Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to Buy Four Nintendo Wii Systems In Just Four Weeks, Finale

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it turns blue when i push the power button

Last Time: Epic Battle

January 30, 2008, 8:30a.m.

Only 24 hours remained until my deadline for finding those last three Wii systems. After that, the anime convention I worked for would have to rent them instead—at nearly full retail price for just one week’s rental period. I was determined not to let that happen, but the single Wii I had procured so far simply sat in the corner of my living room and laughed at me.

“What the matter, Nick?” said the Wii. “Can’t find me any friends? Why don’t you give up and go back to playing with your own Wii? Loser!”

As tempted as I was to throw that Wii through a window, I realized that would have set my count back at zero once again. Instead, I decided it was time to kick the search into high gear.

January 30, 2008, 10:30a.m.

Two hours later, I had finished programming the numbers for every EBGames, GameStop, Best Buy, Circuit City, and every other potential sellers of Wii into my phone. I programmed them in order of distance from my home, out to a radius of 12 miles. I even put together a cute little map with push-pins and concentric circles that would cause any stranger on the street to think I was hunting down a serial killer. In a way, I was; only the killer was not one of people but one of every second of my free time.

I started a round of phone calls after a quick lunch break. I got about halfway through the list with no success when suddenly I started getting answers like “Yup, we’ve got one in stock” or “We have a few left.” In fact, I received three such answers. I could get this quest done today with a little luck.

I managed to convince each of the three stores to hold one Wii system for an hour in my name, but it wasn’t until I consulted the push-pin map that I realized it would take me 52 minutes just to drive between all of them. I realized I needed some help, so I whipped out my little black book and started calling people who owed me favors over the years. About 10 minutes later, I realized I had been using the Yellow Pages section for “chiropractors” instead of my little black book, but my posture had improved 20% just from speaking with them.

Realizing I was on my own for this one, I ran to the car and set course for the nearest store.

January 30, 2008, 12:15p.m.

Picking up the first two Wii systems was rather anti-climactic, unless you consider the armed robbery taking place at the first one and the unexpected crossover with the cast of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit to be climactic. Regardless, I had Wii systems #2 and #3, and the only store left in the area with one in stock was at a shopping mall just one traffic light away.

As I entered the mall parking lot, I was faced with turning left—a route I was vaguely familiar with from the single time I had been to this mall—or going right. Choosing familiarity over my gut instinct, I went left and parked in front of a JCPenney department store. As I madly dashed through the first floor’s maternity section, I glanced at my watch and calculated that my hour-long hold time would expire in seven minutes. “Plenty of time,” I said aloud.

Inside the mall proper, I located a directory map to confirm my suspected location of the mall’s videogame store as one level directly above my current location. I found the “You Are Here” sticker immediately, and the map listing for the game store under the “Entertainment” category placed it in location D5. I was right—D5 was one level up from me… on the far end of the mall.

With six minutes left, I began to calculate just how long it would take me to climb the stares and run the entire length of the mall. Since the map had no scale, I had to extrapolate one by estimating the size of the nearby Hallmark storefront and comparing it to the store’s representation on the map. By my estimate, the Hallmark store measured 25 feet while its picture was an inch. The “You Are Here” and “D5” looked to be about 34 inches apart, so that meant I’d have about 850 feet (plus the height of the stairs) to travel. I guessed that I could run 500 feet a minute, but when I glanced at my watch and realized I had spent the last five minutes and 50 seconds doing math, I determined that I would need to average a distance of 850 feet in ten seconds to make in there on time.

So I did that (more or less) and threw myself onto the counter of the videogame store in D5. Out of breath and unable to spout even a single word to help the clerk identify my purpose, I simply motioned toward my crotch.

“Oh!” he exclaimed. “You want a Wii. Yeah, we have plenty left.”

“I’m… huff… sorry?”

“Yeah, we got a shipment of 30 today and only sold two of them so far. How many do you want?”

