Shopper crying Wii, Wii, Wii all the way home

Ooops – I did it again! After vowing I would nevermore be held hostage by toy manufacturers advertising something they couldn’t deliver, I found myself searching for the elusive Wii to put under the tree for husband Ray. Had I decided to buy it before Thanksgiving, I might have had a chance to find it, but it wasn’t until Turkey Day at our home that grandson Gabe brought his Wii and we all had a great time pseudo-bowling.

Sure, I knew that last Christmas people camped outside retail stores in sleeping bags during sub-zero temperatures hoping to acquire the madly popular Wii. But I naively thought that Nintendo learned from that experience and boosted production for this Christmas to meet demand. I was wrong. They didn’t learn anything.

Neither, apparently, did I. For decades, Ray and I harbored a passionate antipathy for all things Mattel … not for lead in its products, but because they consistently advertised toys on kid TV shows that they couldn’t produce in numbers to meet the demand they created. Hence, Ray and I visited every store in a 100-mile radius in a futile quest for a Tiger Joe tank or a Mighty Mo battleship, whichever was the object of one of our son’s heart’s desire. Furthermore, I’m betting that parents of girls were trying just as hard to find the Barbie du jour coveted by their daughters.

I was grateful that our sons were too old to want Cabbage Patch dolls, but I observed that frenzy from the sidelines as I watched our friend Don, who managed a department store, respond to a woman’s question: “Do you have Cabbage Patch dolls in stock, and how much are they?”

“Yes, we do. $35.”

“Huh!” she said in disgust, “They are only $29.99 at Wal-Mart.”

“Then you should buy one there.”

“I would, but they’re out of them.”

“Well,” Don replied, “When we’re out of them, they’re only $14.99.”

Remember Tickle-me Elmo? He was a gotta-have toy several years ago. I think it was Elmo – or perhaps the demand for Transformer toys – that prompted Arnold Schwarzenegger to make “Jingle All the Way.” His character in that movie was locked in a mighty struggle with a maniacal postal worker to buy the last Turbo-man, a hot toy wanted by each man’s son. The parent doesn’t exist who can’t identify with that movie. Been there, done that.

And still doing it. At Costco, I have twice been told that I just missed getting a Wii. “We put out 24 a half-hour ago,” a salesman said, “and they were gone in 20 minutes.”

Another day, a clerk told me, “Check up front. Someone just returned one unopened.”

Costco is a big store, but I made it to the front in record time … only to be informed the Wii was already gone. I wonder just how many customers he’d told about the returned Wii.

Best Buy and Wal-Mart clerks told me to call every day to see if Wiis were available. Problem is, I live in the country and, because I was informed they couldn’t hold a Wii for me, I knew they’d all be gone before I could drive there.

As for the elusive Wii, it’s not all Nintendo’s fault. A salesman at one store confided, “We’ve been putting a few out each day, and they’re gone in a flash.”

“That tells me you’ve held some back!” I exclaimed in surprise.

“We don’t have any now,” he said, “because we’ve been putting out about nine a day.”

A nearby saleswoman volunteered, “We saved back 50 for last Sunday.”

Where was I that Sunday? I was in Kansas City … hoping to score a Wii. And how many times that week was I in that particular store asking about a Wii only to be told they were sold out when they really weren’t? It’s enough to drive me postal!

I might have acquired a Wii for Ray had I been willing to wait hours outside a store in frigid temperatures. But my nephew arrived at 5 a.m. one bone-chilling Sunday, and a manager who opened the store told Chris he might as well go home because they didn’t have any Wiis. Chris was exasperated to learn that his brother visited the store later that day and purchased a Wii.

I certainly could have bought a Wii on eBay or Amazon if I’d been dumb enough to pay three times the list price for the basic model. I may be blond, but I’m not that blond. No, I’d rather cry Wii, Wii, Wii all the way home.