by Charlene Li
As a parent, I've been privy to the burning question this holiday shopping season -- how do I get my hands on a Wii? I've had one for a while and can honestly say that it is by far the best console for a family with young kids. (Or even for a family where the only kids in the household are the adults!)
The reality is, Wiis will be nearly impossible to find before the holidays given the overwhelming demand and lack of supply. So unless you're willing to pay a 2X premium on eBay or Amazon, you're out of luck. But I have a family friend who is an expert on finding Wiis using a variety of technologies and techniques -- and I thought I'd share some of his techniques with you.
So herewith are my top ten ways on how to score a Wii in the next week or so, both online and in brick & mortar stores. (Shameless plug: I also have one on eBay as a charity auction.)
1) Read Fat Wallet. Fat Wallet has an excellent discussion forum that talks about Wii availability. The very first page has some good general information on online/mobile alerts and general availability. Go all the way to the last listed page (it was #581 when I posted) to find the latest buzz. West Coast folks can really benefit, especially on Sunday mornings when some stores release Wiis. This is the groundswell at its best -- supporting each other on the search for that elusive Wii.
2) Use Wiialerts.com and be near a PC. This service sends SMS/Text messages to your phone when an online store has Wiis in stock. For example, Amazon listed Wiis at 10:20pm PT on November 30th and were sold out within 12 minutes. So it pays to be fast, and connected.
3) If you're always online, use XPBargains.com. This site has a Wii Locator that is regularly updated. The trick is getting notified. A few approaches: 1) Use their RSS feed; 2) Use a Firefox plug-in called Check4Change which refreshes the page every 15 seconds and sends a desktop pop-up when something changes on the site. Highlight the first four lines of the listings and C4C will tell you when the status changes; and 3) Set up a desktop alert via Klipfolio -- XPBargains has a tutorial on how to do this.
4) Buy Wii Bundles. I've noticed that online sites like Wal-Mart (thanks to XPBargains) often have Wii bundles with accessories and games, which can cost +$500. If you're intent on getting a console soon, you're going to be paying that much for just the console alone through sellers one eBay/Amazon. You'll also need extra remots/nunchucks and games anyway, so you may as well buy the bundle. Don't like the games? Retailers like Wal-mart appear to be willing to exchange the games, and you may even be able to return them.
5) Use Salescircular.com to plan offline excursions. This is great because it breaks down the Sunday newspaper circulars by geography and then by product. So I can check California listings for Wiis across all retailers on one page. In general, if a retailer advertises it, they have to have a least a few Wiis on hand. The reality is that it could be 2, it could be 50. You just never know.
6) Set your alarm clock. People are getting desperate out there -- Fat Wallet reported Black Friday-like crowds out there this Sunday morning. Your best bet is to head to stores with early opening hours, like ToysRUs. Plan to get there 2-4 hours ahead of time. Some stores hand out vouchers before opening -- which means you can go home, head to Denny's for breakfast, etc. and come back later in the day to pick up you Wii. Be sure to bring your laptop if you have wireless access -- you'll want to continually check Fat Wallet for access. (Besides, it will keep you warm too!)
7) Recruit at least one other person to go with you, and then Twitter/SMS. If decide to go out for an early morning hunt, then try to find someone else to go out with you. Take separate cars so that you can go to separate stores to check out the situation. Ask the person at the front of the line what the status is -- they will usually tell you if vouchers have been given out, how many units are available. Then text or Twitter your teammates and head off to the next store on your list. Note: If you get there after a friend, don't cut in line! You wouldn't like it someone who was #5 in line suddenly had 4 buddies stroll up an hour before opening, ruining your chances. Do not tempt the ire of Wii-feverish parents!
8) Don't give up too early. You get there with 20 people ahead of you in line. They tell you that employees have shared they have only 20 Wiis in stock. Don't leave yet! On Black Friday, I was at a GameStop in Stockton with family members who were 35 or so in line when only 20 Wiis were available. They didn't hand out vouchers, so they stood in line for an hour. As they snaked up to the front, people were leaving with only a game or two in hand, bypassing the chance to buy a Wii. Two family members got the last two Wiis. So you never know.
9) Rely on the kindness of strangers and by kind to store employees. In many ways, the success of the groundswell -- both online and offline -- is that strangers are so willing to help each other when they are united by a quest, especially when you're standing at 5am outside a store. Bring a thermos of coffee -- and extra cups. Offer to hold places in line for each other for Starbucks breaks. And best of all, share and hear the stories of the people in line. There are other techniques, such as harassing store employees to tell you what time deliveries are made -- don't bother. They can't/won't tell you because of security reasons and frankly, many don't know. And they often have to stand in the very same lines you do to get their Wiis.
10) Buy the Wii I have up for charity auction. I braved the crowds on Black Friday and was first in line at a GameStop that morning, so snagged a Wii. My goal - to sell the Wii on eBay for the Ngererit School in Kenya that my husband and I support. We visited it 5 years ago and were struck by the desperate need for a new building. So if you're going to just go ahead and buy a Wii at a premiumn anyway, I hope you'll consider buying this unit as the profits go towards funding a school, rather than into someone's pocket.