Pre-Ordering the Wii U: My first adventure in the Walmart layaway system

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This may be a bit long but, please bear with me. I’m working through quite a bit of gamer grief and there are several stages I need to complete.

I’ve recently sacrificed a bit of my soul and a lot of my pride to simultaneously do three things I said I’d never do: A) pre-order a game console B) at Walmart C) using layaway.

Stage 1: Denial

I was suckered in. Throughout the past 40 years I had successfully avoided an olde tyme economic phenomena I thought was only typical of people born before 1940. It had died out in the 1980s and so many department stores have gone under. I figured I was safe.

And then there’s Walmart.

That dreaded, scourge of a chain, finding ways to make products cheaper in more ways than two. I walk in to a store and I instantly get a headache along with sharp pangs of anxiety knowing that I’ll be bombarded by advertising, disinterested employees and customers who think nothing of running you over with their cart while scolding three of their eight kids (along with a few passers-by).

Thanks to an economic recession that revived the ancient practice of layaway and piggy-backing that program on the demand for the next gaming console, Nintendo’s Wii U, I buckled.

Industry insiders have told me that Nintendo often employs the short-supply tactic with each new hardware release, creating a flood of interest. It’s a well-timed marketing strategy, given that the holidays are approaching and a new console has not been released in years.

And now, after all these years, I have “purchased” something using layaway.

The real clincher is that I had actually decided to pre-order the deluxe Wii U a while back with plenty of time to scope out the sites, find a deal and even start ordering one through another retailer. I had even “saved” the item in my cart so that I could, as the site described, “purchase it later.” Apparently “later” is not very late as, when I went back and tried to order the next morning (only seven hours later), the deluxe edition Wii Us were all sold out. Everywhere. I must have reloaded that page a dozen times in disbelief.

A week or so later, Walmart comes along and, using a short-term promotion, tacked on the layaway system to Wii U pre-orders. Thanks to some forum posts online, I had pre-scoped the Walmart layaway plan and decided that I’d take a small piece of my soul, a bit of my pride, wad them together and put them in cold storage for another day.

Phase 2: Anger

My first attempt to pre-order the Wii U using the layaway plan was a failure. Having a job, a family and a life, I decided to head to the 24-hour Walmart after everyone else had started prepping for bed. I figured I’d not have to subject anyone to a Walmart Customer Service Desk experience. My average wait time there is about 20 minutes and it is usually a practice in zen meditation to keep from either calling the police or taking a bat from the nearest return cart and going to town.

So I arrive at about 9:45 p.m. at Walmart and quickly dart toward the Customer Service area behind a couple with a cart to avoid the greeter (*shudder*). There I see carts lined up like a rainbow around the entrance and a half dozen employees tossing items to each other like blue-shirted Oompa Loompas in a chocolate factory.

I head over to the counter and, met with a half dozen glares, politely stand and wait. I did notice the little layaway placard stuck to the register and figured I was in the right place. One of the older Wal-Oompas finally drops some bright orange thing, comes over and, in what is certainly a well-aged smoker’s throat, hacks up, “What d’ya want, mister?”

“Uh, I’d like to pre-order the Wii U on layaway.”

“Da layaway office closes at nine.”

I looked around, and there was not one sign that had the “layaway desk” hours posted. “Uh, I don’t see the hours posted. Can you help me here?”

“It closed at nine. Sorry, kid. Come back tuhmarrah.” Yeah, I found her accent a little weird, too.

That really irked me. I mean, what type of customer service was that? Cranky people, cranky attitudes and poor signage. And now I have to wait yet another night and may once again be unable to pre-order a Wii U the following day.

Phase 3: Pre-Bargaining

That night I regained my composure a bit and decided to try again the next day, this time before 9 p.m. The next day, indeed, I again dart in the doorway, avoiding the greeter (*shudder*) and head to the Customer Service Desk. I waited only a few minutes – slightly lowering my waiting average – and am helped by a girl who has a strangely becoming “sweetie” tick.

“Can I help you, sweeetie?

“Uh, I’d like pre-order the Wii U with layaway.”

“A Wii, sweetie?”

“No, a Wii U. It’s not out yet. I want to pre-order one. On layaway.”

“Oh, sweetie, you’ll have to head back to electronics sweetie. Sorry, sweetie. It’s to the back of the store, sweetie, in the middle, sweetie.”

