There comes a time in every man's life when he must decide whether sharply discounted consumer electronics are worth getting punched in the face. I found myself in this quandary during the final days of Circuit City's going-out-of-business sale. For weeks I'd avoided the madhouse, chuckling at the gullibility of the lemmings who thought they were gouging the store for a 40% discount, when in fact they were getting no better a deal than a typical sale in their weekly flyer. But as each week passed, the yellow sandwich board outside the store rose from 40% to 50%, then 60, 70, 80 and finally 90 friggin' percent. As I stepped through the automatic doors, I reasoned that I was paying tribute to a dying store that had provided me with years of electronic gadgetry and no-questions-asked refunds when the gadgetry invariably found its way into a blender. What I entered was not the store I knew, however; it was a bustling, frantic warehouse of sweat and despair, the kind of place you'd go to make black market kidney deals. Most of the shelves were half empty, and the shelves that were completely bare had been ripped down and marked for sale. What's 90% off something that was never for sale in the first place?
Most items were actually 60 or 70% off, but that didn't stop people from trolling like brain-seeking zombies, their eyes trained on the unsorted merchandise for that one hidden gem. A line of people stretched through the store to the lone open cash register, the bleary-eyed customers holding an assortment of off-brand DVD-Rs, open-box Internet routers and Taylor Hicks CDs. It was like the '92 riots, but with fewer bricks to the head. Then I saw it: the unmistakable off-white color of a Wii console tucked discreetly behind a Zune display, where no one would ever look. Sure, I already had a Wii at home, but…90 friggin' percent. I made my way towards the display, but as I reached for it, another shopper snatched up the console. I sized him up; he was about my height and weight, but he stank of desperation and felonies. He looked like he'd been inside for a while; his dilated eyes had adjusted to the dim fluorescent store lighting, and they darted up and down the Wii like a squirrel trying to make sense of a vibrator. Our gazes met. I knew he knew I wanted what he had, and he wanted it all the more. If I walked away empty-handed, I'd be a punk in the eyes of everyone in the joint. If I took the Wii, I'd have to wait in line for half an hour, giving him plenty of time to retaliate
He gripped the Wii tighter and puffed out his chest. It was time to act. "Is that Taylor Hicks?" I pointed, and when he turned, I knocked the Wii out of his hand, stomped on it and fled, grabbing a small child, 60% off, on the way out.
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