Sunday Thoughts: Shopping

I’m not the most organised when it comes to placing pre-orders. The urge to do so is always there, it’s just the financial backup that I lack. As money is often a little tight, I can’t tie myself into too many pre-orders in case I just can’t justify it when the time comes. This is how I found myself in a position in which I pre-ordered Xenoblade Chronicles Wednesday afternoon, less than 2 days before its release.

It was slightly impulsive. Having eyed my bank account carefully while also glancing at the phenomenally good reviews for the game, I couldn’t resist. Scurrying across the internet, I discovered a few different places had it available to pre-order for around £29.99. I settled on one such place which I’ll be nice and not name explicitly but I knew would be very reliable when it came to delivering me the game on Friday morning. All was well. I was excited. I can’t get enough of the JRPG world and I hadn’t touched my Wii in a while so this was ideal timing. I even had a rare weekend of not much planned. Hurrah!

Thursday lunch time comes around and I receive an email from the retailer. Due to unprecedented demand and stock shortages, I wouldn’t be receiving my copy in time for the weekend. It’d be sometime next week instead. Some swearing may have occurred. I can accept that things like this happen (although surely this problem would have been known on the Wednesday afternoon when I first placed the order) but it’s still an annoyance. Having a good plan wrecked due to outside forces is always frustrating.

[drop]So I set to work to find out the next best place to go. As it was about 2pm by this time, I figured it’d be too late to pre-order anywhere else in time for it to arrive Friday and even a Saturday delivery would be potentially pushing it without paying a lot extra for express postage. So I resorted to the High Street and pretty much everywhere else near me. Do you know how hard it is to confirm in store prices for anywhere?! It’s as if you’re dealing in a variety of government secrets. It’s hideous.

First of all, I decided to tackle the supermarkets. I phoned Tesco first expecting a vaguely competitive price and at least there are always around 2 billion Tesco stores near me. The phone call was a maze of options. Press 1 for the Pharmacy, 2 for the Phone Shop, 3 for the depths of hell. Eventually I got through to an actual person, albeit someone who I suspect was actually in a customer service call centre rather than my actual store.

The words Wii and Xenoblade baffled the hell out of her and she wasn’t sure she could help but she put me on hold while she went to find help. I was on hold for 7 minutes. Not even hellish, terrible chart pop music hold either. Silent hold. At one point I actually checked that my phone was still working as it was so deadly silent. After the 7 minutes, I gave up. Maybe she would have returned seconds later but my patience was pretty thin and I was extremely bored.

I moved onto Asda next as their online price showed £31ish but of course their online arm is totally different to the store. Owned by the Zavvi/The Hut group I think (this might be utterly wrong). So I tried my local Asda. One that I regularly shop at because all the staff are so friendly and nice and helpful. The one on the Music and Video (yes video) desk wasn’t. It was as if I’d asked her the most depraved question in the world – as if I’d asked her if she’d ever looked at a chicken in an alluring way. An abrupt ‘No I can’t tell you that’ followed by her hanging up on me when I was still midway through saying ‘Oh ok, thanks anyway’.

Morrisons were next. No price on their site but worth a shot nonetheless. They were actually lovely. Very friendly and keen to help. Unfortunately they’d never heard of Xenoblade Chronicles as it wasn’t on their system and they hadn’t had a delivery of it. They were keen to take my number and phone me back when they got it in, if they ever received it.

Giving up on the supermarkets for a bit, I reverted to more obvious choices. Blockbuster was next.

I’ll be frank here. I used to work for Blockbuster. Some good friends of mine work for them. Having consulted the site beforehand, I was 99% certain the price would be the same in store as it always has been in the past. £34.99 was less than ideal but would do. I had a pleasant chat with a former work colleague. After they misspelt Xenoblade and exclaimed that they didn’t have any copies of Zenoblade, they discovered that there was one currently in stock. Yay! Actually, no. Somehow the disc had gone missing. You see, Blockbuster separate the discs from the boxes in order to put the boxes out on display safely. Somehow the disc had gone AWOL already. They said they’d call me back once it re-appeared.

Finally, I tried Game and Gamestation. These two are lumped in together as it was remarkably similar. I called a 0871 number in both cases and was directed to an automated voice. It asked me to name the game I was looking for. I was quietly impressed when in both cases; it understood me saying Xenoblade Chronicles in a slightly exaggerated manner. I was less impressed when it simply told me that the game wasn’t out yet and to call back another time. Fighting my way through the myriad of phone options, I thought I’d get through to a real person. I never did. In both cases, no one answered. Sad faces all around.

I’ll admit my patience had been exhausted. I gave up at this point. Instead opting to wait until Friday to go around the shops myself to find the best price. This is the problem you see. There’s just no guarantee.

[drop2]The supermarkets are so worried about being undercut by their rivals that they clearly daren’t tell the ordinary consumer what price a game will be upon release. I can understand it to an extent but it’s mostly just punishing the consumer. In particular, the attitude of the woman in Asda immediately made me think ‘Right then, not buying it from you lot if you’re going to be that dismissive!’ Really though, it’s just a bit frustrating and after a while, a little intimidating too.

