Scenes from a line

I went to Wal-Mart on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. hoping there wouldn’t be too bad of a line for the midnight Wii sale, but there were at least 25 people and the store only had 20 systems. Even though it’s a 24-hour store, they made people wait outside. Which I understand, but that’s chilly. I called all a bunch of other area Wal-Marts, and they had all either sold out (I assume done the voucher thing already) or had long lines that would sell out.

So I got up at 6:30 this morning and headed over to Circuit City, with a stop at Best Buy on the way (the line there looked a lot longer than CC’s). I was about the 20th in line, and the guy ahead of me had talked to some CC workers this week who said they were getting 21 units in. So I was cool. Then we heard from some spouses of CC line-waiters who were in the Best Buy line that there were 130 Wiis over there and they’d be giving out vouchers at 8 a.m. (Best Buy opened at 9, CC at 10.) One guy from our line left to go to Best Buy, and called back that there were vouchers left. So at least one other bolted too. I should have gone, but didn’t want to give up my theoretically safe spot just to save an hour. It turned out to be more like 80 systems at Best Buy, I think.

A couple Circuit City workers said on their way in that the store’s shipment hadn’t even come yet. Maybe they’d get 21, maybe not — maybe nothing until Monday. Grrr. So the minutes tick by with no official word. Someone called the store and talked to the manager, who confirmed that the shipment wasn’t in, but said the truck usually comes between noon and one. You’re killing me, here! By 9:30, still no further word from inside. Meanwhile cars had come through the parking lot with people honking and holding up their Best Buy Wiis. Not just kids, either — some idiot 35ish guy too. Finally at like 9:45 a big Enterprise rental truck pulls around. A couple minutes later the manager came out wheeling a cart. He said he didn’t know how many they had, but he’d let us know soon — and meanwhile have some free coffee and donuts. So that was nice.

They turned out to have 24. So I got one! I was ready to curse Circuit City for such a sloppy, tight-lipped job, but no! Huzzah for Circuit City!

(Line story interlude: One of the guys who was in my Wii line for a little while — before bolting to Best Buy, getting one there, and coming back for accessories — marveled at the fact that everyone was voluntarily standing in such long lines for a toy. He was laughing comparing it to having grown up in the Communist Bloc, where people had to wait in line for food and gas. He told us about waiting for hours with his motorbike to get enough gas so he wouldn’t have to walk the six miles to school in Poland — at age 10.)

Seriously though. Why can’t every chain come up with a sound policy for this sort of thing? One of the guys in line had come from Kmart, where he was eighth in line and the store had eight systems. But for some reason the store gave them out by lottery, so he was the only to miss out even though someone who got there after him got one. And it’s weird, given the intricate tracking and real-time RFID monitoring that stores can do of their inventory nowadays, that CC didn’t know how many units were coming. Ah well, now all the new game systems are out and they don’t have to deal with this again for a while.

I’ll have thoughts on playing the Wii soon. Meanwhile, did anyone else pick up a Wii or PS3 this weekend?

— November 19, 2006

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