November 25th, 2005

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Long night's journey into frustration

OK... we got to CompUSA at 10:40 in order to do the surgical strike shopping routine and get the following:

two USB 2.0 PCI cards, advertised at $9.95 each
one USB 2.0 3.5" hard disk enclosure, advertised at $24.95

By midnight (opening time) the line was insane. irpooh was of the opinion, and I could believe it, that there were more people in the store than fire regulations allow. Some jerk shoved past me. It was just about impossible to negotiate the aisles.

I found two USB 2.0 PCI cards that looked like the ones in the ad, asked a store employee where the enclosure was and was pointed at a wall. Five minutes later I was able to move the eight feet over to where there was indeed a USB 2.0 3.5" hard disk enclosure. I also grabbed an nVidia graphics card--irpooh has had some crashes recently that I suspect may be x.org-related, and in any case she has an ATI card that ATI doesn't deign to support for Linux, and hence doesn't have a semi-reasonable driver. (Semi-reasonable = having feature and speed parity with the manufacturer's Windows drivers for the same hardware. Reasonable = semi-reasonable plus being Open Source. Unfortunately, very few graphics cards have reasonable x.org drivers by my definition.)

We went to the insanely long lines for checkout...

...and on our arrival, were flabbergasted at the $217 total rung up.

"What the? The USB cards are supposedly $10 each, the enclosure $25, and the nVidia card doesn't cost that much..."

We indeed had USB 2.0 PCI cards and a USB 2.0 3.5" hard disk enclosure...just not the ones that were on sale. The ads had zero identifying information for these items, other than the SKU in fine print.

We said "screw it," left the stuff with the checkout guy, and went home.

I may succumb and go back later today to see whether the building occupancy has dropped to sane levels so that I can actually see what I'm getting, and whether the locust swarm left anything behind... but newegg.com is looking pretty damned good right now and for the forseeable future.
  • Current Music
    "Black Friday," Steely Dan
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Black Friday, Part II: Existence Proof

OK. This morning we headed out the door at 4:45 or thereabouts to get to the Black Friday sale at Staples. By the time we got there, around 5:15 or so, the line already went to the end of the building, and it extended to the back of the parking lot by the time 6:00 rolled around.

The doors open, we hustled in...and what a difference from the fiasco at CompUSA!

It helped that I was just after one thing, but...

1. There's an immediate fanout by the entrance into the various aisles, unlike the layout at CompUSA, where people are funneled down one path for a fair distance—and a path that goes by a large space newly occupied by their Xbox 360 display, making it that much more of a bottleneck.

2. The people who did the Staples flyer had the novel concept of showing the item I sought in its packaging, by itself, in an image large enough that one could actually see the details of said packaging. This, along with the layout of Staples not having been recently massively changed, made it easy to find the item... unlike CompUSA's flyer, which showed the object outside its packaging, tastefully arranged in a huge pile with the other items that cost $9.95 after discount and/or rebate, with no identifying information save the SKU in very fine print, and the CompUSA store, which was seriously rearranged to accomodate...you guessed it, the huge Xbox 360 display.

3. Staples has its cash registers arranged in a row, making them easy to get to and the lines... well, the line I got into, as I went to the end opposite where the tech stuff was... relatively short, unlike the local CompUSA store, where there are four registers arrranged in a two-by-two array, so that there were two lines stretching the length of the building waiting to check out. (OK, there are two for commercial entities' transactions and the like, but they're positioned even less reasonably for high volume traffic.)

4. Staples lets you submit rebate information online, via a web page form. CompUSA, ironically given their inventory, insists that one gets one's rebate the old fashioned way, with much cutting out of UPC codes, filling information in on forms printed on cash register tape, circling random things on the register tape, and sending the whole mess off via USnail.

Earth to CompUSA: it can be done reasonably. (OK, a reasonable rebate system would credit your account as you made the purchase, but that can come later.)
  • Current Mood
    hopeful hopeful