XBox marks the spot for holiday shopping headaches

By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer

For Heidi Foshee, it seemed like the emptiest promise she would ever make.

“It was a deal between us,” she said of the pact between her and 13-year-old son Michael Foshee. “If he could cut grass and save $200, I told him I would wait in line for 12 hours. He’d never saved $25 in his life.”

A promise is a promise, though, and there was Heidi Foshee, using a comp day at work to spend her day at the back of Portales’ Wal-Mart. She would later be joined by about a dozen people in the layaway department looking to get their hands on this year’s hot toy, the XBox 360, at $300 each.

In case you’ve decided to abandon all contact with the outside world, the XBox 360 is Microsoft’s new stand-alone gaming console, with hi-definition graphics and a bunch of features that I could use the rest of this column explaining (but won’t, because Bill Gates doesn’t need my help).

That’s why numerous people came to the layaway department on Monday night, eagerly awaiting the 360’s midnight release. The line started about 11 a.m. with Heidi Foshee, who got her hands on the first of eight tickets.

After Michael got out of school, he and friend Joey Jilek arrived to spend their evening waiting with Heidi. Michael Foshee and Jilek, who had money for his system in hand, passed the time with a deck of cards and their imagination.
For example, Heidi said one game they played involved a card game, where the winner would get to play the demonstration XBox in the electronics department for 30 minutes, while the other held Jilek’s ticket — abandoning the department with ticket in hand meant you abandoned your spot in line.

The eighth and final ticket went to Jamal Washington, who you may remember as a former Greyhound basketball player. Now Washington becomes a professional athlete whenever he fires up two of the three games he purchased.

“Live and Madden, for sure,” Washington said with a laugh, referring to NBA Live ’06 and Madden NFL ’06. “I also got Call of Duty, but I’ll be on that Madden.”

Washington figures he’s one of the better players in Portales, but he knows where he stands nationally.
“(A friend in California) plays Madden for a living,” Washington said. “He makes $20,000 a year just playing Madden. He put up 98 on me in a game with five-minute quarters.”

During the three-hour wait — he claimed the final 360 ticket when he arrived at 9:15 p.m. — Washington was also on his cell phone, sometimes talking to people from his hometown just outside of Los Angeles. In urban areas, Washington told me, people would line up four to five days in advance for a system and that was no guarantee they’d get one.

That might explain why some of the people in line weren’t waiting to play games, but to play the market.

Paul and Malisa Williams did just that. Using the “one system per customer” rule, the couple was able to leave with a pair of systems. The two planned to post them on an online bidding site (they told me eBay, most likely) and use the profits to take a post-holiday vacation to Cloudcroft.

Paul said the two didn’t have children, and laughed when he said no child of his would tolerate him buying a new video game system just to sell it. That’s exactly why another father with the same intent asked his name be withheld from my column (and his unknowing son).

Another person, who shall also remain nameless, said she bought the system to practice and surprise her 18-year-old nephew with her video game skills. If she could turn a 100 percent profit, though, she said she’d be willing to work on video game skills some other day.

When I got back home, I got online and decided to see if these XBox profits were fool’s gold. They weren’t — the systems that Paul and Malisa bought were retailing for a minimum of $600 on eBay. (This might explain a commercial I saw on television at the same time for a company that eliminated credit card debt.)

I can proudly say that I’m not going to pay that kind of exorbitant rate for a video game system, and I never wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid or a Tickle Me Elmo bad enough to waste an entire day.

But I’m also hoping that none of you remember this column in March, when I just might be waiting for a chance at Sony’s Playstation 3. I think I’ve got a comp day or five coming up.

Kevin Wilson is a staff writer at the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 32, or by e-mail:
kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com