Bundles, holdouts, and sellouts

With the US launch of the Game Boy Advance, and last fall’s launch of the PlayStation 2, it seems that all retailers have to follow a series of horrifying trends in order to increase their profits. Look at the hell I went through last year trying to get my hands on a PlayStation 2, eventually winning the right to buy one in a lottery.

Now I ended up having to go through the same thing in order to procure a Game Boy Advance! Right after returning from E3, I decided I was going to own a GBA, and I went to a friend’s store (who shall remain nameless). I was told that Nintendo called off taking more reservations, and this store ended up with only 24 reservations. Go figure, I was number 25! But I was told that if anyone cancelled or if 25 or more units were to arrive, that I was to get the first extra one.

Fair enough. I was also told not to put any money down on it until the unit arrived. That’s even better!

Well, then comes June 11th, I call the store, and found out a 25th GBA was arriving, but IT WAS HELD FOR SOMEONE ELSE! "Now wait a second," I interjected. "I was told if you got more than your initial shipment of 24, you were supposed to hold the first extra?"

"Well," said that store’s assistant manager, "we didn’t take into account those who reserved multiple units." Screwed again I thought. This wouldn’t have been the first time this happened though. This is one reason why I have never been fond of reservations, because the merchandise almost NEVER comes out the day it is supposed to.

Claims of "that’s when it is being shipped" seem to pop up every time, not to mention that the incompetent courier staff doesn’t know how and when to deliver when it is something important.

I was given another option that the store was going to give me: the evil invention called a "bundle." A bundle is nothing more than a cheap ploy of these stores to take your money by forcing you to buy extra accessories or titles you don’t want in order to get the unit. PlayStation2 units were sold this way, with bundles costing as much as $500, now Game Boy Advances are being bundled with software for upwards of $200!

What the hell is wrong with me just buying the unit itself, and choosing my games at a later date? Since I had an impression that this store was not going to hold an Advance for me, I decided to check some of the other locations in the area. Wal-Mart didn’t have any at first, but that wouldn’t surprise me because of their tendency to hold units for their employees to purchase first (hey, it happened during PS2-Gate, and during the big lottery), and K-Mart had only ONE UNIT available for sale.

But go figure, there were no sales reps to let me know how much it was going to be. The larger software dealers had ALL their units placed on reservation, with only the bundle as a possible answer, and KB Toys did not have any units out as well (most likely going the way of the bundle as well.) Their Web site still has listings for pre-May reservations for crying out loud!

Toys R Us fared better, as all the stores had over 50 units each, and the sales reps there were open about selling all their units and not holding any for themselves. I was very pleased with their treatment of the customer, but I still held back from making a final purchase there.

Fortunately my hunt for the Advance ended on a good note, as the original store had a reservation cancel on them, which meant that a unit was held for me. I was still pissed off with them for claiming they had a mysterious 25th reservation, but I did get all my old software traded in, had enough to pick up a GBA, Castlevania, Tony Hawk 2, and a Nyko Worm Light Plus (a bundle of MY personal selection, not one forced upon me), and still had some credit left aside which I will use when Gran Turismo 3 comes out.

But still, this whole crap with bundles scares the hell out of me. What happens when the GameCube comes out, and I’ll have to dish out more than the initial $200 for software that I don’t want, or God forbid the same thing would happen should I reserve an X-Box, and I’ll end up having to spend about $700 for the console, another controller (which will most likely not be used), a DVD remote, and several low-quality titles. I don’t want any of these titles, and retailers should take Keyshawn Johnson’s advice, "JUST GIVE ME THE DAMN UNIT!"

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