Today is the pseudo-official start of the online shopping season, a day slapped with the moniker "Cyber Monday" by the National Retail Federation (and countless PR agencies). It's the high-tech counterpart to Black Friday, the rather frightening day of crazy deals and expanded store hours that spurs turkey-satiated consumers into sometimes deadly frenzies. (And no, I'm not being hyperbolic; you've all heard about the Wal-Mart trampling death, right?)
Anyway, the first Monday after Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday buying rush in cyberspace. With plenty of online bargains designed to lure cash-strapped consumers into shopping, many employers could take a workplace-productivity hit due to computer-based spending sprees by employees.
According to Richard Feinberg, a researcher with the Purdue Retail Institute, the busiest hours for online shopping are noon to 4 p.m. A survey by CareerBuilder found that almost a third (29 percent) of workers said they'd holiday-shop from the office, and 43 percent of those will spend at least an hour on the activity. And 23 percent said they'd shop for two hours or more.
Last year, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimated that online shoppers could spend $700 million on Cyber Monday -- and businesses could lose $488 million due to workday cyberspending and lost work time. This year, those numbers could be worse because Black Friday was a bigger hit than expected.
Another productivity risk: an increased chance of spam, viruses, and phishing attacks in the workplace, not to mention malware and spyware that can slow, or even crash, a company network. And on the personal side, people scrambling to nail down deals may not be as vigilant about observing basic precautions to avoid Internet fraud.
Then again, it's possible that with our economy continuing to slide, people will be less inclined to shop at the workplace and more concerned about keeping their jobs -- making all these gloomy predictions moot.
What do you think?