Epilogue

After that day, the Wii became much easier to find. While that store in the mall sold all 30 of its units by that evening, Amazon.com finally had them back in stock shortly after. The anime convention’s treasurer kindly informed me that he saw plenty of them in stock at a Wal-Mart the following week, but he was unable to find even one Xbox 360 due to new supply problems from Microsoft.

As for me, I haven’t played 10 seconds of any videogames whatsoever since the ordeal ended. But now that this story has been told, I think I’ll be able to get back to playing with my Wii sometime soon.

And if you want a dirty joke out of that last line, you’re out of luck because I’m giving up on the Wii puns (and the big puns too).

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

How to Buy Four Nintendo Wii Systems In Just Four Weeks, Part 4

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

you will have a ball with this next part of the saga

Last Time: Shading Dealings

January 18, 2008

It seems my internetting diligence has finally paid off; word on the e-street is that GameStop is getting another shipment of Wii systems today. Some stores will receive as few as three units, while others may get 15 or more. I wake up early to start calling stores, but these efforts prove futile as GameStop’s Wii shipments come via UPS during the day. I’m tempted to set up an automated dialer to call every GameStop in the area with the following recorded message:

Hi, you’re being called by Nick, a guy who really needs three more Nintendo Wii systems by the end of the month. If your store currently has a Wii in stock, please press 1. Otherwise, please stay on the line until you have one.

Fortunately I don’t need to go that far because a mid-morning call to a GameStop just two miles away reveals that they’ve just received a shipment… of three.

January 18, 2008, 11:25 a.m.

Telling my boss that I needed to sneak out for an hour to “take a Wii” probably confused him enough that he won’t even realize I’m gone. It only takes me 10 minutes to get to the GameStop after I find out they have Wii units in stock. Unfortunately the store refused to hold one for me for even 15 minutes, but I’m sure my town doesn’t mind me testing out its new red-light and speed cameras as much as I did to get here.

I dash from my parking spot into the GameStop, narrowly avoiding a collision with a grocery delivery truck (luckily it was parked, so I had the advantage). I run up to the counter, catch the eye of the mid-20s clerk, and ask, “Do you have any Wii systems in stock?” I wince as I hear what I hope is the echo of my own voice, but alas it is another customer asking the same question at the same time. I turn and see a gorgeous young Japanese woman in a short white dress (it’s 40 degrees outside) opening her sequined purse.

Miss Hottie Japanese Girl: I’ll give you 20 dollars above retail for it.
Me: Wha? Huh? Abup…
Mr. GameStop Clerk: Sorry, we can’t sell it above retail price.
Miss Hottie Japanese Girl: Then how will you decide who gets it?

Crap, I think to myself. A mid-20s guy has to pick between pleasing another mid-20s guy or an extremely attractive girl in a slinky outfit. I get ready to walk out the door.

Mr. GameStop Clerk: Well, I suppose we could have a contest.
Me: A contest?
Mr. GameStop Clerk: Yeah, to see who wants it more.
Miss Hottie Japanese Girl: What sort of contest?
Mr. GameStop Clerk: Well, how about…

…the most massive one-on-one videogaming tournament you’ve ever seen, featuring a trip through gaming history with 23 stops along the way! First we’ll travel back to 1986 where you will each play through the Sega Master System’s Fantasy Zone to completion, with 65 points being awarded to the highest scorer. Then we’ll move on to a grueling six-hour Duck Hunt marathon on the NES, followed by a best-of-30 Mortal Kombat tournament for the ages! And then…

Me: How about we just play best-of-five Wii Tennis on the display over there?
Miss Hottie Japanese Girl: Okay!

January 18, 2008, 11:55 a.m.

Before long, the Wii Tennis match between me and the really hot Japanese girl is tied at two games apiece, and I currently have the advantage in the final game. All I need to do is slam this next serve into her court and that Wii is mine!

I flick the Wii remote above my head and time it perfectly so I hit her with a power serve. But as I’m about to bring the remote down, my cell phone rings, throwing off my timing and giving her a serve she easily returns in my back court. Now we’re at Deuce #3.

