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.

Cyber Monday: The Hidden and Not-So-Hidden Costs 7 May,2014Dan Brekke


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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