I then head to the back and head right for the electronics department. There I see a man looking impatient and pacing around the outside of the counter. I decide to look around and see if there might be some Wii U signage in the area. Nope, not one iota of Wii U-ness. There are “Layaway” signs hanging everywhere from the ceiling and stuck to every fixture-less surface I could spot.

So any time I saved in the front of the store, I more than lost here as I waited about a half hour minutes before a single, grumpy Walmart employee finally came to the desk and asked me for help. The cranky pacer got crankier.

“I think that man was first.”

And, to my surprise, the man simply asks, “Do you have any USB cables?”

That aisle was literally next to the counter. That man had walked by the USB cable aisle about 100 times and got all flustered over something that was literally within a arm’s reach. *sigh*

Finally, I have the employee’s attention. My next fear is that he’ll have no idea what I’m talking about. The few Walmart stores I did call before heading there to see if they were taking Wii U pre-orders over the phone all met with the same basic conversation: “Wii Whut? Oh, that a new Nintendo system? There’s a new one? Is it a GameBoy or something? Hold on and I’ll ask if anyone knows anything about a Wii New.” I’d eventually learn that I had to go in and use the layaway plan, in person. So add that time in there as well.

So I pose the question and this guy actually knows what I mean. It’s a miracle, I know. But, as he quickly points out, there is a layaway desk in the way back of the store. In this case, it’s nestled between the shoes and baby stuff, and labelled “Online Order Pickup Counter.” Well, that makes sense. Should have been the first place I looked, way back in the store and mislabeled. My bad.

Anyway, I finally get to the back and, of course, there is more waiting. The first lady got whatever she ordered and then took off. dragging a screaming toddler behind her. The next, slightly hipster-ish customer, came with her iPhone queued up to the emails about her orders. Turns out only one item was in and the other is somewhere in California, which she seemed to only comprehend as she read her emails out loud.

 Phase 3.5: Real Bargaining

So I finally get to the counter and, what has now become a familiar refrain, chant, “I’d like to pre-order the Wii U using layaway.”

The girl at the counter stares at me for a second, looks back at the guy I think was her manager, back at me and then does a little bunny hop. She grabs a laminated sheet with the Wii U layaway procedure on it and starts to read, line by line.

“Sorry, we’ve only had one other person do this in this store so far.”

That’s what we like to call “rubbing it in” a little. I’d kinda like to buy that other guy a drink as we may be the only two souls in the country to partake in this neo-retro ritual.

They finally get down to the part where they can ring me in, so I hand them my card and they sorta look at me like I know what they are supposed to do next.

“So, does this mean I’ll get to pick up a Wii U the day it comes out?”

“Yes,” they assured me, squinting as they read from the laminated sheet that is surprisingly worn for only one other person having pre-orderd the Wii U on layaway. “And you can come at midnight for the party. There’s a party.”

“Can I dance?”

They both laugh. “Yes, sir, you can dance.”

“Groovy, then I’m in. Put me down for $100.”

That seemed to surprise them since it was more than the 10% needed for a layaway initial payment. They then proceed to print out a long receipt. And I mean crazy long as in 34 1/4 inches long. Yep, almost a yard.

Step 4: Depression

They fold it, flip it, then staple it so it fits into some seemingly predetermined receipt size and staple it right in the middle. That receipt, I come to find out after I get home, has 15 points – fat paragraphs – of policies, things to note and legalese no one brought to my attention at the store (more on that in another, much shorter post). Of course all that reading on a single receipt that you must keep track of until you pick up your pre-purchased on layaway item does not make me happy. What if I lose it?

Just to be certain I double checked one point: “What if I decide not to get the Wii U?”

“Then bring back the receipt and we’ll cancel it and refund your money.” They neglected to mention the $5 fee to start up the layaway account, which is a line item on the receipt as well as a mention in fat paragraph #1.

As I took the long walk of shame through the Walmart, I realized I had just given them money and all I got was a piece of paper, a promise and maybe a chance to dance with strangers. Not very heartening. Oh, and I’m down $100 and I still do not have a Wii U. Sure, when I plop down $276.83 more in a few weeks I’ll theoretically get the Wii U and tell you all about it but, at least for now, there’s a sense of emptiness and anxiety that something might go wrong. Maybe they’ll run out, maybe I’ll be in a coma and miss the December 14, 2012, deadline to pay the balance and lose “my” Wii U, or maybe I’ll lose my receipt?! Horror of horrors.

