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

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