I generally manage to keep my holiday "retail road rage" moments to a handful. The secrets to my success? Shopping (1) early and (2) online. However, the system ain't perfect, as was illustrated for me today.
There are only four attorneys in the office today (well, as of post time, three - but she was here earlier), this being the day before Thanksgiving (which, apparently, has become a five-day holiday; who knew?). I took advantage of the relative peace and quiet this morning by getting some ducks in a row for a commercial closing next Tuesday and by making some critical online Christmas purchases for the kids. (Oh, and also, my assistant and I constructed a box for a Paper Jamz guitar - gift purchased by me on behalf of my mom-in-law for Connor's turkey day birthday - out of two Fed Ex boxes and a mess o' packing tape. Spontaneous office craft projects make me happy.) There was one item on Parker's list that is sold out in all of the stores but - as of today - was available at Toys R Us, so I decided to make hay while the sun shone, threw in another item off of his list to hit the dollar limit required for free shipping - boom, done. Bullet #1 dodged. We learned our lesson a few years ago - if it's a hot toy, BUY IT WHEN YOU SEE IT. Don't, for example: wait until December to attempt to acquire hot toy; discover that hot toy was a Wal-Mart exclusive that was only offered in the fall; spend hours on the Internet searching for THE ONE COPY OF HOT TOY AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE IN NORTH AMERICA; spend a bazillion dollars to have it shipped priority; acknowledge at the eleventh hour on Christmas Eve that it ain't gonna show up on time; pay out the nose for an equivalently cool substitute toy, fighting crowds at the local Super Target; discover hot toy on the front porch THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS; and fight the urge to go postal when hot toy turns out to be a dud. Yeah, that's a definite don't. That happened to us the one year that Mom, in the face of criticism from Dad (who said that her hyper-organization was, quote, "sucking the fun out of the holidays" - because, apparently, Dad's definition of "fun" is "full-on fire drill"), relaxed her "early and online" policy. For the record, yes, Dad has admitted that Mom's way is better. One of the few such admissions on record, and what that I cherish.
Second item on today's agenda was to find a drum kit that was compatible with Wii Rock Band - ideally bundled with a second guitar, but I would have been happy with just the drums. See, Parker broke the first set, so . . . yeah, our instrument options are limited to (1) guitar and (2) vocals. I stink at guitar, so when I play with the boys, I'm pressed into service as lead singer. And I totally rock at it, from the standpoint of racking up points - I know all of the lyrics, I can hit the notes on time and more or less in pitch - but, notwithstanding my 100% accuracy rating, I can't help but notice that the tone of my voice is slightly reminiscent of cats being strangled. So, to sum up, Mom misses the drums, probably as much as the boys do.
Problem is Wii peripherals are hard to find and are more expensive than their XBox and PlayStation counterparts. Also, Rock Band is much harder to find than Guitar Hero. But that's okay, because Guitar Hero instruments are compatible with Rock Band software. (How do I know this? Because, praise be to God, there are elaborate CHARTS AND GRAPHS on the Internet that neatly spell out for frazzled parents which instruments work with which software. Lifting an imaginary glass to the originator of the official Rock Band/Guitar Hero compatibility chart.) So, Plan A - obtain Rock Band drums. Plan B - obtain Guitar Hero drums plus second guitar plus software, without paying too much out the nose.
Toys R Us advertised JUST ROCK BAND DRUMS for $34.99. Perfect. Except, not available online. No big deal, there's a Toys R Us on the way to friend Robyn's house, so en route to Keno I stopped by the store, where I encountered the world's most eager yet entirely ineffectual sales clerk. (Seriously, in the spirit of truth in advertising, her badge should have read "Temporary Holiday Sales Staff"). I knew that our relationship would be a rocky one when I overheard her telling another customer that the latest Harry Potter movie "follows the book more than any of the other six movies did." EXCUSE ME? Okay, that's for another post.
I finally managed to get a word in edgewise during her (entirely inaccurate) Harry Potter dissertation and asked her to confirm that they were out of Rock Band drums. (During her dissertation, I did a sweep of the area, found tons of XBox and PlayStation stuff but no Wii.)
TRU Lady: "Um, so you want drums?"
Me: "Yes, Rock Band drums, for the Wii."
TRU Lady: "In a box with other stuff?"
