Monday, 26 November 2007

I spent the better part of the last week at my dad's place, along with family and extended family for the holiday. They live in Los Altos, in the South Bay area of California. I decided, in a phase of misguided insanity, to get up at 4:00 a.m. on Friday morning to go down to the local Sears store in order to take  advantage of the Toshiba HD-A3 deal they had going (see an approximately equal Amazon deal here). The HD-A3 is a HD-DVD hd-d3_clfront player, and if you were willing to deal with the crowds, you could score one of the $300 players for $169, which is quite a deal. And it comes bundled with two movies (300 and Bourne Identity - good ones), and Toshiba has a deal where you can get five more HD-DVD movies for free from a list of titles.

Unfortunately, I forgot in my excitement and planning frenzy that Sears sucks. I should have stopped to - oh, I dunno - think or something.

Imagine the lonnnng line at Sears, waiting for the doors on the east side of the store to open precisely at 5am. People were giddy, and excitement poured from the mouths of people in many languages. Since I (of course) was late and was not really all that excited about being the last guy in, I just looked at the line and decided to wander down the sidewalk to the corner to see what other doors might eventually open up. If I was going to be last, I could at least get a good loser seat, you know?

This, friends, is where Sears made it's first mistake. Three other people stood with me at the wrong door, in sight of the long line of people who had been there for presumably hours. My door companions, too, had that dejected, partially confused look of glazed donuts in their eyes. And at about two minutes before the magical hour of 5am, the employees inside the store opened our door - before they opened the door where the long line was waiting.

Now, I don't know if some Sears employee thought that was funny or what, but I can tell you the line of people was collectively pissed, and vocalized that fact as we walked right in our door. Some bolted for our door, as well. Others stood their ground. It turned out it was no big deal, since the long line was at the entrance closest to the stair leading down to the electronics department (which is where everyone was headed - more on that in a minute). But the initial opening of the wrong door had the people worked up, and as we marched down the steps of the non-working escalator to the electronics floor, elbows and attitudes started to fly.

Now, if that was it, I'd say it was really no big deal. But there's a more to the story.

We get to the bottom of the escalator (mostly by force, as the crowd behind is pushing hard to get to  its destination), and see that there is no way to move once there because the growing number of people who have already made it downstairs are all stopped about 20 feet away, looking down at something, shoving and jumping over each other. I work my way through the throng and walk around to the other side and discover what was essentially a small, round end table on the floor with a festive red tablecloth draped over it, and a pencil. One woman among the staff started yelling to the entire crows that they would have to sign up on the paper to be served.

You have got to be kidding me, I thought. Who was the genius who came up with this idea?

I stood there and took a few body-blows to my back and shoulders as a couple fireplugs of individuals tried to force their way through the huddled masses to get to the magical service lamp table. It quickly got to the point where I decided to let a couple of controlled elbows loose when one particular individual got to be a little too rough... Just enough to point out he might want to stop, which he did. Then a seven-foot Neanderthal of an individual tried to barge his way through, and failing that then tried to lean and reach over everyone to sign up that way. He was arms-a-swingin' and managed to elbow my jaw a good one, which I didn't particularly appreciate, so in the true holiday spirit I responded with a quick and (relatively)harmless knuckle jab to the ribs. After a couple of those (hey, I was protecting my face), he decided to back off. At least people were able to recognize they were acting like idiots. Good thing no one was drunk.

Anyhow, this story is supposed to be about finding the HD-DVD player for my dad (which I eventually did), not about wrestling at Sears. Needless to say, I gave up on doing any business at Sears almost immediately. The store had almost every DVD player in their arsenal in boxes on the floor except for the Toshiba HD-DVD player and a couple others. So the only way to get what I needed was to sign up on a list that I could not get to and risk a bruised face. No thanks. I think maybe I'm giving up on Sears for good.

