Don't Procrastinate **
Don't wait until the last minute to place your orders online. Internet companies function just like mail-order companies.
Human beings process your order, pull it out of inventory, pack it, and ship it to your address.
If a backup occurs, no amount of e-mailing or phone calls will cause your packages to arrive any faster.
** Delivery Guarantees **
Find out what guarantees (in writing) the company makes regarding delivery.
If they don't guarantee delivery for 2 weeks and you waited until December 19 to order, it doesn't take a computer science degree to know your order won't arrive in time.
** Return Policies **
Along with delivery guarantees, check the return policy. What happens if something goes wrong with the product?
Where and how do you return it?
Also, understand that if you buy something through an auction site like eBay, you run the risk of defective merchandise with no hope for an exchange.
** Brick and Mortar **
Try to deal with companies that offer a "brick and mortar" operation to augment their online presence.
This comes in handy if you received a defective product, or the wrong product, and need a quick fix by visiting the store at the last minute to avoid tears on Christmas morning.
** Disaster Planning **
Ordering early means you can make a quick recovery if something goes wrong by going to the mall and buying something else!
I bought 22 very cool gifts for out of town relatives and business associates yesterday with the click of a mouse!
I plan to do 100% of my shopping online this holiday season and avoid losing my holiday spirit by engaging in urban combat for a parking spot at the mall.
So remember, use common sense, buy from reputable merchants, and let your keyboard help you create a memorable holiday season.
Copyright 2005 Jim Edwards