I answer my phone. It’s my boss.

Mr. Boss: Er, um, Nick, what exactly did you mean by “taking a Wii?” You know our company has a strict policy against sexual encounters during work hours, homosexual or otherwise.
Me: Oh, uh. Sorry, Boss. Don’t worry, it’s nothing like that.
Miss Hottie Japanese Girl: Will you hurry up? I want that Wii already!
Me: Shhh!
Mr. Boss: Uh… if you say so. I hope she’s pretty at least!
Me: Yeah, she i—er, I mean… I’ll be back in 20 minutes. *click*

I turn to my opponent and glare.

Me: You’re going down, missie.
Miss Hottie Japanese Girl: Tee hee. I haven’t even used my secret weapon yet!

About five minutes and six more deuces later, she has the advantage. I suspect I’m finally starting to wear her down, but I need to be careful because I’m just one point away from losing. I lean back, flick the Wii remote in the air, and smash a power serve her way. She sees it coming but barely manages to return it. The ball floats gently toward me. I see an opening and get ready to send it there. Then suddenly…

Miss Hottie Japanese Girl: Oh no! My dress has fallen off!

I try not to lose my concentration, but my opponent has found my one weakness. Instead of timing my return perfectly, I end up spinning around, tripping over my own feet, and stumbling head-first into a nearby shelf.

Mr. GameStop Clerk: The winner is… Miss Hottie Japanese Girl!
Miss Hottie Japanese Girl: I win! I win!
Me: That’s so cheating! You weren’t even naked!
Miss Hottie Japanese Girl: Ha, you wish. Now where’s my Wii?
Mr. GameStop Clerk: Coming right up!

I follow the Japanese girl to the counter, hoping the clerk will find a second Wii miraculously while searching for hers. Instead…

Mr. GameStop Clerk: Hey, where’s the Wii I had up here?
Mr. GameStop Assistant Clerk: You mean the one I sold to that kid 10 minutes ago?
Me and Miss Hottie Japanese Girl and Mr. GameStop Clerk: You WHAT???
Mr. GameStop Assistant Clerk: Yeah, he came in and picked it up while you all were over at the Wii station.

I laugh to myself a little bit, disappointed that today would be another Wii-less day, but satisfied that my new arch-nemesis would be walking away empty-handed too. Speaking of her, she glares violently at the clerk who’s been serving us, walks toward the door, but turns around before leaving and glares at him again.

Miss Hottie Japanese Girl: And I was going to sleep with you if I got that Wii!
Mr. GameStop Clerk: Oh wait, I just remembered we have another one in the back. Why don’t you follow me… back there… and we can look for it together?
Miss Hottie Japanese Girl: Tee hee! Sure!

And so off they go to the back room. I look at the assistant clerk.

Mr. GameStop Assistant Clerk: You’re gonna blog about this, aren’t you?
Me: You betcha. But instead of writing about how it really ended—with me getting here five minutes after the last Wii sold out—I’m gonna make up a more entertaining story involving a hot Japanese girl and an epic Wii Tennis tournament.
Mr. GameStop Assistant Clerk: You must not get very many readers.
Me: I bet I will after today!

Next Time: Wii #2 At Last!

Monday, February 4, 2008

How to Buy Four Nintendo Wii Systems In Just Four Weeks, Part 3

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

wii r mine soon? please???

Photo by What Rhymes With Nicole

Last Time: Exploring the Perilous Intarwebs

January 17, 2008, 11:30 a.m.

Fresh from my Wednesday-night victory, I awake Thursday morning to find a peculiar e-mail awaiting me:

i here ur looking for a wii. meat me in the alley behind toys r us at 10pm and i’ll get you all the wii you could ever desire at retail.

All right! All the Wii systems I need in one shot! Plus, as bad as this guy spells, I can probably convince him to accept Monopoly money for them.

January 17, 2008, 10 p.m.