I left and did what all good 'Mericans do at 5:30 a.m. on a Friday. I went to Starbucks and got a latte and an expensive muffin. Then I decided to drive down the street in a city I am completely unfamiliar with (in the dark) and see what other stores/crowds I could find. Not too far away, Circuit City was incredibly freakin' packed. The line went around the back of the building even 30 minutes after they opened, and this was a very large building. I didn't even consider getting in line, but it was a sight to see. Same was true for Best Buy. The line was not as spectacular, but it was equally crazy. At both stores they were well-organized and seemed to have a gameplan in place. Much better than Sears, for sure.

Anyhow, I went back to my dad's house and sat down to finish a good Vince Flynn novel I was almost done reading and spent a couple hours that way, with some more coffee and food. I also got online to see what Costco might have in the way of HD-DVD players, since I know they sell them and I have found Costco over the years to be a great place to shop. Sure enough, they have the "club warehouse" version of the same player that was advertised at Sears, dubbed the HD-D3. And low and behold, once you subtract the in-store discounts, it was pretty much the same freakin' price, and  not just for five hours on that one Friday morning. Plus it comes with a HDMI cable, to boot. So, I jumped back in the car around 10:00 a.m., fired up Google maps and followed the directions to get to the nearest Costco.

Sure enough, there were tons of them stacked up and in stock. I also grabbed a 4GB USB thumb drive for my das for $25 after the coupon, which the guy at the register offered up since I didn't have one with me. That's what I mean about shopping at Costco. Between the prices, the service and the great return policy (which I've rarely had to use but it's great when you need it), it's always a good experience.

Anyhow, in my typical Costco-shopping fashion, I also picked up the entire Mitch Rapp series of paperbacks by Vince Flynn (fun books if you're into the whole CIA fiction novels and stuff like me) at for about $8.00 apiece (great deal), and then headed back to the house. Later we grabbed a HD-DVD copy of Planet Earth from Target (Costco only had the standard DVD version in the store, bummer...) to go along with the new player. My dad hooked it up and we watched some HD and standard DVD content, all of which looks great.

hddvd HD-DVD technology is amazing, especially at 1080 resolution. The HD-D3 outputs at 1080i and looks great on my dad's Sharp LCD he just bought. the standard DVD upscaling done my the Toshiba player looks great, with just a few "jaggies" in sharp diagonal lines showing themselves from time to time. The new James Taylor One Man Band DVD (standard DVD resolution) looked awesome on it. I use the Xbox 360 Elite with the HD-DVD drive at home on my 1080p projector, so I get the full 1080p with my setup and it's truly awesome. The HD-D3 has an ethernet port which we hooked up to dad's LAN, and we easily updated to the newest available firmware via the player's menu system.

So, if you're looking for a great deal on HD-DVD players, there are some terrific deals on the Toshiba models (I also hear the HD-A2 is blowing out for around a hundred bucks some places, wow). Check your local Costco store if you're a member.

And skip Sears. Or if you do go there, just be ready to fight dirty.

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Random Stuff | Tech
Monday, 26 November 2007 18:41:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Monday, 26 November 2007 18:56:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Hey Now Greg,
That is a funny story. I think it sure is fun to be in line black Friday morning waiting to buy electronics.
RunAs fan,
Wednesday, 28 November 2007 06:20:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
It's amazing (and sad) to watch what people will do on Black Friday. Is this what Christmas time has turned into? Quite pathetic, if you ask me. People pushing, shoving, elbowing, etc., all over god forsaken electronics? Ick.

This is precisely why I am doing my shopping from the comfort of my keyboard. People pushing and shoving over electronic items? I never understood it. And if that's not the sign of true greed, then I don't know what else is.

What a sad state of affairs Christmas-time has turned into. Christmas should be about spending time with family, not about how much and how big the presents are.

Oh well, perhaps I'm one of the few left who actually understands what Christmas is.

I think the name of "Christmas" should be changed to "Greedfest" after reading what happened to you.
Tuesday, 19 February 2008 12:12:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
HD-DVD is dead! Toshiba surrendered in the high-definition format war against Sony-backed Blu-ray today, saying it would no longer make or market HD DVD players and recorders.
Sorry, but you lost in the end!
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