Last Minute Holiday Shopping at Best Buy

Tip: I am a member of the Collective Bias Social Fabric Community and this shopping expedition was part of an insights study for Collective Bias and its client for which I received a nominal payment. Then again, I was already a regular Best Buy customer, so it was an easy fit…

Five days before Christmas and there I was, braving the crowds at Best Buy, hoping to find some cool tech gifts. Here’s what made this extra weird: I celebrate Hannukah with my children so have exchanged presents weeks and weeks ago, the night before Thanksgiving. Which was a bit weird, it was really early this year, disconcertingly early.

What took me to Best Buy a week before Christmas? A need to get a present for a rather picky friend and, yes, a bit of curiosity. I shop online a lot, so it’s a nice change of pace to go into a store and actually see things in person, to be able to compare them “live”, to have the happy discovery of products or merchants you wouldn’t otherwise know about. Heck, just to learn about what’s hot. It’s one thing to read the trade press and the industry predictions on what’s going to be the popular product of the season (d’oh, the Apple iPad and headphones), but it’s something else entirely to check out trending sales data with one of the largest electronics stores.

Best Buy actually has a handy page on its site, What’s Trending, that you can check at any time. Quite interesting. One of the tech areas I’m quite interested in is fitness tech, and when I check that on the What’s Trending page, here’s what I learn:

trending fitness tech consumer electronics at best buy

Me? I have a Nike+ Fuelband SE on my wrist. Guess it’s not the hot thing this season after all. That’s okay, ya can’t always have the hottest tech, can you? And my friend? These are a bit out of my pricerange, though I suspect he’d love to get one of these in his stocking.

I went into the local Boulder Best Buy, which is a bit smaller than their usual store, but still has the core products and SKUs, including a decent selection of movies as I was pretty sure I was going to buy a DVD for my friend. A good Xmas present and easily exchanged (if it’s still sealed!) in case he already has it or it’s just not his taste. Surprisingly, the store wasn’t too busy, or at least not as busy as I’d expect. I’m sure it was a madhouse on Black Friday and Dec 24? Yeah, all those last minute shoppers will be panicking and adding to their secret stash. But for now it was well staffed:

shopping at the local Best Buy

I think you can see more employees than customers here in the computer section. That wasn’t true across the store, of course, and in particular, the cellphone area and the laptop/tablet area were both super busy. What struck me in the computer area was that it’s almost impossible to find a desktop PC any more. So much of the customer base has moved to smaller, more mobile devices that there were more tablets than desktops, and at least a 3:1 ratio of laptops to desktops too. I’d never have expected that a decade ago.

I also checked out the latest TVs and, as always, suddenly had pangs that it was time to update my six year old Sony HDTV. It’s not the screens that are such an upgrade, though they are, but that we’ve quickly evolved from “TV” to “smart device” where 90% of the functionality of devices like the Roku or AppleTV are now already integrated into the TV in an easily navigated fashion. Truth be told, I don’t watch Netflix as much as I could, for example, because I need to switch to the AppleTV unit, find the right remote, etc. Having everything baked into the TV is hugely more appealing.

That put me in the back of the store where all the DVDs and Blu-Ray movies are found, aisles of them. With rather confusing pricing strategies, as I highlight in this photo of the regular DVD and Blu-Ray versions of the classic film The Wizard of Oz:

The Wizard of Oz, with various prices at Best Buy

When does a Blu-Ray version of a film cost less than a regular DVD? But then there are the prices on the packages versus the price on the shelf. On the regular DVD it’s marked at $9.99 but the shelf tag has it at $12.99. Kinda makes me wonder what people are charged when they go to the checkout lane. At least on the Blu-Ray there’s no marked price to confuse the issue.

In fact, Best Buy has some really sweet deals going on right now, and I picked up the complete sixth season of Doctor Who for $19.99 instead of its marked price of $74.99. That’s such a good deal I took a photo of the shelf tag in case there was a dispute when I went to check out. The system knew, however, and it rang up at the phenomenally good price of $19.99. List price is actually $89.99, so it’s even a better deal. Now if I could save 78% off of everything at Best Buy, I might indeed upgrade my TV after all. 🙂

Last stop on my way out was the small appliances section. It’s not very big and it’s always a bit jarring because I think of Best Buy as a consumer electronics store, but while their inventory is small, they offer some decent deals anyway, so before you just blindly go shop at Home Depot or Lowe’s, you should check out Best Buy — or — and see what they have available too.

Finally I had survived the gauntlet of must-have consumer electronics gadgets and gizmos, having resisted just about everything, and it was time to pay up and get outta there. Just to find that the chap in front of me had some question about the pricing of his new car stereo, which required two different managers to help out. So we stood and waited:

queued up to pay at best buy

Fortunately it didn’t take too long. Those staff communications walkie-talkie gadgets are a definite help, eliminating the intercom or yelling across the store! I paid for my purchases and walked out, having scored some superb deals.

Before I left the store, I also checked into the Give It To Win It gift card promo: Every time you purchase a gift card for $25 or more, you can scan it for a chance of winning some pretty sweet prizes, including cash. A win:win, which is good. More details: Give It to Win It.

Now I need to get wrapping and sneak in some Doctor Who. Maybe at the same time. Or maybe I’ll just need to borrow the Doctor’s Tardis so I can watch, miss Christmas entirely, then go back in time and celebrate with my friends and family. Except if I can travel in time, I want to make some stock investments, not worry about gifts. Hmm… let me think about this…

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