Mission accomplished. My nerves are now at rest. I went to my local Walmart where I pre-ordered a Wii U Deluxe system using the layaway promotion, paid the difference and the black Wii U Deluxe is now in my hands.
I arrived at Walmart at about 30 minutes before the system would be available, thinking I’d make it in time for the promised “launch party” (and not waste too much time in line). When I arrived, there was no Wii U signage, no balloons. Not even anyone wearing a Mario T-shirt or an employee with a Wii U pin.
I went right to the layaway (and online orders) desk and there were 11 people patiently waiting, all comfortably sitting. In the dark. Somehow the Walmart employees did not even bother turning on the lights for these fine folks.
So I wandered into the video game section where I caught one of the employees pulling Wii stuff off the shelf. I surmised he was making room for Wii U goods, considering they were in the cart next to him. I asked, “Are those Wii U products going out now?”
“You have to wait in line at the layaway desk.”
I figured he misunderstood me but he darted away before I could ask anything.
So I went back to join the few folks waiting. They were all pretty young, save one older gentleman who seemed to know all the younger kids. I later learned all those kids were there to buy Wii Us for their uncle who was very likely going to sell them on eBay or Craigslist. One kid admitted he was paid to be there (he was also having a great time asking everyone who walked by, “You buyin’ a Wii?” even if they were obviously employees, to which I mentioned, “I bought mine on layaWii”).
About 20 minutes to midnight (also known as 11:40 p.m.), someone finally turned on the lights and they started piling the Wii U consoles, games and accessories on the back shelf (see the photo way above). It turned out there were only 10 more Wii Us than were pre-ordered. Being that 11 people were in line in front of me, I was a bit worried.
Eventually the Walmart employee – who had eye shadow that matched the white-and-blue Wii U boxes, but likely not on purpose – asked who in line had pre-ordered a Wii U. I let her know I did and one other bloke spoke up as well. She asked us to the desk and took our names. Then they labelled a few Wii Us so they’d not accidentally sell ours.
Finally, when midnight o’five hit, they started the slow process of selling the systems. The first lady in line had a friend with her and they bought two of the few remaining Wii U Deluxes. They started to joke about being there early and first in line – but not the first there – and not getting anything for the wait.
Although their comments were lighthearted, it was a bit strange that Walmart called this a “launch party” yet there was zero fanfare. Ho hoopla. Not even courtesy snacks (although there was some discussion among the waitees about the price of Twinkies going mad high and a lady bought a cart full of to sell online).
The checkout process was slowed by people debating how to pay, handing money to others in line and one guy not wanting to get the system in the box with the slightly crushed corner (so his entire transaction had to be voided and re-rung). Only one person in line bought any games and no one bought any accessories. One employee even joked that he was hoping all the games and accessories would sell out so he would not have to put them on the shelves.
It occurred to me that the table did not clear out because, of the dozen people in line who were actually being vocal, it seemed that only three of us were actually going to open the box, plug it in and play some Wii U games. On my drive home it also occurred to me that layaway is the ideal way to buy a system you plan to sell. If you sell it, you get the money first, use that to pay the layaway and then you only invested a small portion of your cash. Hmm, maybe next year…
Eventually the guy behind me, who spent the entire time talking on his iPhone (in a GameBoy case), left when he learned that the only Wii Us left to buy that night were the white 8 GB model. The few people behind him stayed put and all but one walked away with a white 8 GB Wii U. Of course, there were only five or six people behind me at any given time. It fluctuated mainly because people did not want to risk not getting a system or did not want the 8 GB model. One of the guys in line let a few people know that they could go to Best Buy at 10 a.m. to try to get one but they might have to line up at about 5 a.m.
In the end it took about 40 minutes for me to be out the door with my Wii U Deluxe. I didn’t get a single bonus item – not even a sticker – so, as for the a promised “launch party,” we all lost out.
As for pre-ordering a Wii U using Walmart’s layaway promotion, it was a success.
Oh, and I also received a $5 gift certificate as was promised by Walmart to cover the $5 layaway program registration fee.
Now, to install the system.
Here’s a photo gallery of some of the fie folks waiting and getting their Wii Us.