Retail hordes go loony over Zune
Black Friday customers rush Toys 'R' Us flagship store in New York for Wii, Guitar Hero. 'The Zunes are done!' yells one.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It was only half an hour into Black Friday, and a customer at the Toys 'R' Us flagship store in Manhattan's Times Square was already yelling, "The Zunes are done!"
Such words were likely to inspire panic on the day after Thanksgiving. The customer was referring to Microsoft's (Charts, Fortune 500) answer to Apple's (Charts, Fortune 500) iPod, an MP3 player with a 30-gigabyte hard drive, that was going for 60 percent off at $79.99.
"I'm getting knocked down!" yelled another shopper, just one among hundreds who queued up in the store's video game section.
Manuel Juerreo of Bronx, N.Y., had joined the line at midnight, a good five hours before the doors opened. Juerreo was waiting for a Zune, and there were hundreds just like him, lingering at the gates of this retail mecca.
For the Zune customers further back in line, the gates should have read, "All hope abandon, ye who enter here."
"My feet are numb," complained Lucy Bell of Chicago, who was visiting New York for Thanksgiving.
Bell wasn't as picky as some of the others. After waiting in lines for hours, Bell said she was at Toys 'R' Us to buy, "Anything that's left."
At 5 a.m., when the neon-lit, multi-tiered store parted its gates for the consumer hordes, many of them rushed straight for the video game section. Consumers dashed down the escalators, whooping and hollering like the giddy shopping-mall looters from George Romero's "Dawn Of the Dead."
"Nah, nah, chill y'all," a store employee implored to a line of hundreds of customers filing into the video game section, while a song from the Broadway hit "Annie" wailed from the intercom.
"It definitely was very hectic in the beginning, due to the Zune being on sale," said Gianni Incontro, an employee based in the corporate headquarters in Wayne, N.J., who was helping out at the Times Square location.
Many of the customers were also buying up Nintendo's Wii, a hugely popular video game console that was a big hit among holiday shoppers last year.
"Where can I get the Wii games at?" yelled one frenzied customer to no one in particular, as he dashed through the store.
"Wii!" yelled a woman into her cell phone, as she walked past a wall of Xbox remotes.
Nearly half an hour after the doors opened, the Wii supply was still holding out.
"We got three walls of Wiis," reported store employee Jose Vargas. He said the consoles had sold out a few days ago but were re-supplied in time for Black Friday.
Meanwhile, a six-foot stack of Extra Special Elmos had dwindled to a height of two or three boxes, despite the fact that this year's edition is only slightly different from the 2006 model.
The lack of innovative new products was not lost on consumers.
"The Wii was last year!" yelled a consumer with a plush Spiderman in her hand. She stood in a line that snaked, anaconda-like, through the video game section.
Donna Lopito from Smithtown, N.Y., who braved the Black Friday crowds with her brother-in-law Kevin Nugent, said the store was only selling one Wii per customer.
"We couldn't get them anywhere else," said Lopito as she headed for the exit, a Wii under one arm and a Guitar Hero video game under the other.
If she had the choice, said Lopito, she would have imported the entire Wii stock en masse to Long Island. It would have beat standing in line.