We got two of those government-issued cards for use in purchasing television converter boxes, which we'll need after February 17, 2009 when analog signals will no longer be transmitted, and unconverted TVs will become antiques overnight.
True to our nature, we waited until about a week before the expiration date. OK, two days before. The cards were worth $40 each, and we wanted to find the best deal, a box that didn't cost much more than that.
Enter WalMart, who carried the cheapest converter boxes according to my online research.
Apparently the government's memo didn't get to the Walton clan -- they didn't have any converters in stock. The pimply clerk told me he had no idea when any new ones would arrive. And then he threw in a dig, chiding me for waiting so long. Did I mention I hate to feel stupid?
So we headed to Radio Shack and paid an extra $20 each. Radio Shack also did not have any converters in stock, but they were happy to ship them to us. No hassle, no attitude. The boxes arrived a week later.
This past weekend, my parents were in the same boat. An unexpected emergency occurred with 2 days left on their coupons. I offered to go to WalMart for them, certain that it had worked out its supply and demand issues during the preceding month.
Silly me. I overestimate its business acumen. I was told again that there were no converters in stock because, dang it, people kept buying them. I asked when the next shipment was expected. A young man with the name tag labeled, Matt P, tells me, "No clue."
Okay...I thought. "Do you have regular delivery days? Do you have trucks restocking your electronics?"
Matt P said, annoyed, "Yes. But it's completely random."
Throw me a bone here! "When would be the best time to call to see if you have more?"
He hands me his business card ("Matt P, Sales Associate") and says, "Call at 8:30 in the morning. I won't be here."
Once again, we trekked to the nearby Radio Shack, arranged for shipment and completed the transaction. Quick and helpful.
Thumbs DOWN for Wa.lMart. Thumbs UP for Radio Shack.
Bottom line? Don't expect WalMart to have digital converters in stock, and don't wait 'til the last minute on your coupons. Head straight to Radio Shack and save the gas.
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