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      Local online businesses see Cyber Monday bounce

      For all those who didn't wait in line on Black Friday, and prefer the comfort of their living room, retailers are offering big online discounts.

      The Monday after Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday, is seen as the start of the online holiday shopping season. Although It's not the biggest online shopping day of the year - that usually comes when it gets closer to the holidays - it's a day many shoppers start ordering online, usually from their desks when they return to work.

      The name was coined in 2005 to describe the unofficial kickoff to the online retail season. After Black Friday, retailers are continuing to offer deep discounts - as much as 70 percent - to try and bring back reluctant shoppers.

      '50 percent better than last year'

      Local online businesses are feeling the impact of this year's Cyber Monday.

      "We've done about 50 percent better than we did last year at this time," said Chris Force, with Home Movie Depot, an Ashland online company that edits home movies.

      And Terri Gibbon, who specializes in making soy candles said her online sales are up by 10-15 percent.

      "The hits on the Web site have increased by 50 percent," said Gibbon, owner of Creative Scents by Drue in Jefferson City. "[It] is just overwhelming, I didn't expect that at all."

      'The biggest sales event ever'

      As shoppers go online looking for good deals, retailers are pulling out all the stops. On Target's Web site, the company says they're offering "The biggest sales event ever" along with free shipping on over 60,000 items.

      The discounts do seem to be working. The day after Thanksgiving sales shot up by 3 percent - but then slowed over the weekend. Analysts say consumers are waiting for stores to come out with good deals before they'll open their wallets.

      Despite early sales, this shopping season is predicted to be the worst in almost two decades. As for Gibbon and Force, they're just hoping their online sales bounce isn't limited to one day.

      Consumer Tips

      The attorney general's office warned online shoppers to use caution when shopping online, the same way they would in traditional retail outlets.

      "The convenience of online shopping certainly is a great draw during the holiday season," said Gov.-elect Jay Nixon. "Consumers need to take many things into consideration, however, so that their online shopping experiences are positive."

      The attorney general's office offered several suggestions to online shoppers:

      • Shop at retailers that are known or recommended.
      • Compare prices and offers at multiple Web sites; many online merchants offer free or low-priced shipping.
      • Search online for coupons and rebates; many online retailers will ask for coupon codes at checkout, offering anything from discounts to free shipping.
      • Understand fully what you're buying. Get a complete description of the item and parts included, and the price, including shipping, delivery time, warranty information, return policy and complaint procedure.
      • Double-check your order before clicking the purchase button; make sure they quantity and total price are correct.
      • Pay by credit card to have a better chance of disputing the charges if necessary. Use a secure Web browser, which uses an address that starts with "https" rather than "http." Look for the picture of a locked padlock in the lower-right corner of your browser.
      • Print out your purchase order with confirmation number.
      • Most online retailers list a toll-free number that enables you to pay by credit card over the phone. Make not of the time and date of the purchase, product information and order number. Document the name of the person who takes you credit card number.
      • If you buy goods on an online auction Web site, consider protecting yourself by using a service that will hold your payment in escrow until you're satisfied with your purchase.
      • Just like a traditional store, each online retailer has a return and refund policy. Find out what the policy is before buying.
      • Be aware that if you make online purchases, your electronic mailbox often will receive more commercial e-mails. Consumers can check the privacy policies of the retailers to see whether they can opt out of receiving such e-mails or having their information shared with third parties.