I had every intention of writing a happy and positive article about the Xbox 360 launch. I had, what I thought, was a foolproof plan on hand and even went as far as calling myself smart for thinking of it! “Those fools…” I cackled from SwankWorld headquarters atop a craggy mountain during some sort of bad thunderstorm “they’ll be killing each other for their consoles while I fly in with one fell swoop and leave unscathed!”

Yeah, I thought I was clever with my little plan, but as I’ve come to learn over the years, plans almost never go accordingly – especially when I’m the brains behind it. Little did I know that I’d end up getting dug into the trenches myself, almost get beat up, and almost beat up a clerk myself. While the Xbox seamlessly launched over the entire world, the launch for me was far less than perfect. And so begins the weaving of my tale of woe about the worst 24 hours of my life.

Part 1: A Simple Plan

My plan was simple, yet efficient. My target was Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, and what I would guess would be the recipient of the highest volume of Xbox consoles. Turns out the number one answer was Best Buy, but if this were Family Feud, I’d still have a chance of winning ten grand. There are three Wal-Marts in Colorado Springs, which I figured that everyone would be staking out by Sunday. I decided that I would go to nearby Widefield and camp out at the Wal-Mart there, since people wouldn’t be keen to a store outside of city limits. I called the store on Sunday night to see how they planned on conducting things. The guy in electronics told me that they would give out vouchers at 11:30 and wheel the consoles out at midnight. I let them know that I will be coming in early, a full twelve hours, to wait. They said it wasn’t a problem. My plan was finally in motion…all I needed to do was play the waiting game which I was totally prepared to do.

I arrived at the Widefield Wal-Mart at 12pm and after buying a couple of Rockstar energy drinks, a notebook, and a pen, I approached the electronics section ready to journey to kill time. I approached the cashier and confidently stated “I’m volunteering to start your Xbox line”. The cashier retorted with “Management says nobody can wait around. We’ll be giving out vouchers in layaway at 11:30 and bringing the consoles out at midnight.”

No problem I thought to myself. I’ll just have to change up my plan. Not one to just let things go, I walked across the building to the layaway department where I decided to take a different approach.

“I hear you guys are reserving Xbox 360’s”

The lady behind the counter didn’t try to hide the fact she was rolling her eyes. I pretty much got the same response, “tickets at 11:30, console on sale at midnight. That way everyone has a fair and equal chance.”

With that I decided that I’d have to come back later. My plan was now to come back to Wal-Mart at 10:30 and browse until 11 where I’d make a bee line to layaway.

After hanging out with the girlfriend for a while, my mind started to wander. This no waiting rule came from the day manager. What if the night manager changes the rules on me? At 8pm we decided to call the store again. Where the conversation went something like this:

“When are you guys starting the line for Xbox 360s?”

“We already gave out all of the vouchers for them.”

“WHAT?! I was in there at noon where I was told to come back at 11:30! You people turned me away so everyone can have a fair and equal chance! WHERE’S MY FAIR AND EQUAL CHANCE?!”

“We’ve been hearing that a lot. There are 40 people in line right now, you can feel free to wait in case somebody no-shows”

“No thanks.”

At this point I was livid, sure Wal-Mart lead me astray but demanding a manager would have just garnered me some sort of scripted “I’m sorry quantities are limited…” speech. It was time to bring the backup plan into action. Plan B would take us to the small town of Pueblo 30 miles south of the Springs. It’s a small town where the stock would hopefully outnumber the amount of people. With two Wal-Marts in town, the chances seemed good, right? Wrong. Both stores had everything spoken for. I proceeded to call the rest of the Wal-Marts in town for a lucky break, but none was to be found. Some had 300 people lined up in the aisles, others gave all vouchers away at 9am.

For a moment I had lost hope.

Suddenly, I had an epiphany and called the local Circuit  City halfway expecting to be turned away. They said that their plan was to open at 10am on Tuesday and pass out vouchers.