I pull up behind the Toys R Us just as The Eagles’ Hotel California finishes playing on the radio. The next song is the Bee Gees lesser-known single, Don’t Meet Strange Men Who Can’t Spell Behind the Toy Store Because He’s Probably Going to Steal Your Money and Not Give You Those Three Nintendo Wii Systems You Want from 1972. I start singing the lyrics…

Don’t meet strange men who can’t spell
Behind the toy store
Because he’s probably going to steal your money
And not give you those
Three Nintendo Wii systems you want
Ah ha ha ha…

After a few minutes, I spot a man with a goatee in a red vest and pink jogging pants standing by a dumpster. He comes up to the car as I roll down my windows.

Mr. Goatee: Joo haz zee mowney?
Me: Huh?
Mr. Goatee: I sez, joooo haz zeee mowneey?
Me: I’m sorry, I can’t understand anything you’re saying.
Mr. Goatee: That’s because you’re typing this conversation by exaggerating the tone of my thick foreign accent. How about now?
Me: Much better.
Mr. Goatee: Good. You has the money?
Me: Yup. [I reveal my money—a freshly-minted $750-dollar bill, enough for three Nintendo Wii systems.] Can I see the goods?
Mr. Goatee: [Lifts the telltale white box.] It’s quality merchandise.

I take a look at the box. Something’s not right. The “Wii” logo has an extra “i” at the end. And this “Wiii” isn’t packed with the usual Wii Sports game disc. That disc includes five sports games: tennis, bowling, baseball, boxing, and golf. The label on this box says that “Wiii Sportz comes with four great totally American sporting-type games: Cricket, Belly Dancing, Camel Racing, and Infidel Shooting.

Me: This game only has four sports on it. And I don’t think any of them are real sports.
Mr. Goatee: What? What do you mean? This—this is quality merchandise.
Me: And what’s that liquid dripping out of the box? Is that gasoline?
Mr. Goatee: Oh, uh, that—that is box crying because you insult it.
Me: Uh, I think I’m going to pass. [I roll up my window and start the engine.]
Mr. Goatee: Wait! Wait! Okay, I give it to you for 10 percent off! Is quite a bargain!
Me: [I roll my window back down.] 10 percent off, you say?

So now I am the proud owner of one Nintendo Wii and three boxes full of rags soaked in gasoline. Fortunately, thanks to the high price of gas, I end up making $17 in the end!

But I still need three Wii systems…

Next Time: Just How Far Will Wii Go?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How to Buy Four Nintendo Wii Systems In Just Four Weeks, Part 2

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

wii will rock you

Photo by Tasha Krivonozka

Last Time: The Journey Begins

January 7, 2008

With my first attempt to secure a Nintendo Wii a disastrous and chilly failure, it’s time to think smarter and not stupider. I’ll be turning to my old pal the internet to help me out of this bind.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one trying to get his hands on some precious Wii. An entire underground of Wii hunters has formed, some seeking to purchase them for resale and profit, others just looking to win back their children’s love.

To help them in their quest, many have subscribed to services like Wii Tracker or Wii Alerts that will e-mail them or call their cell phones in the event that an online store has Wii systems in stock. To some, cell phone alerts may seem excessive; but when a shipment of 1,000 Wii systems can sell out in less than 10 minutes, getting an instant call instead of an e-mail can mean the difference between finding a Wii and getting hit with an emancipation suit from your kid.

Unfortunately this Wii search will force me to do something I am loathe to do: keep my cell phone on me 24 hours a day. What if Wal-Mart has them in stock at 3 a.m.? What if GameStop gets a tiny shipment while I’m dreaming about that hot new princess from the latest Mario game? Now I’m covered.

January 9, 2008

Still no sign of a Wii anywhere, but I stumble upon the Wii availability thread at FatWallet. If a Wii is in stock anywhere in the United States, I’ll know… though chances are it’ll be in some far-away state like California or Alaska.

Do you think they have videogames in Alaska? I mean, they have snow like we do, so I suppose they would also have videogames. I guess we’ll never know for sure.

