Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

Place: McGrath's Fish House
Lunch: Pan-fried oysters, rice pilaf, bread, strawberry lemonade

A busy weekend is here. The annual kickoff to Christmas Village kicks off tomorrow night, The Lights Before Christmas is up and running, there's the lights at Temple Square, next week's Festival of Trees...It's Christmas Overload week. My favorite time of the year.

I'll be taking a lot of pictures this week. I have a Canon PowerShot 5mp camera that has been my trusty sidekick for the past few seasons. But the battery, which has never been all that great, has been showing wear, and I ALWAYS run out of memory for pix at Fesitval of Trees, so I'd been thinking about getting a new camera. Ultimately, I decided this unnecessary, as new replacement batteries were available for cheap, as are new flash memory cards. So I blew $40 and tripled my battery life and quadrupled my camera memory. TRY TO DEFEAT ME NOW FESTIVAL OF TREES! ooooh. trees.

So I'm all set. And now that I'm all set, Murphy's Law kicked in, and gave me a vision of a new camera I just HAD to have. Actually, it was Sound and Vision, which pointed out the new Kodak EasyShare V1253. It's a 12 megapixel camera that takes pictures in a 16:9 format (you your shiny new HDTV and wide screen monitor) and shoots high definition 720p video. For under $300.

Yes, really.

And the reviews weren't too bad on it either.

And that magic trigger in my head that says "you WILL NOT SLEEP UNTIL YOU HAVE THIS" went off.

Of course, I had to find out about this on Thanksgiving, and with all the festivities beginning in earnest on Saturday, I'm pretty much stuck getting it on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.

Or I could just NOT get it and be happy with what I have.


So at 8am, I hit the road for Circuit City. Both Circuit City and Best Buy sell this thing in-store, apparently, and Circuit City had the better price. At least online.

I creeped along in traffic to the parking lot entrance. Circuit City is clustered in a neighborhood of big box retail that includes pretty much every major discount and department store chain in a few blocks. Super Target, Wal-Mart Supercenter, even a freestanding Macy's (housed in the old non-supercenter Wal-Mart.) This is the busiest road in the whole valley. The traffic reporters on the radio agree with this and are telling people to avoid it.

I'm in and I'm parked. I walk in the store.

Finding a single department in this store is an exercise in madness because most walkable space is part of the checkout line, which snakes around the store in a fashion that looks like...well...Nokia's old Snake game that was a standard feature on their handsets years ago.

But I found it eventually, and I got to play with the camera. I shot video of the line and messed around with settings. Looks pretty good. The video, as you might imagine, isn't broadcast good, and it won't be as good as a real HD camcorder. It looks a bit jittery when you move. It looks great when holding it still. Still, it's far more impressive than you've ever done with a standard camcorder. And you can probably shoot an hour plus video on a good sized flash card. Pictures looked fine on the small display. The 16:9 picture format isn't available in 12mp...the maximum for that is 9mp. Like you EVEN have a need for 12mp pictures in the first place. What are you...a wallpaper designer?

It's also half the thickness and smaller in every other dimension of my existing camera.

The camera doesn't come with a flash card. It has 32MB internal memory, which shot exactly 20 seconds of HD video. You'd want more like a 4-8GB card here. And they don't come cheap at this store. The camera is also more expensive in the store than online. If that's not enough of a deterrent, there's that "reality Nokia Snake" game going on. I don't want to join in. So I leave without the camera.

Best Buy is up the street. If you haven't heard about my experiences shopping at Best Buy, read through the archive. It's not pretty.

I Lowe's...and walk over. I enter the store. "Hello sir! Would you like to register to win a DVD player?"

"No thanks."

"Be sure to get some hot chocolate on the way out."


Six feet later inside the store: "Good morning, sir."

"Good morning, yellow shirt security dude."

No snake line here, but lots of foot traffic. I make it back to cameras and there it is, stock aplenty, and it's on sale. AND they have much better prices on flash cards. WAY better prices.

I play around with the display, take more pictures, shoot more video. The store has completely different lighting than Circuit City, so it's a whole different perspective. At least three different employees ask me if I need anything or have any questions. A fourth comes by when I've decided to pull the trigger and I say "I want this."

"Okay. I'll need to get some keys."

(They're locked up, you see.)

He's back within a minute with the keys. He gets the camera. He asks if I need any flash cards...I have one in hand. He says "I'll walk you to the checkouts." On the way, he tells me about how the cashier is going to ask me about extended warranties, about how they're as wonderful as anything ever created by the hand of man, and how they really really recommend them. Ever met anybody whose actually made a claim with these? Search the web. They're not hard to find. You'll be as angry as those who wrote them.

The checkouts are all staffed and busy, but there's no line. NO LINE. Except me, and I'm only there a few seconds before a cashier opens up. The cashier asks about the extended warranty without any sales pitch, and that's it. They don't try to sell me any magazine subscriptions or anything (they ALWAYS try to sell you magazine subscriptions.) I am in and out of the store with everything I want in ten minutes. ON BLACK FRIDAY.

I could go into Best Buy on a Monday in mid July and not have this happen.

Completely awesome.

The camera is charging now and I'm reading the instruction manual. I'm going to take some practice pictures and video and fine tune the settings tonight. I'll carry both cameras for the time being...I KNOW how my old one behaves. There's always a learning curve with new ones.

Festival of Trees will be no match for me this year.