Me: "Um, possibly, but you have them advertised by themselves, so I'm specifically looking for those."
TRU Lady: "Well, here's a box like what you're looking for."
Me: "Um, yes, sort of, except NOT, because this is Guitar Hero, not Rock Band, and it's for a different gaming system."
TRU Lady: [Blank stare, which I translated as, "How can you tell?"]
Me: "Um, see the big green X in the corner? The one I'm looking for will have the word "Wii" in white in place of the big green X."
TRU Lady: [More blank staring.]
Me: "You know, it's alright, I'll check back later."
TRU Lady: "We have drum kits over here. They don't plug into anything."
Me: "Riiiiiiiiiiiight. Because those are actual drum kits, versus video game peripherals. Seriously, I'll come back."
SEE? THIS is why I don't go into stores. Anywho, I determined this morning that the $34.99 drum kit needs to be relegated to the same category as Bigfoot, gray aliens and the Loch Ness Monster. Various sources say that they exist, but credibility of said sources is questionable. On to Plan A-ish: I discovered a fairly good deal on a Rock Band 2 bundle that came with (1) the drums Parker broke; (2) the same guitar that we already have; and (3) a game that we already have. Tried to convince myself that that much duplication wouldn't be a totally bad thing, but - meh. On to Plan B.
Typed "Wii Guitar Hero" into NexTag's browser, quickly learned that Guitar Hero for Wii is about as elusive as Rock Band for Wii, but one of the items that popped up was a Guitar Hero band kit (complete with drums and a guitar and software different from what we have) offered by Sears, for online sale only, at a reasonable price point. Hey, we have a Sears card that I never use! I'll use that.
Yeah, that's when the fun began. We paid off the Sears card some time ago (apparently, a long time ago), and to reward us for being such conscientious credit customers, Sears decided to cancel our account. I feared as much, so I called the 1-800 number before trying to make my online purchase, and a nice lady in Bangalore or some such informed me that, yes, in fact, our account was closed. Well, can I reactivate it? No - to reward us further for being such great credit customers, I would need to reapply.
Irritated, I decided to submit an online credit application. AFTER I hit "submit," I got the pop-up that informed me that I'd get an e-mail advising that my account had been approved . . . some time in the next 30 days.
Call #2 to Bangalore. Ultimately got patched through to someone in the credit application section who had the capacity to cancel my pending application - but upon hearing my reason for wanting to cancel, she offered to process my application while I was on the phone. Great!
"Except, you still won't be able to make an online purchase. You'll need to make your purchase at the store."
"IT'S NOT IN THE STORE! IT'S NOT IN ANY STORE! Never mind - I'll just use a different card."
"Well, do you still want me to process your application?"
"Yes, by all means - once I have the card in hand, I'll drive to the store, stand n the returns line, return the thing, and then immediately rebuy it on my shiny, new Sears card."
"Oh, good, then I'll proceed."
"NO! I WAS BEING SARCASTIC!"
Long story short, I bought the thing with a MasterCard, which took a freakin' act of Congress, because the site offered me a free shipping code, then cheerfully refused to accept it . . . and on and on. Started to write this blog - and then got suspicious. Why, exactly, was Sears' price so good, relative to all of the other retailers? I couldn't possibly have just purchased a bundle for another system? I mean, I searched "WII Rock Band" on NexTag.
Yup, holy heck - the product recommended by NexTag was for PLAYSTATION. And I totally didn't catch it. (But, in my defense, SERIOUSLY? I SEARCHED FOR WII!) So now I have a charge on my MasterCard for an item that is being shipped to my local Sears store, for which I have ZERO USE.
Hate Sears. Hate NexTag. Declaring jihad on both of them. At least one of my coworkers/good friends will be pleased that I have joined "Team I Hate Sears." She has been a member of said team for decades . . . don't remember what got them off on the wrong foot (SHE might not even remember at this point), but she was on record that she was NEVER STEPPING FOOT IN A SEARS . . . until the year that the sole item on her dad's Christmas list was "cover for my Kenmore grill." She swallowed her pride, went into Sears, requested a Kenmore grill cover, only to be informed that "we don't carry that brand." "WHAT? IT'S YOUR HOUSE BRAND! YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE WHO CARRIES IT!"
Yeah, I'm feeling her pain. Oh, and if anyone has a PlayStation, we should talk . . . .