“Do you guys have a line?” I asked.

“Nope. Not that I know of. Just be sure to come down early, like about 6am to get a good spot in line.”

“Screw that, I’m coming down there now!”

And from there, we hastily grabbed what we thought we would need and headed down for what was to be a very cold campout. Things would only end up getting more interesting from there…

Part 2: A Stroke of Luck

We reached Circuit  City at 8:30pm with no line in sight. We sat down right next to the door. We were first in line and proceeded to pat ourselves on the back for it. A lady drove up and asked if we were the line for the Xbox and told us that we were lucky. Best Buy had received 50 and had about 100 people in line. Some had even been there since 1pm on Sunday. The same goes for the Circuit  City up north which also had a pretty hefty line going for it to. The Target next door to Circuit  City only received 8 systems and already had a line. We staked the one store that the entire city had seemingly forgot about.

Well...this picture looked good before I took it off the camera. Here's my makeshift campsite.

At 8:40 a guy and his wife showed up for the #2 spot in line. A few minutes later, #3 showed up. She had come from Denver where there were lines up to 300 people long out in front of stores. She saw that my girlfriend and I were ill prepared and offered us an extra chair and blankets that she had brought. We totally took her up on it. We got word that they had 17 systems available, 14 premiums and 3 cores. People trickled in until about 10pm where only 8 of the 14 premium systems had been spoken for. We knew we were legit when the store closed and the “Xbox Line Starts Here” flyer got posted. People continued to trickle in for the next few hours. Some people drove by the store and drove off not even bothering to inquire about the 6 available spots that were open. Oh well, sucks to be them. At 1:15am the last premium system was spoken for. All that remained were 3 core systems.

A very tired Dr. Swank...not at all being cocky about being first in line.

Everyone in line was totally cool and could really be the best group of people you could ever hope to spend 14 hours of your life with. We all got to know each other throughout the night and essentially became family. Nobody was competing for spots, everyone knew that they would be walking away a winner. I would joke that I wasn’t going to sleep because I wasn’t going to have them steal my spot, but really, there was nothing to worry about.

About 2am we heard gunshots in the distance…we all thought it might have been some sort of line dispute at the Media Play across the street, but we learned on the news the next day that it ended up being some kid getting gunned down in front of his house a few blocks away. Needless to say, this brought out some nerves every time someone drove by the line. The temperature dropped to about 20 degrees between 3-4am and despite the fact I had about 8 blankets on me and 2 hoodies, I was still too cold to fall asleep. Luckily, food was plentiful and the back of the Target next door served as a perfect bathroom.

A not-so-great picture of the line at about 2am.

We all talked until about 4am when everyone fell asleep…I managed to get some heat going by pulling all of the blankets over my head. I woke up again at 5:30 when the girls next to me started talking again, but fell back to sleep. I woke up again at 6:30 and as I pulled the blankets off of my head, I looked to my left and there was a tall, muscle-bound guy standing in front of the “line starts here” sign giving me a very intimidating look.

Part 3: Everything Comes to a Head

My heart sank into my stomach for a moment until my gaze was broken by the girls next to me saying good morning and mentioning how funny I looked with all of the blankets on me. I looked back at the guy who was still staring at me and proceeded to throw the pile of blankets off of me and smoke a cigarette. While talking to the other guys smoking, another guy approached the intimidating guy asking how many consoles they had left. The guy responded with “I don’t care, I’m just gonna get mine and nobody is going to stop me.”

Not being one to rock the boat I wanted to inconspicuously let everyone know what this guy was up to. He was claiming number one in line. Good thing is, I didn’t have to put myself in danger right away…his hot headed attitude pretty much did the talking for me. As we started talking about how well things worked out in terms of numbers, Mr. Intimidating piped up with “You all can talk about the math all you want. I got dicked over at Wal-Mart and I’m going to get what I deserve!”

