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To Save $200, Life Will Have to Wait

Bargain hunters stand in line for two hours to get into a Fry's Electronics store.

November 30, 2002|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

The 20 minutes it took to park Friday at Fry's Electronics in Fountain Valley was nothing compared with the two-hour wait to enter the store.

Within an hour of its 7 a.m. opening, the store was filled to its 1,469-person capacity, forcing arriving customers to stand in line outside before being allowed to enter.

Fountain Valley fire officials, who had come to assist with a minor medical incident, noticed that the store was extremely crowded and suggested to store managers that they create a line to help control the flow of customers into the location, Fire Chief Joe Vasile said.

"It promises good things for the rest of the holiday season when you're almost kicking people out the first day," Fry's spokesman Manuel Valerio said.

By noon, shoppers inside the store were scribbling down rebate information by hand because all the forms were gone. Outside, a line of about 100 customers, many clutching store ads with selected items marked, snaked along the building.

With consumers worried about war, terrorism and the state of their pocketbooks, Fry's, like many of the nation's retailers, used discounts and other early-bird specials as bait to get shoppers into its stores on the day after Thanksgiving. The San Jose-based chain advertised its "lowest prices of the year" and $200 off most computer purchases.

At the Fountain Valley Fry's, some would-be customers walked away when they realized the line outside was just to get into the store.

But others said the potential savings were worth the wait.

Pete McGovern, 31, of Newport Beach had been at the store when it opened and snatched up a $40 DVD player and a $700 laptop computer.

He returned around noon to help his friend Melissa Hernandez pick out her own laptop and accessories for the machine she hoped would still be in stock.

"When there's a sale like this, you need to have a complete military strategy," said McGovern, who planned the fastest route to the computer section while standing in line. "You can't just waltz around and hope the good deals are still going to be there."

Hernandez, 20, a junior at UC Irvine, said knowing she would save hundreds of dollars justified the wait.

"If it were just to save $2, I would have gone home," she said. "But $200? I can spare the time to wait for that kind of deal."

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