Launch Day Woes
The Nintendo Switch is finally here! After months of raving about the new console and its upcoming games, I now have a Switch! I’ll have fresh impressions of the system up very shortly. But before I talk about my brand new system, I wanted to share my unique experience picking up the Switch at a little store called Walmart.
Twas the Night Before Switchmas
Like many others who now have the Switch, I was lucky and pre-ordered within hours of the January reveal presentation. I had done so online through Walmart and set it to ship to my local store. I soon discovered that the 24-hour brick and mortar store would be having a midnight launch, so I quickly inquired about it. The employee confirmed that they would be selling the system for both pre-orders and walk-ins. I made sure to ask if that applied to online pre-orders as well, and he responded that it didn’t matter how you ordered it as long as it was for that location.
On the night before Switchmas, I was brimming with excitement. I would soon have the Switch, and a day earlier at that! I traveled to Walmart and found a huge line of people hoping to get the new console. An employee asked if I had a pre-order, and once I revealed my slip, they sent me to a special line near the front. There were about ten or so people in that line, so I expected it to be a quick process. Based on previous launch experiences, I usually paid upfront and when midnight hit, I would receive a nicely bagged Switch ready to go.
But once the clock struck midnight, nothing happened. As it turned out, the cashiers didn’t know where the Switches were. Several of them weren’t even sure what the Switch was or why we were lining up in the first place. Okay, so there was some miscommunication, but hopefully someone could figure it out. Instead, we waited about 15 minutes, asking what was going on and receiving no solid answer. This continued until the co-manager finally came and wondered why we weren’t receiving our Switches. He went to “the back” to look for them while we waited in silence. Once he returned with the systems, we cheered excitedly, ready to finally pay up and receive our shiny gifts. I was excited to watch the first customer grab his Switch and happily stroll off… but that wasn’t what happened.
For pre-orders, you generally pay a minimum deposit to reserve your purchase. However, the cashiers had no idea whatsoever how to ring up the first customer’s pre-order deposit. They could see that the customer paid a certain amount, but they didn’t know how to register that in their system. He was willing to simply pay in cash and get out of there, but they literally hid the Switch from him. It was only after ten more minutes that they resolved the problem and let him go. Okay, so we’re half an hour into this and the first person received his Switch. Can we ring everyone up now? Apparently not. The next person had the exact same problem, and it took them another five minutes to resolve that, which was odd considering it must have required the same solution to fix. To this day, it confuses me to no end. Were they just pressing random buttons the first time? Was this like one of those randomly generated puzzles that prevent you from using a walkthrough? After slowly getting through three out of ten pre-order customers, they got stuck once again. And this time, they just gave up.
One of the cashiers let out a sigh, exclaiming that they were not trained to do this kind of work as the night shift. I could understand her plight and felt sorry for her, but there has to be something wrong with the training structure at Walmart if this is the case.
A cashier asked us to fetch the co-manager who apparently had run to “the back.” I’m not even going to talk about how ludicrous that request was, considering there were three cashiers doing nothing up front. Nonetheless, a brave soul from our pre-order party had already ventured to the electronics section, saying that he saw the co-manager. Once we realized what was happening, this was the breaking point for most of us. The co-manager was in the back selling Nintendo Switches to the walk-ins. There were people who had just shown up without a pre-order who now had their Switch and were happily leaving the store. Meanwhile, those of us with pre-orders had no clue if we’d even receive one by the end of the night.
After selling the last of the walk-in Switches, the co-manager emerged from “the back” and asked why we were all still there.
After the co-manager came to smooth out the issues, it was my turn to hopefully have my pre-order go through, or not as would be the case. I should have assumed early on that if they didn’t know how to handle the in-store pre-orders, they would struggle with my online one. As it turns out, they couldn’t ring it up and said that apparently my Switch hadn’t arrived yet. Wait… what? My own personal Switch order, whatever that means, had not arrived from their Walmart facility. But what about all of those other Switches they sold? And why they did they tell me that I could pick it up with my online pre-order? There was some weird miscommunication going on. How they did handle it? They told me to go to the back of the line while they tried to handle the other customers.
Needless to say, I was frustrated. It wasn’t even about getting a Switch anymore. I just wanted to come out with something after this night. Once I got to the front again (after waiting through more prolonged instances of confusion with the register), I explained my circumstances, but the cashiers refused me the Switch. I sighed and walked away. I would get the Switch in a day anyway, so it would be fine. I was more upset about this whole situation and regretted attending this midnight launch in the first place.
Then, the co-manager looked at me and offered me a proposition. He knew that I had a pre-order, that I had been waiting a long time that night, and that they would be getting my Switch in shortly. They currently had around ten extra units that nobody was ready to pick up, so he would let me buy a walk-in system if I just cancelled my previous order. Then he’d let me leave that night with a Switch in hand. I gladly took up the offer and thanked him profusely. Cancelling my pre-order was no issue at all, and the pickup person was very on top of helping me. The store even offered me a $20 gift card to compensate for the delay troubles.
Long story short, I did get my Switch that fateful night. It took a couple more hours than it should have, but I brought it home, set it up, played a little Breath of the Wild, and went to bed. Looking back after writing this, I’m not angry, especially considering any qualms went away once I was playing my lovely new console. I am still critical about what happened, but I understand that there are likely problems higher up the store’s chain of command that did not properly equip their employees to handle this. While I will likely be looking to other stores for pre-orders from now on, I still have to give props to the sympathetic co-manager and the resourceful employee at pick-ups. This felt like a long losing battle, but on the upside, it helped me appreciate my new system more.
Next Time… Switch Impressions!
Thank you for allowing me to indulge you with my launch day horror story. I wasn’t expecting to make this my first post after getting the Switch, but I wanted to share my story with you, both as a cautionary tale and a somewhat humorous retelling of my first Switch experience. Very shortly, I will be sharing actual impressions about the Nintendo Switch, so please look forward to it!