Of course, this incited chaos as a few other people in line started getting into a shouting match with this guy, which made him blow himself up like some sort of blowfish. I made sure to let him know that everyone in line had been to Wal-Mart as well, he wasn’t any more special than anyone else. He just stood there arguing with everyone saying that he wasn’t going to move and none of us could touch him. Furthermore, he was going to “call his boys” to come down and they’d take all of us on…he wasn’t going to move.

Of course, a few other people in line found another way to get this guy to the back of the line, by means of police intervention. The cops showed up within minutes, took the guy to the side where he attempted to pull his intimidation act with them, but they wouldn’t have any of it. He ended up getting ushered to the back of the line where he would have an awkward three hour wait with the people he threatened only a half hour before. His friends showed up about ten minutes later, but instead of taking us all on, they got in line for the last two core systems. We were a full house now.

At 8:30 the manager of Circuit  City came out to tell us how the vouchers were going to work. We each would receive a numbered voucher for a numbered box. They asked who was lucky number one, I raised my hand and the first 14 premium systems were handed out with the three assholes in back getting the rest.

The proverbial "Golden Ticket"

With voucher in hand, we could finally get out of the cold. A bunch of us went to Target to finally use a toilet, wash our hands, and thaw out. After exploring Target for a couple of hours we came back to Circuit  City right before opening time. The manager came out to let us know which checkouts were for Xbox and which weren’t. They opened the doors and we flooded in. I went over to the accessory table to pick up an extra controller and Condemned: Criminal Origins and headed for the checkout. After waiting in line for about 30 minutes it was finally my turn to get up to the checkout. Twenty-four hours of hunting and fourteen hours of waiting had culminated to this moment.

The rather slim acessory table.

I reached the checkout with lucky voucher #1 and looked at the shelf behind the registers. Panic struck. There was only one white box and two green boxes. I looked to my right, and the older lady who got voucher #14 was coming to check out. The white box was labeled #14…so where was mine? After the cashier had some confusion about whether the white or green box was the good one, I let him know that I’m supposed to get the white box. Then reality hit us both. My premium system had gone to the 15th person in line who had core system voucher #1. For those not keeping track, it was the asshole that cut into line at 6am. Just my damn luck.

After some half-baked apologies, the guy behind the counter said he was going to try to call the guy to bring it back. To which I responded with “DO YOU REALLY THINK HE’LL BRING IT BACK NOW?!” The girls I had been hanging out with all morning caught wind of all of this and started yelling at the guy as well. First in line meant nothing at this point and I was pissed. The guy offered to call every Wal-Mart and Target in town to get one for me. Of course I let them know that would be a very vain attempt.

We finally agreed that I would be able to use the core system until they got another premium system in, which they would hold for me and I’d pay the $100 difference then. They claim that they’ll be getting a new shipment on Black Friday, but I’ve also heard Christmas Eve and even as far as February. They signed my voucher and at 11:30am on November 22nd, almost 24 hours after my initial trip to Wal-Mart, I drove home in bumper-to-bumper lunch hour traffic with half the console I wanted.

Compare it to an unplanned pregnancy....

Now I don’t mean to sound selfish, I appreciate the fact that I got a console in the first place. It’s the fact that I assumed that Circuit  City had a system that assured against things like this. Maybe if the vouchers weren’t all green some sort of confusion would have been avoided. Either way, it’s all said and done now. I can tell that I’m getting older because I’m determined to send both Wal-Mart and Circuit  City complaint letters about all of this.

In its rightful place...for now.

Now my system sits amongst the mighty PS2 and Gamecube (thus retiring my old, broken Xbox) like an unwanted child until I can get a suitable replacement. As of now, there is no sure fire way to get something no matter how long you’re willing to wait, it’s just a conclusion I’ve come to. This just goes to show that now matter how great you may think a plan is, it’ll never work out the way you want it to…well, unless you’re me. 

- Brad Hicks (aka Dr. Swank), SwankWorld Media

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