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THE MORNING BUZZ: Dispatch From A Video Safari

6 Aug, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

Today our safari travels to a nearby Kmart, where we will attempt to sneak up on the latest home video release in its natural habitat, the home electronics department.

Our prey is elusive, at first hiding and difficult to find in the jungle of the Super K stockroom. We plod through thickets of school uniforms and endless shoebox pillars before we see it, hiding in plain sight: Our display is cleverly camouflaged in a plain, brown box to blend in with the environment.

We expect to find the displays traveling in pairs, but today we only find one. We wonder where its mate is and our guide -- aka the Kmart manager -- hasn't seen it either. So for now we study the solo display and we'll look for its mate later.

Our guide uses a large dolly to herd the display to its preserve on the sales floor. There we crack the cardboard shell and coax the display out of its defensive position. We make a few deft folds. We insert a few Tab As into Slot Bs and the display begins to show its plumage, transforming from a simple box to a hut-shaped corrugated cardboard standee emblazoned with the main characters from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Our adventure is fraught with pitfalls, from pricing discrepancies to shorted shipments. We continue our trek undaunted, for our short-term objective is in sight: copies of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring are set up and ready where that most skittish of creatures, the retail customer, can feast on them at midnight.

Now that we've coaxed the creature out, other travelers are stopping to gaze at our discovery as they pass. One or two ask when they can buy the video. A small herd of teenage boys show up, circle the display and debate whether they can get one if they pool their money. They wander off to persuade the manager to turn up the sound on the TVs in the electronics department so they can watch anyway.

As the clock drifts past midnight, a few consumers venture forth to take advantage of the opportunity. Some merely sniff tentatively at the display, others grab the disc nonchalantly. These first buyers seem to feed on the DVD and leave the tapes for the scavengers.

Our safari has ended for the evening. By dawn, Rings hunters will be combing the urban savannah in search of the displays just like this one. Some will apprehend their targets, others will be too late and have to wait for the next stocking expedition. But we can go home, secure in the knowledge that no Kmart shopper in La Habra need do without the latest hot release.

See PHOTOS of the video safari!

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