In the case of all the others, there’s no transparency. We’ve all been there. Seen a game online for x price and when we’ve gone into the store it’s been £10 more than online. A few quid would be understandable. After all, shops have plenty of overheads like staff, rent, electricity, heating etc. But £10 is a bit excessive to say the least! It just makes people feel ripped off. Ultimately there’s just no guarantee of what you’re going to get. Some places are the same in store as they are online (like Blockbuster in most cases. There are exceptions) but others will be wildly different. To the untrained eye, it makes no sense at all.

As an addendum: I did get a copy of Xenoblade Chronicles in the end. Not for a very good price, mind. Having scoured all the supermarkets, two Blockbusters, two HMVs and Game/Gamestation, the only places that even had stock were the all mighty Game group. It was the kind of move that made me wonder if there was a bit of a conspiracy going on and that the Game group had actually bought up all the stock in my local area. I grudgingly bought it for £49.99 with a red controller bundled too as the only other option was £39.99 anyway and I was in need of a controller at some point. The curse of being a gamer who wants everything on release day and no later.

It could be worse I guess. While looking, I kept an eye out for Arcana Heart 3, another new release this week, despite owning a copy already. I didn’t see one copy! Poor, poor 2D fighting fans in my local area. They must have had a rubbish weekend.

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –

31 Comments

  1. Blimey, sounds very stressing :|
    I’m usually far more casual when it comes to shopping, as I hardly ever buy new games – therefore there’s less competition concerning prices.

  2. That was a great read Jen, I could feel your frustration!

    I shop for almost everything online now, especially games. The only time I go out and buy it in a shop is if there is a deal on or it’s a much older game that has had a good chunk taken of its price, so just bargains really.

    I liked reading this story though, more please :)!

  3. Its really hard to look for certain games… I was hoping to find Earth Defence Force and pc games under the 2 for 15 offer… but this is
    b******? The Game in the centre of Belfast is so lazy and I’m forced to walk way up to the shopping centre’s Game which as a better choice.

    Would never bother with the super markets because the choice is really poor and well they’re not specialists like what Game is oddly under. Pretty much pricks that are cashing in on the casual horror.

    I’d have to use the onlines store more but you know I’d rather get a game in the store then I wouldn’t have to wait sometimes.

  4. I only ever go to supermarkets for the big huge releases as sometimes they’re a pound or two cheaper than game or gamestation. I remember a similar story when I tried to buy Monopoly Streets on release day.
    Game “Its’ not out yet”
    Me: “Yes it is.”
    Game: “No its not, we stock every single game that comes out on release date.”
    Me: *laughs a lot*
    Game: “Are you calling me a liar mate?”
    I then bought it in HMV and was so peeved at being told that I was clueless I went back and waived it under his snotty little nose.

    I almost always get my games online now. HMV seem to have the biggest game range in my area because all Game and Gamestation seem to do is push 2nd stuff for their own profit margin.

  5. ShopTo simple as before 5 guaranteed next day sorted never let me down and cheap prices to boot

    • *coughs*theymightbetheunamedretailer*coughs*

  6. I’m lucky in that, I used to buy so many games, and have started doing it again recently, that I only have to ask and the staff at my local gamestation will keep a copy of any game I want for me. I might pay a little more than I do online (usually), but I like talking to the staff in the shop about the games, and sometimes there are some really good deals in there.
    I’ll sometimes pre-order online in the case of buying a collectors edition, or the price is dirt cheap, but generally I prefer to buy instore. Wouldn’t do this if the staff weren’t so friendly though :)

    • As Bunimomike just said over skype, it’s your fault for buying a wii game :P (We’re just joking, of course :) )

  7. All that time and energy, ntm call charges… it’s a shame you didn’t get the deal you really wanted in the end. I hope you’re enjoying the game after all that stress :)
    We don’t have the supermarket choice where i live (Irish republic), although my local Tesco does have afew Wii and DS games. I can usually count on HMV to have new releases for €5 less than any of the game retailers (€10 less in the case of GT5) and often great bargains on discounted games but Gamestop have the best trade-in deals for new releases so my decision usually depends on whether i’ve got something to trade-in or not. Simples..

  8. I rarely pre-order but i do my game shopping almost exclusively online (the exception being supermarket deals/mistakes) :)

  9. Great article, Jen. For me, it’s definitely your best yet. I really enjoy the “chat” style as it’s a lengthy article but had no sign of feeling staid. Top stuff.

    Regarding the content itself, I’m so glad I come to games when I’m good and ready. Your predicament sounded genuinely stressful to the point of you wanting to stick two fingers up to certain retailers.

    I’ll take the other tack of ordering online, usually months after launch. ;-)

    • Thanks for the kind words :)
      It was quite cathartic to write too!

  10. Im usually a strict Amazon user as they are reasonably priced and very reliable for delivery. I’ve now started to use GAMEs website for the double reward points on pre-orders and free delivery so its pretty good.

Comments are now closed for this post.