Want to know why I haven’t posted all weekend? Because I’ve been trying to find a Wii.
Warning: This post is long and whiney, full of petty details about my personal life, but it also has some helpful shopping advice and a bit of philosophy as well.
A few weeks ago, during my trip to Boston, we had a party in the evening where the hosts set up their Nintendo Wii so that we could play Tennis and Bowling with the game projected on the wall. I’d never played the Wii. Sure, the commercials are intriguing, but the last game system I owned was a Colecovision! (My previous system was a used Atari 2600 just as they became uncool, which I traded in for a TI-99 4/A only a month before Texas Instruments announced they were discontinuing their computers.) I’ve played games exclusively on the PC for almost two decades. Frankly, most modern console games look bafflingly hard to master, way too visually confusing and the mere sight of the flakey 20-button controllers makes my carpal tunnel-ridden hands hurt!
Well, the Wii is designed for the audiences overlooked by the XBox and Playstation systems. It involves less button manipulation and a lot more exertion. I think I burned off 100 calories playing tennis! After mulling it over a couple weeks, and prompted by an Amazon.com promotion that I received last Thursday, I decided I’d buy one.
Oh wait. You CAN’T. As I haven’t any children and don’t play consoles myself, I’d been totally unaware of the fact most of you know: you can’t get Wii consoles for love or money. OK, poor choice of words: you CAN get Wii’s for money. A LOT of money. The $250 system is going for $600 and up on eBay.
The Wii has been out a year, with Nintendo cranking them out as fast as they can. No store can keep them on the shelf. Usually, they never touch a shelf. No store will sell them online. You cannot even order one on Amazon! This is unbelievable! I don’t care if it takes six months to get to me, but I can’t even place a standing order???
Saturday, we were at Toys R Profitable and I asked the clerk when they were getting more. He told me that they’d have 15 of them Sunday morning and that they opened the store at 9:00. Melinda and I decided to swing by around 8 and see what the crowd was like. Big crowd, we skip it and pretend we were only going next door to Baker’s Square for breakfast. If it’s only a few people, we get a Wii. So Sunday morning, we drive past and there’s nobody at the door! We park the car and Melinda reminds me to bring my hat and gloves as we wait outside for 45 minutes. As I walk up to join her… the doors part and someone walks out of the store. They actually opened at 8 a.m.
The rest of Sunday, instead of all the web design I wanted to accomplish, I perused eBay. I Froogle’d the Wii and went down dozens of pages. Froogle pointed me to dozens of online retailers who were selling them for $550…but upon opening the page they were now marked as $780! They’re raising their prices so fast Google can’t keep up! I found some package deals which didn’t really offer the games I wanted but at least they were giving me the value of my money instead of just making someone a windfall profit on eBay, and as I dawdled over which games to get by watching GameTrailers reviews (well worth it, as they changed my mind on a number of games) the bundled Wii’s went out of stock. OOPS! I just checked the page again and they’re in stock again…but most of the good games are gone now.
Tonight I was at Gamestop buying games for a system I don’t own yet and I see some Wii boxes on the shelf. Could it be that stores like Gamestop actually have Wii’s in stock and it’s just that Joe Public only thinks to pester big box stores? Nah, can’t be. But… how stupid will I feel if I don’t ask when there are priced Wii console boxes right there?
Me: “I have a very stupid question.”
Clerk: “There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Shoot.”
Me: “Do you have any Wii’s?”
Clerk: “That is a stupid question.”
Here’s the point of all this:
Melinda and I talked it over this weekend. Do we want to get one? The thing is, it’s not a surprise, and we don’t have any kids waiting for it under the tree. I feel like I don’t have the right to get one before Christmas when some desperate parent really needs one. Those people paying inflated prices on eBay and to small online retailers are doing so because they’re desperate, and to them it’s well worth the money just to have it in time for Christmas. I’m certainly not willing to pay three times the price; other people are.
Once again, Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics (which I heartily endorse as a Christmas present, and you should click that link so I have money for a Wii) is correct: “gouging” is nothing more than raising prices in response to demand, which in turn helps to parcel out the limited goods to the people most desperate for them. For me, it would be “nice” to have one. If I could buy one for $250 from Amazon right now, I would… and that would be one less system available for people who have three kids begging for one.
Frankly, I don’t even understand why the retailers have to sell it for $250. A Nintendo Wii is WORTH $600 -$800. Deprivation and demand have dictated the actual value of the item. Why should the retailers be forced to sell it for a piddling $250 to someone grinning greedily as they run home to list it on eBay and make $400 profit? The retailer’s doing all the real work of placing orders, running invoices, paying clerks, etc. If there’s profit to be had in selling Wii’s, they should be making it.
Now, when I tried to make this argument before (due to Green Arrow shooting a store clerk for selling a precious commodity at a higher price in a disaster area), there were many people whining about it not being the Christian thing to do. Frankly, religion doesn’t enter into economics and it shouldn’t be dictating policy in a secular nation. I believe in charity, and especially in Christian charity, but if in addition to charity there are people willing to do what it takes to bring in needed items at inflated prices, they should be free to do so without any hindrance by government or hassles about it not being Christian. Again, I love charity, but if charity alone was meeting the need for the diapers in bombed out Star City or (in real life) getting generators to Katrina victims, then there wouldn’t be any profit in “gouging”, would there? The fact that people have reached a point of desperation where they will gladly pay twice as much for a needed item is pretty much proof that your vaunted charity is not meeting that need.
However, all of you who responded thusly to that debate last year are more than welcome to buy me a Nintendo Wii because it’s the Christian thing to do.
And now, some rejected Wii games: