Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Black Friday Horror Story [ACCU BLOG]

Here, unchanged from the original email sent to friends and family in November 2003, is my report on the horror of visiting Best Buy in State College, PA on Black Friday [WikiPedia]. This, combined with some of the rebates being refused by the manufacturers, led me to never participate in Black Friday Early sales again. If you read closely you'll note that I got in line at 4:30 AM and my purchase was completed at 1:30 PM -- I spent 9 hours standing in line at the same store, or would have, had I not had the forethought to run some errands inbetween (which amazingly didn't lose me my place in line).

See also the report on my 2006 Black Friday experience which was much better.

I arrived at Best Buy at 4:30 a.m. There were already 30 people in line! I stood in line for an hour and a half in the cold (it started raining at the end) for the store to open at 6. Fortunately a couple friends from work were in the line with me so we talked. Meanwhile several hundred people got in line behind us, in fact the line wrapped around almost the entire outside of the store by the time it opened. The employees came outside and gave out coffee and donuts, then they gave out tickets (for the big ticket items such as TV's and computers) to people until they ran out. That way, you could come back later with the ticket to claim the item, as long as it was before noon, when the sale ended.

I got my ticket for the computer I wanted but the people ahead of me grabbed most of the best deals as soon as they ran in. The employees didn't seem to know where the sale items were so they were not of much help (way to plan ahead!). I stood in a brief line to get a couple items, one of which would turn out was not a sale item, but everyone was grabbing it because they thought it might be. I later returned it.


Holiday shoppers wait in line for Best Buy to open early Friday, Nov. 28, 2003, in Little Rock, Ark., marking the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. (AP Photo/Mike Wintroath)

At 6:15 I went to Circuit City, which had just opened. My friend Chris had left Best Buy after he got his ticket and grabbed some things at Circuit City, one of which was something I wanted, which he relinquished to me when he arrived. There were several hundred people inside and I waited in line for about 30 minutes there to get the item Chris had picked up, and some CD's that were on sale for $9.99.

At 6:45 I went back to Best Buy to see how long the lines were for picking up your computer. However the fire marshall had blocked the entrance because there were too many people inside, more than the building code would allow, and there were about 50 people in line waiting to get it. So I decided to drive across town to Office Max which had a few good deals. I arrived there shortly after they opened (at 7). Most of the good deals were gone and the line for the registers spanned 3/4 of the length of inside of the store, so I drove to Target.

When I arrived at the bypass exit at 7:20, so many people were trying to get to the stores that the exit was backed up all the way down the entrance ramp and onto the bypass. I got to Target, which was not half as busy as the other stores (because they didn't have any good deals) and grabbed a couple things there.

I then went to Best Buy at 7:45, where I had to wait 30 minutes for my number to be called to GET in line for the computers purchases. While I waited for this, interestingly enough, I found that several of the big sale items which were gone at 6, had been put back by employees or customers, or new stashes had been located, and I was able to pick up several items. After 30 minutes of waiting in the computer line, I realized the computer line was not moving and was getting neither shorter NOR longer so I switched to the longer, but faster moving, non-computer register line (so I take all the stuff I was holding out to the car and wouldn't have to drag it along with me in the computer line). This new line ran the length of the store, then half of its width, then ran up and down 4 rows of products. There were more than 100 people in the line but it only took an hour to traverse.

I then took the items out to my car and got back in the computer line, which had only moved about 5 feet and I got in line behind the same person that I had left before (there were only 30 people in the whole line). This was about 9:30 am. At one point, the national Best Buy network and database had slowed to a crawl and was only able to check out one computer customer from each store every 45 minutes. Most of the employees were just sitting around not doing anything, because the computers were not responding. This made the customers furious and several people gave up and left the lines. (I later found out this was MSN's fault, whose network was overwhelmed with mandatory signups from Best Buy computers). My legs started to hurt so I spent some of the time sitting on the floor in line, reading the news on my PocketPC.

I remained in this line until 12:00pm, after which the sale was over. At that point the employees graciously gave us documents which indicated that we were still in line at 12:00. I was within feet of the register shortly after noon when there was a quick flash and the power went out on our side of the city (reportedly due to overuse). Everything was dark for a moment and I considered lurching for the door which my purchase, when I realized I was holding only a ticket. The store's generators came on for about 15 minutes until power was restored. This power outage slowed things down even further because all the computers had to reboot. At 1:30pm, I was finally given my computer and checked out.

All in all, I waited 7 hours to obtain my Best Buy purchases, 5 hours in one line. Upon getting home and sitting in my chair to relax, I developed a very painful charlie horse due to the long standing time, and I am still limping today. Was it all worth it? At around 9 that morning I thought it was, but by 1:30 I wasn't sure.

In any case, this is what I ended up with. The price shown is after rebate, the price in parentheses was the original price.

- Emachines 2.6ghz / 80gb / 256mb RAM Computer - $199 ($499)
- 14" Flat-Screen Monitor - $99 ($249)
- Motoral SB5100 Cable Modem - $39 ($89)
- Maxtor 120GB Hard Drive - $49 ($149)
- Simpsons Season 1 Dvd - $11 ($39)
- Various CDs 30% Off

Black Friday 2006 A Success [ACCU BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [ Community] blog at ( now ) but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.

My Black Friday [WikiPedia] experience this year was pretty good, when compared to past experiences. I decided after my horror story in 2003 that I wouldn't go extremely early again. Back then, I had less money, needed more computers and monitors than I do now and you could really get some killer deals. These days, the deals aren't a lot better than you can get from Dell and I have amassed enough computing electronics to feel comfortable in my home office. I've also decided that selling some of my old stuff on Ebay is the better way to get more money for buying inexpensive new stuff that isn't sold on Black Friday.


The line to get into the Best Buy store in Warwick, R.I., wraps around the building as holiday shoppers turned out early for Black Friday deals, Friday, Nov. 24, 2006. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Anyway, this year went very smoothly, as I had alluded to before, thanks to I have always found myself gravitating to Best Buy for some reason. They have always seemed to have the best deals and gimmicks on electronics and I've shopped there fairly frequently for major items since they opened here in State College in the early 2000's. Our family's TV, arguably the most important appliance in the house, was purchased there in 2002. This year (and to a certain extent last year) Best Buy decided to do what no other local stores were doing -- making their Black Friday items available for purchase on, and they even started at midnight on Thursday. Now, they held a handful of items back for store-only, fearing e-commerce might reduce their local hype. But no biggee -- I wasn't shopping for any of those things and 2003's experience taught me that waiting in lines in the physical store wasn't worth it. So Thanksgiving morning I got up and purchased, at great discount, just what I needed this year on (these are still for sale by the way on Saturday, but some have sold out):

- Westinghouse 19" LCD HDTV Television / Monitor (Reg. $399, Sale $199)
- Curtis 7" Widescreen 7" LCD TV (Reg. $149, Sale $89)
- Seinfeld Seasons 5-6 (Reg. $99, Sale $29)
- SanDisk 2GB Secure Digital Memory Card (Reg. $99, Sale $29)
- SanDisk Cruzer Micro 2GB USB Flash Drive (Reg. $99, Sale $29)

The first was the key purchase for me. My home office lacks a television, for all intents and purposes. Although my main computer has Windows Media Center to display a TV signal, though I don't use it all that often due to the complication of fitting it on the screen, or because I have WM already recording two channels at the same time. I refuse to turn on any of the tube TVs that I have due to heat generation -- I swore I'd go all flat-screen to reduce heat in My New House. So since I have moved in, I've felt a bit lost -- what could be going on in the outside world that I might be missing?

After reviewing capabilities of several flat-screen TVs, I decided I had to have PIP (Picture-in-Picture) capability so that I could monitor more than one channel, or display both a PC screen and TV screen (like I do with the much-more-expensive Dell TV I have at work). I also wanted an HD-ready TV for the day when HD really takes over (which I have been promised since 1995) and because the digital TVs now have pretty nasty looking displays. So, in summary, this unit has everything I need: VGA inputs, PIP, and HD capabilities.

I also ventured out around 8 AM Friday (as noted, on ice) with my stepdaughter to find some DVD deals. At that time of morning, the initial rush was over (most stores here opened at 5 AM this year, vs. 6 last year). Target (where I purchased Simpsons Season 8 DVD at 60% off but missed Family Guy Season 3) was crowded but had a quick checkout. Wal-Mart was actually kind of dead, except for Electronics. A quick checkout there too, to grab a few discount movie DVDs. Circuit City was the big offender. Just like last year, they had some great deals on DVDs but each checkout line contained at least 50 people when we walked in. Since, unlike Best Buy, they don't put their deals online, we walked right back out, as I'm sure did many of their potential customers. We did visit later at 2 PM when the lines were better and purchased some notable DVD deals (Northern Exposure Seasons 1-2 for me, for $13 vs. regular price of $99, Charmed Season 3 for my wife ($18 vs. $39) and Super Mario Soccer Gamecube for my stepdaughter for 50% off).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving, Black Friday Musings [ACCU BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [ Community] blog at ( now ) but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.

We're about to head to my mother-in-laws for Thanksgiving Dinner (Lunch), a yearly tradition (she lives only 25 miles away). But before I start thinking about how satisfying that turkey, gravy and potatoes will be, a couple of observations:

This morning, I bought everything I wanted from Best Buy's Black Friday sale online (hats off to them). So they'll be no getting up at 3 AM to stand in line this year.

- Several years ago, I stood in line for 7 hours on Black Friday at Best Buy. I didn't write a blog then but I emailed the story to several folks, I'll see if I can find it and post it here.

- I am out of the office until Tuesday but I will continue to blog. More details on all of these points later.

- Enjoy your Thanksgiving, eat some good food with friends and family.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

O.T.: All Out of Candy [ACCU BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [ Community] blog at ( now ) but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.

So just quickly this morning, a few observations about last night's Halloween trick-or-treating, from me as a candy-giver and via stories from my wife and stepdaughter as candy receivers.

In the "when I was a kid" department... do you remember when...

- People never gave out fruit because the "PC" [WikiPedia] revolution hadn't started yet...
- People gave out fruit because they were trying to be PC
- People put razors in apples,* thus stopping the fruit frenzy
- People gave out unwrapped or home-made treats (now a no-no)

* says these rumors were untrue, even though the pre-internet media spread them and for a while you could have your candy x-rayed in hospitals.

Kids these days expect candy, period, especially chocolate, and lots of it. And I don't blame them. It hasn't been that long ago since I wanted the same thing (and I still do). I like to give out handfuls of candy, though I had to trim that idea last night when, after 60 or so kids, most of my supply had dwindled. And it was funny, you could tell who had run out of candy on my stepdaughter's route -- anybody giving any of this stuff has ditched the empty cauldron and headed for the cupboards (I kid you not, she really got this stuff):

- Pretzels
- Pencils
- Cans of Soda

Well, I was about to break into the 100-Calorie-Packs and Granola Bars myself.

A Ghostly Face Was Captured By
NASA's Aqua Satellite 10/29/06

As predicted, the rain held off here in Central Pennsylvania until the end of the evening, and even then was very light. The wind was the worse villain, causing me to re-light my pumpkins about 50 times.

So I went to Wal-Mart this morning to get the cheap candy, an annual tradition here at work. You can can see "Jesse's Cauldron Of Candy" to my left on the J-CAM this morning. Actually that's one of two cauldrons; the other has been donated to the other side of the New Media department here at AccuWeather.

Interesting tidbit -- back in 2001, I stopped by Giant Foods on Atherton Street here in town, to buy some cheap candy. Several months later, the FBI called -- they had subpoenaed credit card records from Giant because Cindy Song had disappeared in that area. They asked me if I had seen anything; I had not. (This year, I used cash).