Online shopping

Cyber Monday hangover

November 27, 2012 

A good way to tell how much online shopping someone does is to ask, “What is your three-or-four-digit credit card security code?”

I frequently forget my parents’ birthdays, the president who came after Chester A. Arthur and the words of “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” but never my three-digit security code. Those simple numbers are engraved on my heart. I need them to buy things.

But that is all right, because this is what America demands.

Especially on Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday earned its name from the traditional principle that the office is a place where you go to complete your online shopping in relative peace and comfort. At home, your family occasionally demands attention and affection – or, if you are of Scandinavian stock, a respectful nod from a distance and a check for a small amount. But at the office, you are unfettered by such demands and can surf the metaphorical aisles to your heart’s content.

Cyber Monday, in other words, is a day dedicated to the noble practice of shopping online when you should be doing something else.

If life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, work is what eventually happens after you’ve rapidly minimized all the other windows.

And thanks to our generally lax attitude towards privacy, online shopping provides a window that goes both ways. When we peer into the store window, the store window peers also into us. And what it sees haunts us, if we have forgotten to disable cookies.

These days, if you want to know a person, just look at the e-mails he or she gets from online retailers.

On Cyber Monday, like most mornings, I awaken and delete 11 or 12 unopened e-mails offering me Unprecedented Quickly Vanishing Deals on Things You Might Enjoy.

Sometimes I wonder what happens to these Unprecedented Vanishing Deals. They are always going somewhere. But where, exactly? I am not sure. These offers are here for a limited time only, like mayflies and young love. What happens to a deal when it is off? Where do the discounts disappear to?

Who can say? As I think they say in “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” “Ours not to reason why. Ours but to buy and buy.” Or something.

Petri is a columnist and blogger for The Washington Post.

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