I gave at the office

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Bargain-bound shoppers are cashing in on e-tailers' extensive promotions and free-shipping offers to save a few bucks this recession-ridden season. But their employers are footing part of the bill.

According to Nielsen/NetRatings, 48% of the 112.2 million online shopping visits made the week ending Dec. 9 were conducted at work. It's not all bad news for the boss. Analysts say employees could just as easily pass the buck by running offline errands on company time.

"There's stuff you can do from your computer at the workplace, or you could take a long lunch and go to the mall," said Lisa Strand, director and chief analyst at NetRatings.

Added Ken Cassar, senior analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix: "Consumers are going to buy holiday presents whether their companies would like them to or not, and it may well take them a lot less time if they do it from their desk rather than going out to the store on their lunch break."

Many of last year's e-tailers went bust, but the category is still growing. Online holiday retail sales will total $11.9 billion this year, up 11% from $10.8 billion in 2000, according to Jupiter, which says the number of Web shoppers will rise to 46 million from 36 million last year.

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