One survey says half of U.S. workers will be shopping online today. (Don Clyde/KQED)
One survey says half of U.S. workers will be shopping online today. (Don Clyde/KQED)
It’s Cyber Monday, and if you believe a new survey from human resources service CareerBuilder, about half the American workers who drag themselves into the office today after the Thanksgiving weekend will be shopping online while they’re supposed to be on the job.

CareerBuilder says that the workplace shopping is just a continuation of a trend. The firm says two-thirds of workers surveyed admit doing web searches every day that have nothing to do with their job. That’s happening as employers expand their monitoring of workers’ web activity and email. CareerBuilder says 50 percent of the 2,700 businesses surveyed say they look over their employees’ shoulders during the work day, up from 47 percent.

The survey found that unrestrained web shopping at work has consequences: 7 percent of human resource managers say they’ve fired someone for holiday shopping. And if you listen to consumer advocates, that’s not the only cost of a heavy online shopping habit.

In The California Public Interest Research Group — CalPIRG for short — says online shoppers need to be aware that merchants can use online tracking to set prices for each customer. In CalPIRG’s Top Tips for Online Shopping, the group says that by using bits of web code called cookies, online stores can study an individual shopper’s habits and set prices based on what they observe. That “dynamic pricing” means that you may pay more for an item than other customers do.

CalPIRG’s Jon Fox explains: “If you have gone to the same website several times to browse for a specific product, the company may try to charge you more when you actually try to purchase it because they know you really want it now.”

CalPIRG recommends taking a little trouble to avoid dynamic pricing:

  • Avoid logging into a web site before getting a price quote.
  • Clear browser cookies before and after shopping online.
  • Check for other offers using different internet browsers and devices (PCs, tablets, smartphones, etc.).

KQED’s Alex Emslie contributed to this report.

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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