Sarah's new laptop.
Best Buy got some angry complaints.
The saga began after Sarah and I ate Thanksgiving lunch and finished watching a very entertaining football game at her house. I was talking to Sarah's mom about the day after Thanksgiving sales. Sarah's mom got the paper and as usual I went for the only thing that ever interests me amongst the pages of the Eau Claire Fishwrap, a.k.a. The Leader Telegram, the Best Buy Ad.
Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, stores have a few items that they all but pay you to take. I wanted to get a new hard drive because my original 120 gig hard drive is full of television shows. I was hoping that Best Buy would have a deal on one. Eureka! Right on the front page was a 120 gig hard drive for $50, quite the deal. Sarah was looking over my shoulder and saw a laptop for $500 and decided, basically on the spot, that she was going to get one. We then saw another item, at a very decent price. I won't identify the item because it is a Christmas present that Audrey (Sarah's mom) wanted for Charlie (Sarah's Dad), and as we all know, he's a big fan of Page 3.
I told Sarah that if she wanted that laptop she should get a wireless router for her house, there was one on the back of the page for $20.
Thus it was decided, Sarah and I would wake up at 4:30 in the freakin' morning and head over to Best Buy.
The next morning we get to Best Buy at about 5 and the line is already from the door along the entire front of the building and wrapped around the corner. I honestly thought there would be maybe 20 people there when we got there, and that most of the people that showed up would be sitting in their car until the doors opened at 6.
Luckily the building was blocking the wind so it wasn't all that cold.
Best Buy had the novel idea to hand out tickets for the "door buster" items (the items that were really cheap) so that people wouldn't need to go nuts when the doors opened.
We got one for the item for Charlie. They weren't, however, handing any out for the hard drive or router, which made me worried. The ladies in front of us were there for a $20 DVD player and a $130 camcorder. They got a ticket for the DVD player but the tickets for the camcorders were gone. We waited around for the guy handing out the tickets for the laptop and soon found out why it was taking so long for him to get around.
The guy would walk about 20 feet at a time and then ask for anyone there for the laptop. Once he got some people gathered around he went over their plan for a "Speed Pass" for 838 dollars you got their lame ass warranty, a bag for the laptop, a mouse, the $500 laptop and could also jump ahead of the "3 hour line for the laptops." He said the '3 hour wait' line so much throughout his routine it I was beginning to think they were going to have just some arbitrary 3 hour wait if you didn't buy the Speed Pass. Sarah said she wasn't interested in the obvious rip off, although oddly enough they couldn't give the Speed Pass out to people fast enough, the guy told Sarah to wait for another guy, who had tickets for the laptops that weren't Speed Passes. Finally that guy got around to us and Sarah told him she didn't want the Speed Pass and he gave her a ticket for the laptop, he then came back about a minute later to try to pitch the deal again. He said she should get the package because it comes with their warranty that will replace her battery that "goes bad every few months and would cost $300 to replace." I've had my laptop 4 years and I'm on my 3rd battery. The first came with it. The second I got while the first battery was under warranty from HP. The Third was $70. After talking to another employee we found out that Norton Antivirus was $50, not bad except we can get it free from the university. The problem was Norton was installed on every computer, making the extra $50 a mandatory charge. After arguing with the guy about how we didn't want it and how they can't do that he said "95% of people will want it" and that "If we didn't want it we couldn't have the computer 'til Tuesday." I was quite pissed after that because yeah most people want antivirus software but that doesn't mean you can just make it mandatory, and it would take about 30 seconds to take it off, not half a week.
At least we knew we were guaranteed to leave there with 2 of the things we came there for.
It was getting near 6 and the doors were about to be opened. Some of the people near the front had tents and sleeping bags and must have brought them to the car because the line compacted. We were suddenly around the corner and it got cold. We huddled with the women in front of us and made it until the doors opened. By that time the line was all the way to the back of Best Buy and out to the road.
When the doors opened we got to witness the bottom rung of society. There was a large group of people out in the parking lot that all but rushed the Best Buy employees who were trying to stop them from cutting. However it was all for not because the people who waited in line had the golden tickets. Since the would be cutters didn't they wouldn't be able to buy anything anyway.
It was a mad house in there. They had all the isles to the right blocked off, to get to the computer section you had to go all the way back to the software. Sarah ran to get in line for her laptop and I went to get everything else we were there for. There was no one gunning for the hard drives or routers so I snagged those and went to get the other item. They had different sections with special checkouts for their "door buster" items. The item I wanted and the $130 camcorder were together back in the speaker room. I took my spot in the new, relatively short, line. Not too far ahead of me was one of the women who was in front of Sarah and me outside. She asked for a camcorder and they gave it to her. I then realized that they weren't even checking to see if you had a ticket. In fact not only were they not checking for tickets some people, who didn't have a ticket, were getting 3 - 4 of the camcorders or item I was there for. I got worried because I was buying a wireless router for Sarah and if she didn't get a laptop we had little use for it.
Turns out that you had to check out the "door buster" items right there. Someone said they had other stuff to go get and the Best Buy employees said it didn't matter. I asked if I could check out other stuff here and they said no. So then I said "So I can't get a _____ then?" and they didn't hear, or ignored, me. Other people who had other stuff got worried because they had other items too and were being told they could only check out the 2 "door buster" items. A minute or two later I asked again "So I can't get a _____?" They asked if I had a ticket, officially making me the first person asked. I said, "Yeah, but I have these other things too." and the female employee said "Well you can check those out here too." A collective group eye roll followed. The employees were trying to upsell tapes and batteries for the camcorder and stuff for the item I had. They were pretty good deals but I wasn't authorized to spend anything more. Well it turns out the items they were upselling were ringing up as twice what they claimed they were. Unfortunately it wasn't until about the 25th person that anyone noticed. They ran out of the camcorders about 10 minutes after the doors were opened. There were a lot of pissed off people that had a ticket for the camcorder who, like me, were under the impression that a ticket guaranteed you an item. Not long after I checked out my items I went to find Sarah.
When I weaved my way up to her she was about 10th in the line to pay for the laptops. Turns out her laptop also had a free printer with it. Sarah told me that the employee handing out the items actually remembered her from outside and told her that she should get the Norton thing because it also came with some software that "Automatically downloads and installs windows updates." (Which you can have windows do in about 4 clicks, assuming it's not turned on already.) Sarah refused to get it. While she was telling me this the guy ahead of her also said he couldn't believe the fact that they just added Norton on like that. I mean you aren't talking adding $50 onto a $3500 Alienware laptop, you are talking about adding 10% of the cost. At any rate it has to be illegal. Sarah got to the register and told the cashier she didn't want Norton. The cashier got the techie, who wasn't doing anything, and he said Sarah could have it Monday. On our way out of the store I noticed he was already opening her box. I wouldn't be surprised Norton was uninstalled by the time we got to the car.
By the way, the total time we were in the store: 45 minutes.
The tickets were a great idea except they were handing them out to people who weren't sure whether or not they even wanted the items. Add to that the fact that they paid no attention to the tickets and a great idea went south fast.
All in all we made a pretty good haul.
- Jeremy Lindgren might write a letter to Consumer Affairs