Pat Marshall set her alarm at 4:45 a.m. Monday to buy Land's End ski bibs as Christmas presents for her four grandchildren. She didn't even get out of bed, but instead shopped online from her iPad.
“Good thing I did, because they sold out in 15 minutes,” she said.
Malena Lott, a few hours later, jumped on Hollister's website to take advantage of a 40 percent off coupon to buy a hoodie for her 15-year-old son, while Kim Searls started “scouting” sites at lunch, with plans to buy online Monday night.
“I've been looking at clothes from stores that I know the merchandise and know how it fits,” Searls said, “including Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft, where everything is 40 percent and 50 percent off today!”
By early afternoon, Jenna Harlow had bought online at Target, Kohl's, Amazon, Gap and Sam's, all of which offered free or discounted shipping and 20 percent or more off total purchases, she said.
Harlow, whose buys included Legos for her 4-month-old son and Fisher Price Little People sets for her 2-year-old niece, estimates she'll do 70 percent of her Christmas shopping online.
“I'll do anything I can to miss the big holiday crowds at the malls,” Harlow said.
The area shoppers were among nearly 130 million Americans estimated to shop on “Cyber Monday” — or what retailers have coined the Monday following Thanksgiving.
According to a poll of 4,005 consumers last week conducted by BIGinsight for Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation, 129.2 million Americans planned to shop online Monday, up from the 122.8 million last year and 106.9 million in 2010.
Eighty-eight percent of this year's shoppers planned to shop from their home computers, but 12.4 percent, or nearly 16 million, also planned to use their work computers, according to the poll. The number of shoppers planning to use their smartphones or other mobile device increased, too, to 20.4 million — skyrocketing from 3.6 million in 2009, and up 14.4 percent from last year alone.
Not all Oklahoma City e-shoppers had success, or even shopped, on Monday. Vicky Baggett, of Midwest City, said she tried to buy blue work shirts from Northern Tool Co. but, before she could place her order, the blue shirts she wanted were out of stock. Meanwhile, Laura Boyd skipped cyber shopping altogether because of cautions about hackers and identity thieves.
Indeed, e-shoppers need to be especially careful during the holidays, two Oklahoma City observers warn.
Lee Symcox, president of First Fidelity Bank, advises shoppers to limit shopping to the websites of large, major retailers and double check that a retailer's site is its original and not a bogus one carrying a similar name.
The easiest way to check if a site is secure, he said, is if the top of its billing page has an “s” in its URL address, meaning the site is encrypted or secure. For example, https://store.com versus http://store.com.
“And when you get the statements for your credit card or debit card, keep an eye out for any unauthorized use and immediately notify the company or bank,” he said. Most cards offer limited liability protection.
Shoppers for high-dollar purchases may need the extra security of having someone verify the authenticity of what they're buying. Companies like Oklahoma City-based WeGoLook.com hosts an online nationwide platform of some thousands of background-checked agents, or “lookers,” who can be dispatched on behalf of consumers to travel to an item, take measurements, photos and video, verify a model number, observe any damage and more.
Robin Smith, co-founder and chief operating officer WeGoLook.com, said her firm has served more than 1,400 customers who've had their agents “go look” at furniture, pets, glassware, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, cars and even homes up for auction. Fees start at $59, Smith said.
“If a seller refuses to meet with you — whether it's because they're on military duty, working on an oil platform or something else — that's a big red flag,” Smith said. Her agents, she said, have verified that items exist, and found pet and cigarette odor on others, and even burned-out properties, she said.
WeGoLook also can perform tasks for buyers, Smith said, including overseeing the packing of an item and taking it directly to a shipper.
Some customers have given vacation packages as Christmas gifts and contracted her firm to verify the quality of properties, Smith said. “We can tell them if the pool looks like the pictures online or if it's under repair,” Smith said. “We also can do additional tasks like bringing flowers or a cake to the location.”
At a glance
Retailers receiving the most Cyber Monday searches:
2. Best Buy
Top 10 products searched
1. Kindle Fire
4. iPod Touch
5. iPad Mini
7. Amazon Kindle
8. Wii U
9. Kindle Fire HD
10. Ugg Boots
“In stock” searches
1. Wii U
2. Monster High Dolls
3. Hero 3
4. iPhone 5