Today I achieved what had seemed impossible: I bought a Nintendo Wii, and I paid $249.83 plus tax for it. With a little luck, flexibility, and determination, you might be able to score one, too.
Despite what some people are reporting ("The stores are sold out until January or February!"), stores are getting deliveries of Wiis. They are just not getting enough to keep them in stock, or even on the shelf, for very long. The typical shipment appears to be about 25-30 units, and reports I have from different retailers is that they usually last about 30-60 minutes once they hit the shelf. Timing is very important if you want to snag a unit.
Deliveries can come in any day of the week. Wiis are delivered by private carrier, not in the usual store inventory trucks; some stores get this type of delivery twice a day.
First, make a list of all of the retailers in your area that carry Wiis. For each store, note the phone number and the time when they open. Here are the store locator pages for some of the most popular big-box retailers:
Limit the list to stores you can physically get to within 10 or 15 minutes. It's not going to help you to know that a Target 50 miles away just got some in; by the time you get there, they'll be gone. You may have one list to call from home and another to call from work. Just keep travel time minimized and you won't waste your time calling stores you're not likely to reach quickly enough.
Once you've got your list, call each store as soon as they open, first thing in the morning - every day. Since some stores open at 8:00AM (Targets hereabouts) and others open at 10:00AM (Best Buy), you'll have to call at different times of the day. Enlisting other family members can speed up the calling process.
There is no need to ask for the electronics or video department, the store operators all know whether or not they have Wiis in stock. Each phone call takes about 30 seconds: Do you have any Nintendo Wiis in stock today? Be polite when they say "no," say "thank you," hang up, and dial the next number.
Keep calling until someone says "yes," then jump in your car, go to the store, and snatch one up before they're gone.
Call every store, every day.
Additional notes: it's worth it to check in with the guys in the video game department (whatever it's called) to see if shipments come in more than once a day, and to ask them if there is a good time to call. My local Wal-Mart told me the best times to call are 10AM and 3PM. The guys at Best Buy said they might not have them at store opening time, but around 11AM or so they would be delivered. It varies from store to store.
Warehouse clubs like Sam's and Costco open early for business members. My husband and I have a small business membership, so I was able to take advantage of the earlier hours. It's a good thing, too, because by the time I got there, only 6 of their shipment of 25 were left. I saw one business buyer with about 10 in her cart, but this particular Sam's Club at least was not limiting purchases.
Deliveries seem random -- last week, Best Buy had them on Thursday, and my husband missed them by about an hour. If you're in a store, wander over to the video game desk and chat the guys up: do you know when they're coming in? What's the best time to call? Incorporate their advice into your call schedule.
Be persistent, and be willing to get to the store immediately as soon as you hear a "yes". Good luck!