Stage 5: Acceptance

So far, I haven’t quite come to terms with this time-consuming and soul-bruising experience. I typically avoid Walmart like it’s a factory pumping out toxic diseases that they lather on every customer. And layaway, until this day, was only something my grandma had mumbled about in her much later years.

I suppose that once I have the Wii U in my hands, hooked up to my TV and playing whatever games are at hand, I’ll finally be able to sigh a bit of satisfied relief.

At least, I hope I will.

So the quick takeaway is this: If you plan to head to Walmart to pre-order your deluxe Wii U, make sure you head to the store before 9 p.m. and  save yourself a ton of time and head directly to the way back of the store, look for the Online Order Pickup counter and prepare to place your order there. Then pray that someone will soon be there to help you.

Also Read [Cheap Ass Gamer] Site [Walmart (Layaway Page)]

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  • Jimmy

    What I get from this article is that you are just as moronic as the Walmart employees trying to serve you. You failed to ask the most important questions and THAT is what was the source of your frustration. Just like you, I saw the add that you could pre-order the WiiU. I went to Walmart to the electronics department and asked about the layaway, and the employee had to ask, but in a minute, I was back at the layaway desk. They told me the layaway of WiiU did not start until the next day. I asked what “next day” meant, 12:00am? They told me, no, layaway desk is open at 9AM-9PM. So they next day, I go over to Walmart, a bit before 9AM, and am second in line. Aside from the layaway rep typing in the wrong bar code number and wasting about 5 minutes of our time, she figured it out and I was on my way by 9:15.

  • Josh

    My Wii U layaway adventure went much more smoothly than yours. I was walking through the videogame/electronics section when an employee approached me and asked if I needed help with anything. When I mentioned the Wii U layaway, he said, “Right this way!” and led me back to the layaway/site-to-store desk in the back of the store (coincidentally it was right behind the electronics section).

    After that the process went much like you described, including the 3′ long receipt. The employee said they’re getting very few Wii U layaways, and that he’s the only one there “pushing” them. So maybe it was just a happy coincidence that I ran across the one guy at my Walmart who knows about and/or knows how to process a Wii U layaway.

    He also told me that I’m guaranteed to get my Wii U on the 18th, but that the store was unlikely to open at/stay open ’til midnight because of very poor customer turnout on previous midnight launches.

  • JRoman

    I also got the Wii U on layway from Walmart. The story is not as long, though. While we hate going to that place, sometimes they offer groceries that are not available at our usual stores, so we have to make quick trips there. Yes, it’s a horrible experience.

    Anyway, getting the Wii U on layaway was simple. Just go to the back of the store, and my wife asked if they still had any left for layway. Come to find they had “sold” a bunch (this was the first day they started doing it), and they only had two. My wife got one for us, and one for her best friend. Fairly easy, pay your fees, and take the receipt.

    However, like you said, “what if I lose the receipt?”

    I spent 3 hours last night looking for the receipt. I thought my wife had it, she said she had given it to me. After I cleared all the receipts, I found it tucked under the sunglasses in front of the TV, in “plain” sight. I didn’t know whether I’d be able to get the console without the receipt so I was freaking out. After all, we had already put some money there…

    There comes the inconvenience. My wife tells me SHE is the one that has to go get the Wii U. In other events, I’d go by myself to get it, and she’d stay home for the kids. In this instance, not only does she have to be the one getting it, but it also wasn’t specified correctly where she HAD to be there at midnight that night, or if she could go pick it up any time before Dec 14th.

    Also, another thing that was not mentioned. Is there some kind of payment plan? I read something on KMart, store that I’ve never been to, that the layaway program is “weekly payments” of 22.5% of the price, with the other 10% being done at the beginning, in such a way that you have a month or so to pay for the layway. So, then, the thought came…Was I supposed to have been paying for the Wii U? I still have no answer. I better read that 34 inch receipt!

    Anyway, I’m hoping the layaway really serves as a pre-order and a guaranteed in-stock on whenever we decide to pick it up, because I’d be really upset if I spent $705+tax and not gotten anything for it “because I went there the day AFTER release”

  • Chris

    At first I laughed at the Wii U. I Was positivly certain I would not be getting one. Till I saw “it”. It was Zombi U. Seeing fragments of head and brains flying as bullets hit that dude to the dome, I was sold. Black Ops 2, sealed the deal. I had this revelation back in September when every place was stocked for pre-orders and many people still had no idea a new Nintendo console was just around the corner. I decided it was time for my aging 80gb PS3 which only had another 2 years of life tops, to go back in its box and go right back to where it was bought to be traded in for the Wii U. With all of my games, the basic Wii U and both games were paid for strictly on trade credit. I care not for nintendo land and a docking bay. The included cables are enough for me to charge my gamepad without some fancy mechanism. The 8gb’s aren’t enough, neither is the 32gb’s, but a very big external hard drive I have is. Why play around with gb’s when TB’s are what cannot be f****d with.

    Color is no big deal for me, the fact I got it all without having to spend additional money is. I can care less for party games as my family does not give 2 s***s about videogames means I will be playing it alone. At that time specifically, as I was handed a 3 foot receipt ( yup, I had over 50 games) I found out I was the first person in all of Canada to purchase a white 8gb Wii U willingly while black ones were still available for pre-order. 2 days later, All of the deluxe bundles were sold out everywhere and availability for the basic sets began to hit a sharp decline. A week followed, now both sets were sold out everywhere.

    Moral of the story, don’t wait. Especially when a new console is priced at what current premium models are currently sold for. The only thing that has really sucked, has been the inability to play anything. I have no current gen consoles to play with, I gave up on Microshaft a long time ago and my ps3 has magically transformed itself into a piece of paper which will then evolve into this thing called a Wii U. The only stressful thing I have had to deal with was and is the 3 month wait being consoleless. Time to call the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast back to the front lines. The best part about all of this, the NEO GEO X isn’t that much farther off after I finally have the Wii U.

  • Jeff

    My encounter with Walmart’s Wii U Layaway system was strangely similar, almost identical to yours.

  • Pingback: Blogger describes pre-ordering Wii U using Walmart layway – Technology Tell |

  • cbru

    You have EXACTLY captured the reasons I never shop at Walmart, other than the once a year that I seem to end up there, being chased by a greeter for refusing to show my receipt and be treated like a criminal.

    Sheesh – 34″ of or receipt – leave it to Walmart to make life miserable for customers.

  • PJ Hruschak

    Wow – thank you all for understanding my pain (‘cept for “Jimmy”). Instead of a 10-15 minute quick purchase it was an hour of being passed from desk to desk. You think they’d make better signage and, if they are really trying to push the layaway as promotion, put it up at the front of the store instead of buried way in the back in a mislabeled section.

  • MCVelvetJanuary

    Mine didn’t seem so bad, but that might’ve just been my excitement that I had another chance for a WII U on launch. I didn’t even know about this layaway deal until I went to Walmart after work one day. I saw signs and posters plastered all over the electronics section about preordering the WII U. I got a little excited, since I missed my 30ish hour window of Preordering online.

    I asked the guys behind the desk at electronics, and neither of them knew anything about it, but one of them seemed really eager to find out and help me get what I needed. He called a manager or two, and after a few minutes we had the employee instruction sheet for the whole process. Unfortunately, it was 9:05 and the Layaway desk was closed. The guy from the electronics desk tried his damndest to figure out how to use the Layaway program, since the computers were still up, but to no avail.

    I came back the next day, and the person working the Layaway counter knew exactly what to do, entered all my info in the computer, and told me how everything worked. There was a sign near the counter about the $5 startup fee (which is returned via Gift Card once the item is picked up). I doubt I’ll lose my receipt, but if I do, I have an account in their Layaway system now, so I’m sure they can just look it up.

    All in all, not too much of a headache, but the employees at my local Walmart were much more helpful than I had expected, and now I just hope that whomever receives the Wii U shipments tucks away mine safely from all the midnight release campers.

  • joe

    My experience was pretty pleasant and easy as pie…was happy they were preordering this item long after everybody else was sold out…and from my experience Walmart is a lot more dependable than gamestop, BTW I’m not talking about Walmart online but rather my local store. The lady at the layaway desk rung me up in a couple minutes and showed me the protocol and assured me that my item will be ready for pickup on launch date, but was uncertain about midnight pickup, since the layaway dept. usually closes at 9…I appreciate that Walmart gave me a chance to get the Wii u at launch, when I thought my only chance was a markup on eBay… be thankful dude you could be one of the unlucky sobs on game stops never ending waiting list till sometime next year.