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Wal-Mart 'Secret' HD DVD Sale Not so Secret

5 Nov, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Angela McCleer was at her local Wal-Mart Nov. 2 at 8 a.m. sharp, determined to purchase the Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD player for $98.87.

Unbeknownst to her, the retail behemoth opened an hour early for the event (which wasn't mentioned on its Web site) and handed out tickets to a throng of people in front of the store in hopes of purchasing one of 10 players, among five drastically reduced electronics items.

The HD-A2 HD DVD typically retails for about $300.

The personal assistant from Foothill Ranch, Calif. had heard from her boyfriend and read online that Wal-Mart earmarked the next-generation optical-disc player, including HD DVD movies priced below $15, a Sanyo 50-inch Plasma HDTV, Acer laptop PC and Fisher-Price electric car as part of a “secret” pre-Black Friday sale.

Wal-Mart spokesperson Jami Arms said the secret sale was the first of several slated for the fourth quarter, with prices and availability of select groups of consumer products announced online: www.walmart.com/secret.

That was little solace to McCleer, who found the HD-A2 players and 50-inch Sanyo TVs had been sold minutes after the doors opened.

“I was bummed and irritated by the miscommunication [regarding the store opening],” she said.

Arms said consumers could sign up for instant text messages via email notifying them of future special sales, prices and store hours.

She said the secret sale was like a Christmas gift to consumers.

“This will help them find out if local Wal-Mart stores in their area have in store an item they are looking for, before they go,” she said.

The pre-Christmas “gift” didn't endear Wal-Mart to McCleer and others who, when told the HD DVD players were sold out, left the store.

“These weren't Wal-Mart customers,” McCleer said. “I'm not a Wal-Mart customer. And I didn't want a laptop I'd never heard of.”

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