Earlier today I stopped at Best Buy in Norwalk to interview the hardcore shoppers giving up their Thanksgiving to wait in line. At noon there were about 20 people in line. The store opens at midnight and the first in line got there at 7am., most were waiting for a television. They were aware from the fine print in the flyer that there were only 10 available and someone in line was wouldn’t be going home happy.
I haven’t been to a door buster sale since I worked them when I worked at Caldor almost 20 years ago. I worked at the headquarters but the day after Thanksgiving all executives working the headquarters were required to work a store in the northeast. Tonight I took my 17 year old son with me because he is my computer consultant and he has never been to such a sale so I knew it would be memorable no matter the outcome. I posted this on my personal Facebook page, some warned us it probably won’t be a good memory, and others protested they didn’t think it was fair to employees to make them work the hours.
We arrived at the store at 11:40pm and the line stretched all the way around the building. It was difficult to estimate how many were in line but there were several hundred to say the least. The line moved quite quickly, we got in line at the very end and were inside within ten minutes. There were two Norwalk Police Officers that were stationed outside the front doors and they were there since 10pm to ensure order. They were firm but very friendly. Line cutters were not to be tolerated, inside the store was another story; they sure could have used enforcement inside. Once inside the store it was wall to wall people, you couldn’t move without bumping into someone. Getting from one place to another was a challenge. .
So my son and I ventured inside trying to find the computer we had in mind. It was a bundled unit that came with monitor, printer and computer all in one big box, not something you were going to hide under your jacket. Items like the TVs, X-Boxes and other high demand items were stacked at the front of the store in the aisles. I’m not sure why our item wasn’t displayed this way as well.
The item we wanted was at the very back of the store and we had to wait in a line that snaked in the aisles of the computer department; openings were blocked with merchandise or large carts. We really felt like cattle in the slaughter line, at times feeling claustrophobic, but hey, that’s part of the experience, right? We waited in line for over an hour, dealing with line cutters, loud alarms going off, and the kid five feet from us blasting his music on his cell phone’s tinny speakers were starting to take its toll on my nerves. Speaking of nerves I did get nervous when I noticed we were at the very back of the store with a sea of people in front of us hoping no emergency takes place. We were confined in line not with the ribbon stanchions you see at banks or theatres but the physical merchandise shelves. As a reporter I am often in large public gatherings and I think this was the first time I was a little nervous for my safety in the case something happened.
I knew the item I wanted was limited to five per store since it was clearly posted in the online circular. I was willing to gamble that not too many were in line for a quad core five hundred dollar computer. After the hour in line we finally saw a manager I guess was pre-writing the orders those in line were waiting for. That’s when we found out we needed a ticket for our sale item. There were no signs anywhere, not in the flyer or any where in the store indicating that we needed the ticket. He said I had to be in line this morning to get said ticket. So my son and I wasted an hour but grew an appreciation for the Occupy Movement, not for corporate greed but for corporate insensitivity for not taking care of the customer. I told my son not to be disappointed coming home empty handed if they went through the five per store but not on a technicality of something like this!
I think back to those waiting in line for over seventeen hours for the TVs, if they paid themselves five dollars each hour they waited in line they could have paid full retail for the TV and enjoyed their Thanksgiving! It also gave me a greater appreciation for the smaller stores like Marsillio’s in Fairfield or Mudrick in Stratford; they purchase as a group to give competitive prices to these big box stores and they would never ever treat their customers like this– but they don’t sell computers!
Tonight also reminds me of a post on Facebook that says “If you really want to occupy Wall Street do all of you’re shopping at a local business”. Tonight Marsillios posted on Facebook their sale–19″ LED TV’s for $139.00 a 32″ LCD TV’s: $197.00 while supplies last, no mention of a ticket but I seriously doubt you will need one!