January 12, 2008

Week One is drawing to a close, and the only Wii I have is the one in my living room that I’ve had since Launch Day over a year ago. Lately I’ve been playing NiGHTS, the long-awaited sequel to the classic Sega game. I do enjoy the British voice acting, but the game itself plays like a coke fiend’s nightmare. I did not know this many colors could exist on one TV screen without it exploding.

January 13, 2008

The start of a new advertising week brings many flyers, but none advertising the Wii. Some stores are slowing getting in stock, but they’re being evil and bundling the $250 base system with an additional $500 of required games that nobody really wants to play. I’m tempted by one such bundle from Wal-Mart’s website; for about $600 plus $40 shipping, I’d get a Wii and five or six games. The games could be returned to Wal-Mart stores for a refund or store credit, but I’d feel a little weird returning 20 unopened games—including several copies of the same game—to the store…

Me: I’d like to return these 20 Wii games.
Wal-Mart Employee: Is there anything wrong with them?
Me: I just don’t want them anymore.
Wal-Mart Employee: You sure you don’t want these six copies of Barbie’s Great Adventure?
Me: No. I have three copies of my own at home.

In the worst case, I’ll break down and get these Wal-Mart bundles since they’re now coming into stock on a semi-regular basis. But I still have a few weeks before I have to make that decision.

January 16, 2008, Noon

During my lunch break, a hot tip comes in from the FatWallet gang: GameStops and EBGames nationwide are getting shipments of Wii systems today. Some scouters report their stores empty a few minutes after opening, while others still find them around noon-time. The shipments are coming in via UPS throughout the day, and stores are putting them on their shelves—rather, behind locked, bullet-proof glass cases—as they arrive. Nobody mentions specific availability in my area, but I make a few quick calls…

No Wii systems at any stores nearby.

I return to work after my lunch break, wondering if I should add a GameStop to my morning commute for the next few weeks.

January 16, 2008, 8p.m.

After a long day at work, I’m finally home. I see a commercial for the Wii—those two Japanese guys showing up at people’s houses and asking them to touch their Wii.

“I’ll touch your Wii,” I whisper to the television. “I want it badly.”

For fun, I make one last set of calls to area GameStops and EBGames. Nothing in Gaithersburg. None in Fallsgrove. Federal Plaza had some earlier in the day, but they’re gone now.

I’m about to give up when I dial the final number in the area.

“Yes, we have one new one left.”

I ask them if they can hold it for me. He says they can’t and reminds me that they close at 9 p.m. I look at my watch: 8:35 p.m.

I’m in the car 12 seconds later, back inside for pants 10 seconds after that, and on the road by 8:37 p.m.

January 16, 2008, 8:48p.m.

Somehow, I travel a five-mile stretch of busy Rockville Pike in record time. I park in a mall garage and jet through a Macy’s, or maybe it was a Lord and Taylor’s. The GameStop is 30 feet away. I run for the finish line and throw myself at the front counter.

Me: Hi! (*puff*) Do you (*huff*) still have (*puff*) that Wii?
GameStop Clerk: I’m sorry Mario, but your princess is in another castle.
Me: Huh?
GameStop Clerk: These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
Me: What?
GameStop Clerk: I said we didn’t get any Wiis today. Did you mean to go to the store in the next shopping center?

Crap, I did. Turns out there’s another GameStop 1,000 feet away in some shopping center I didn’t even know existed. I look at my watch: 8:53 p.m.

January 16, 2008, 8:57p.m.

My apologies to that poor woman I shoved into the Christmas glassware clearance rack in the department store, though I did say “excuse me, giant woman” three times.

By some miracle of God and perhaps running some stop signs nobody really uses anyway, I’m at the other GameStop three minutes before closing. They have the Wii. I whip out my credit card, gladly willing to pay the $262.49—$249.99 plus $12.50 for our 5% Maryland sales tax.

“$264.99,” says the clerk.

“Huh? Shouldn’t it be $12.50 sales tax?”

And that’s when I remember that we’re now a 6% sales tax state. Maryland is charging me $2.50 more for this Wii today than it would have last month.

I swipe my credit card and leave with the Wii. On the way home, I try to figure out how to do $2.50 worth of damage to state property, but it’s late and I just want to play some Barbie’s Great Adventure before bed.

Next Time: Desperation

Monday, January 28, 2008

How to Buy Four Nintendo Wii Systems In Just Four Weeks, Part 1

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

this wii is mine, line starts over there

Photo by Random J

Ah, the Nintendo Wii—quite possibly the greatest invention God ever told Japan to make. If you’re one of the unlucky fools whose child put this on his or her Christmas list last year, then you may have your own horror story of hunting down one of these marvelous machines. You see, because Nintendo insists on making each unit by hand, meticulously crafting each transistor and microchip, they are only able to produce one Wii each day, five days a week. Because of this, only five million Wii systems have been produced to date, while approximately five trillion people want one. (In case my fictitious math is off, please assume that Nintendo also has access to a time machine.)

A number of internet entrepreneurs (French for “get rich quick scammers”) have made a pretty penny reselling the Wii, snapping it up at the retail price of $250 and offloading it on eBay or Craigslist for upwards of $1,000. A recent survey of Wii owners revealed that, in 2007, only 34 people actually purchased a Wii to play it; the rest simply bought one to resell it at a high price.

Despite the fact that the Wii was released over a year ago, there appears to be no end in sight for the Wii drought. Indeed, January 2008 has seen the worst of the shortage, even worse than the week before Christmas 2007. Many unfortunate upper-middle-class children found no Wii under their trees this past holiday season, and many parents who promised “you’ll get it in January” will end up being made liars.

When a DC-area anime convention for which I volunteer my time asked if I could help them find four Wii systems at retail price in just four weeks, I responded with a very emphatic “maybe!” With a deadline of January 31st, I set out on my perilous journey. Here is a log of my voyage… a voyage of untold agony, unexpected surprises, and plenty of scantily-clad bikini models.

January 5, 2008

Day One. My mission is simple, in theory: procure four Wii systems at retail price in 26 days. That’s, like, one Wii every 6.5 days. Surely I can find one Wii a week, right?

January 6, 2008, 2 a.m.

I’m sitting in front of a Best Buy in 18-degree weather. Rumor on the street is that they’ll be getting a shipment of 10-20 Wii systems today. Like at most stores, Best Buy is limiting Wii sales to one per person, so my wife graciously volunteered to come with me so we can knock out two Wii systems with one visit. No one else is in line yet, so our chances are looking pretty good.

January 6, 2008, 5:30a.m.

A homeless man came by and offered us some blankets and coffee. I called him a bum and threw a shoe at him; he ran away with my shoe. I… don’t think he’s coming back. Could really use those blankets right about now. The bank across the street has an electronic sign that displays the current temperature: 12 degrees, but I can open a new 5% CD today.

January 6, 2008, 7:15a.m.

I lost my wife a few minutes ago. She was a brave woman, but her fragile body just couldn’t survive in the harshness of a Maryland winter. She will be sorely missed.

January 6, 2008, 7:45a.m.

Found her. She was sitting in the car. Not sure why I didn’t think of doing that.

January 6, 2008, 7:55a.m.

No sooner did I embrace the relative warmth and security of my automobile than 23 people materialized in front of the Best Buy. Back to the line I go! Yes wife, you’re coming too.

January 6, 2008, 10:55a.m.

This is it! In five short minutes, those doors will open, and I shall meet my desti-Wii! Yes, seven hours in the cold and that’s the best Wii pun I could think of.

January 6, 2008, 11:30a.m.

Back home now, Wii-less. Turns out that store wasn’t getting any units, and everyone else was standing in line for the hottest DVD of the year: The Land Before Time 23: Find Out How We Worked Dinosaurs Into 15th Century England For Just $24.99.

Next Time: Taking the Search to the Interwebs