Just Another Manic Monday

Having successfully ignored another Black Friday, I find myself conflicted about Cyber Monday. I'd love a 47-inch LED TV but do I really want to buy it sight unseen from Walmart.com while talking to a source on the phone at my desk?

It's not like I'm a luddite afraid to type my Visa number into a laptop. So far,  I've done all my holiday shopping online.

I only buy what ships for free and I generally check a few competing sites, but who knows if I get the Best.Possible.Deals? I work all day and take care of my kids when it's dark. To track toy and tech prices across all platforms would be a third job.

Now that I have an iPhone, I could feed my son's Spiderman obsession while walking down Broad Street to my next interview. But impulse buys on the move could prove extra-expensive, warns cyber security experts. So what's a multitasking Mom to do?

As a consumer, I'm an emotional work in progress. Last year, I did a whole column on second-guessing my purchases after thinking I'd somehow outsmarted retailers by creating a separate email address just to corral all the come-ons.

In less than a month, more than 1,200 e-mails have flown into the account, I confessed.

Electronic suitors dangle free shipping and 20 percent off everything so often, it's impossible to ascertain what anything should cost or whether any deal is real. Old Navy and Lands' End send two e-mails a day, each urgent "hours left!!!!" warning more bogus than the last. Boscov's treats me like family, offering "secret extra discounts" just for buying one outfit for my 91-year-old granny..


When Swarthmore psychology professor Barry Schwartz wrote The Paradox of Choice, he never imagined a book analyzing human nature would land him speaking gigs with business groups.

But when he did a TV interview at the King of Prussia malls two days before Christmas years ago, Schwartz had an epiphany: If too many options tend to paralyze people, then shopping has become a crippling pastime. "All they had to do was turn on the damn camera," he recalls. "Everybody in that mall was tortured, exhausted, and confused." The smartest shoppers, it turns out, grow most miserable. The more research you do, "the more each option suffers in comparison," Schwartz says.

Making us -- by us, I mean me - more miserable? The fact that neither Black Friday nor Cyber Monday will offer the best prices of the season. So if not to buy now, then when?


-- Monica Yant Kinney


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