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Holiday jeer at Wal-Mart
Tempers flare as limited supplies of sweet advertised deals sell out within minutes.
November 25, 2005: 1:30 PM EST
By Steve Hargreaves, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Wal-Mart may be offering super-low prices on some popular electronics, but standing in line for hours only to be told the store sold out if its limited supply within minutes isn't sitting well with some customers.

"That was terrible shopping," a woman at a Maryland Wal-Mart, who would only go by Ms. Newman because she was supposed to be at work, told CNNMoney.com Friday morning. "There were fights. Some folks were there at 1 a.m., but they didn't get what they wanted. They need to get more stuff in the store."

CNN showed video from affiliate WFTV of shoppers scuffling at a Wal-Mart store in Orlando, Fla., with an eyewitness saying laptops were being thrown "20 feet in the air and people were collapsing on each other to grab them. It was ridiculous." (Click here for video)

A Wal-Mart (Research) spokeswoman, when asked how the world's No. 1 retailer is going to handle shoppers angry about missing out on the deals, said stores will have comparable products with comparable prices. But she didn't say they would be the same brands.

Calls made to several Wal-Marts around the country revealed that one of the hottest items on the holiday sale list, a $378 Hewlett-Packard laptop, sold out within the first hour the stores were open.

"They trampled each other for 'em," said one Wal-Mart employee at a Maryland store. "It was great."

Four Wal-Marts contacted by CNNMoney.com said they received limited supplies of the HP laptop, ranging from 15 at a store in Michigan to about 65 at the Maryland location.

'There were a couple hundred people waiting in line to get into the electronics department and many were angry about waiting around for nothing," Tim Severance, in an e-mail to CNNMoney.com, said of a Wal-Mart in Martinsburg, W.Va. "Turns out that it was only a gimmick to get people into their store."

Yes, that's exactly what it is, said one retail analyst.

"All of this is designed to get people into the store," said George Whalin, chief executive of Retail Management Consultants in San Marcos, Calif. "But if they don't see what they want, they get upset. It's an age-old dilemma."

Still, Whalin said getting stiffed on the big sale items is unlikely to alienate too may customers.

"They'll get over it and they'll buy something else," he said. "In the long run, I really don't see any backlash to this."

-- CNNMoney.com's Octavio Blanco and Parija Bhatnagar contributed to this story.

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Interested in more shopping stories? Click here.

Confessions of a Black Friday shopper. Click here.  Top of page

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