Festive shoppers move online - but at their peril

The thing about plod-around shopping is not just that it is a vile waste of time. It also squeezes the merry little pips out of the whole Christmas celebration. So those who, like me, have an almost pathological hatred of shops take to this online malarky with eagerness and relief.

The surveys suggest that tens of thousands of people are clicking their way to Christmas this year — many, many more than last year.

It is tricky to offer personal experience of the busy-ness of the online shopping because its whole attraction is based on the fact you avoid being corralled into confined spaces with other beings. But one or two personal experiences suggest that the web wires are buzzing loudly.

First, quite a few of the popular — and/or vigorously promoted — prezzies were sold out by the second week of December.

More intriguingly, Amazon felt able to raise the prices of a whole raft of books and CDs I had selected one day but only got around to ordering three days later. Users of budget airlines will be familiar with airlines’ practice of raising prices as D-Day approaches. It is a practice that encourages early bird buying, of course. But it works only if custom is plentiful. It is also cheeky.

In addition, it suggests that retailers are acutely aware of the need to deliver on time. If the presents do not get to the doorstep, there will be great disappointment and anger.

Some of the gifts for dear Mrs Cole, and the three Cole minors are already under the tree. But I may be able to report that it has been a truly busy online Christmas only if the other stuff remains suspended, more virtual than actual, in cyberspace.

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