A Simple Purchase

So yeah, I had the misfortune of going out to buy a few items at around noon on Black Friday. I wanted a new DVD-ROM drive for the PC I use at my weekend job — the old drive I slapped in there doesn’t handle new DVDs well. And I also wanted a better HDTV antenna — the one I currently use at work is only good when you find its sweet spot, which is hard because that spot changes every damn weekend (usually 5 minutes before the football game starts). And I wanted to buy a VCR, because, as my roommate said, a tape “got stuck” in the old one.

Not one to watch the morning news, I went on a leisurely drive to the Best Buy store in Delaware. I go there not because of the tax-free shopping, but because it’s the closest electronics store to West Chester (unless you count Radio Shack. I don’t.). There are also a few other major electronics stores close to the Best Buy, which makes things easier in case Best Buy doesn’t have what I want.

I expected this trip to be like all the others — I stroll into the store and grab what I want, ignore the salesperson trying to sell me $110 gold-plated Monster cables for “the most crisp VHS video,” swipe my plastic in check-out while saying “no” to their AOL/magazine/Netflix subscription offers, and then get t.f. out of there.

What I found, of course, was a totally different experience. The entire parking lot was packed on all sides of the store. Even in the back, where they service cars and take deliveries, there were rows upon rows of cars and some people even parked in-between cargo trailers. Once I did find a spot and went into the store, the place was so crowded you could hardly browse. The check-out line wrapped all the way through the home appliance and furniture aisles, ending in Car Audio in the back corner of the store. There were rope lines set up to enter departments such as digital photography.

The Returns section was also packed with people, with the line almost half as long as the checkout line. Some sanity must’ve seeped into these people in the parking lot, their pack mentality instantly morphing into buyer’s remorse. That line wasn’t moving — the company obviously hoped some percentage of these people would give up and just live with whatever they bought.

Back in the tube TV section, I overheard a woman complaining to her husband that one 25-inch television looked larger than another 25-inch television. Even as a bystander, I was very irritated by her ignorance. I stepped in and told her that the casing and base made one TV look larger than the other, but that they were indeed both 25″ TVs. She looked me up and down and said “you work here?” I informed her that yes, I worked there — I was emergency staff. I tapped the phone on my belt and said the manager had called me in to deal with the crowd. Once the couple looked satisfied with my answer, I walked away before they could ask something else.

So I blew that joint, and went to a store I was sure people wouldn’t be as enthusiastic to shop at: Circuit City. I don’t know about your neighborhood branch, but the one near my day jobalways seems to be empty. And maybe it’s just me, but their sales associates never seem happy either. It must be the fire-engine red uniforms, or the fact that they’re not working at a fun place like Best Buy.

(Circuit City employees are always ready with a bunch of reasons why they’re better — Best Buy has strict quotas, the managers act like slave-drivers, blah, blah, blah. But it always boils down to the same thing: Circuit City is better to work at because their stores are always empty.)

Anyway, when I drove to Circuit City, they had some teenage employee directing overflow parking into a nearby lot. I thought to myself, god-dammit, Circuit City is getting Best Buy’s sloppy seconds. So I did a uuey out of there too.

So then I went to a place that I knew wouldn’t be swamped: CompUSA. That store used to be a techie mecca back in the day. But now, with so many other, more entertaining stores around, the place looks downright bleak. You see, while Best Buy was busy riding the wave of convergence between computers and consumer electronics, CompUSA was still devoting floor space to those shitty Packard Bell computers that they sold to your parents while you were away at school and couldn’t stop them. They have a few televisions set up now, but they have neither the floor space nor the expertise to really sell them on par with the other chains. I only go there when I need something very specific — a power supply or IDE cable — and don’t feel like ordering it online and waiting.

As expected, I sped into the CompUSA lot and there were four open parking spaces right in front of the store entrance. I went in and was pleased to see that most of the aisles were clear of shoppers. Even the check-out lines were only three or four people deep.

But alas, I’d gone there mostly for nostalgia; CompUSA didn’t have a any selection of video players or HDTV antennas, so I left empty-handed. I ended up going to another Circuit City in Pennsylvania — you know, the empty one near my day job with the frowning employees. I figured that since King of Prussia Mall — the largest indoor mall on the east coast — was nearby, along with its own Best Buy, the pack would be diverted there and this particular Circuit City would see only modest gains in traffic. I was right. And while I can’t say the same for the employees, Isure left there happy.

Overheard: Both Best Buy and Circuit City were sold out of PS2 consoles by mid-day. Can somebody explain that one? Didn’t those shoppers know that the PS3 is going to be announced within 6 months?


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