Market Overview

Is Cyber Monday a Joke?


Is today a big day for savings, or just a big day for retailers to cash in on gullible consumers?

That depends on where you shop. While (NASDAQ: AMZN) shoppers could get lost in the mountain of discounts being offered today, many corporations are taking advantage of the Cyber Monday hype without offering anything significant in return.

Let's start by looking at Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), which promises consumer savings of up to 50%. By glancing at the list of desktop PCs, laptops, printers and other offerings, you will see two “starting at” price bubbles, and a couple that start with the word “only.” (You know, as if “only” made the price more appealing.) There are just two bubbles – one for desktop PCs and one for printers – that say the words “save up to 50%.”

Unfortunately, consumers are not actually going to save 50%. Upon investigating the Pavilion p7z series, it became apparent that shoppers could receive a $50 instant rebate, a free 6GB memory upgrade valued at $60, and 35% off a 20-inch monitor (savings valued at $60). All told, consumers who go with this package will have “saved” $170 off the sticker price (that is, assuming you wanted the 6GB memory upgrade).

Of course, HP does its best to make this savings – and how to obtain it – as convoluted as possible, with an ordering process that includes a multitude of customizations and add-ons for consumers who are dumb enough to be suckered into buying unnecessary extras.

Sadly, these are the very customers that keep HP in business. Clearly if you're dumb enough to think that HP makes a good PC, you might be willing to buy additional items you don't need. HP is fully aware of this fact, which is why it is doing its best to exploit the weakness of its customers.

Sony's (NYSE: SNE) deals look a bit more tantalizing. With the S Series bundle down to $799.99 from $1,139.97, consumers might think that this is the time to shop. However, Sony computers are often inflated; while this may be the biggest savings thus far, diligent shoppers could find a comparable laptop from Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) for roughly the same price – or less! has a nice thumbnail promoting Nike's (NYSE: NKE) offer of free shipping. But upon visiting the shoemaker's official site, shoppers won't be greeted by a large Cyber Monday savings banner. Rather, they'll see the typical array of shoe images, along with a tiny notice explaining how users can get free shipping on orders totaling or exceeding $175!

Lowe's (NYSE: LOW) might be one of the few bright spots in this Cyber Monday madness. While I don't know enough about home appliances to properly critique Lowe's discounts, the numbers are very convincing.

My favorite deal, however, comes from Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS), which has a brilliant tie-in with MasterCard (NYSE: MA). Those who use their MasterCard to buy a Nook today will receive a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble. This sale is doubly effective. First, it lures consumers into making a Nook purchase as soon as possible. Second, it persuades them to return to after that purchase, inevitably leading to additional purchases. It's brand reinforcement to the extreme.

Still, when you consider what most corporations are doing today, Cyber Monday is quickly losing its status as the Other Black Friday.

Follow me @LouisBedigian


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