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Old 07-13-2013, 12:40 AM
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Scenes from a Hallmark Ornament Premier

It's now about 1:30am locally, and I just got home from my first midnight Hallmark Ornament Premiere. A local franchise (about 25 minutes from me) was open from midnight to 2am to give the hardcore collectors a head start, and it was an interesting experience. Here are my observations:

12:05am - Arrived at the store in time to see some 25 people in line ahead of us. At first I was afraid they were only letting in a few people at a time, but we realize they had yet to unlock the doors.

12:07am - A fellow in his early 20's wanders over from a bar a few door down in the strip mall asking what the line was for. I was surprised at the disdain a few people showed. An elderly gentleman says "It's not free beer." Maybe folks thought he wouldn't believe we were waiting for Christmas ornaments at midnight on July 13.

12:09am - An employee hands us door prize tickets and says they'll be drawing numbers throughout the time and not wait until 2:00am, but you have to be present to win. I wonder how many folks would've waited the whole 2 hours for a chance to win the candles and packaged candy that appears to be the door prizes.

12:10am - The employee with the raffle tickets says that the registers don't think it's time to be open, but they're letting us in anyway. *Wait! What did she say?*

12:11am - Two dozen people weave their way through the typical Hallmark trinket displays to find the ornaments. I ignore the regular display and look for the limited quantity and club exclusive ornaments.

12:14am - After two passes around the store I realize the limited quantity ornaments are not here. I'm worried that they've all been reserved by people who called in advance and they're sitting in the huge pile of pre-order bags behind the register.

12:15am - Store employees see the error of their ways and wheel out a cart with the limited quantity ornaments still in brown cardboard boxes. Frantic collectors start grabbing ornaments off the cart and the employees improvise a way to hand them out to collectors waiting in lines.

12:18am - While folks are still getting their limited and club ornaments, those who are ready to complete their sales have been told that they have to wait while the timed computerized checkout system is bypassed to allow people to pay for their purchases and leave.

12:25am - With many collectors finished filling baskets with their purchases and waiting for the system to wake up, I go back to look at the now mostly-abandoned ornament display. I observe that the following look to be hot items this year: The final Kringleville ornament is sold out; popular series like beauty of birds and 12 Days of Christmas are going fast. The cool icicles series is off to a good start, as is North Pole Tree Trimmers. The second cookie cutter ornament looks to be popular with this crowd, and it's sold out now too. The Pigpen snowman is popular, and the Wizard of Oz pieces are holding their own.

12:27am - First door prize drawing... and the winner of this fine candle is... not me.

12:30am - The store gets a phone call from somewhere telling them that they won't be able to process orders tonight. Please bring your ornaments to the front, and we'll put them in a bag with your name on it, and you can come back tomorrow to check out... really?!

12:31am - Things get ugly as people begin to protest. Somebody drove an hour to get there, somebody else is leaving first thing in the morning for a week's vacation. I quietly stand by, waiting to get my items placed on the ever-shrinking counter space.

12:35am - Another door prize drawing... same result.

12:40am - My ornaments safely stowed in a stapled paper bag behind the counter, I walk past the the plates of uneaten cookies, out the front door to head back home. I won't be collecting any door prizes tonight, but I'm also taking home as many new ornaments as our friend from the bar who was drawn to a waiting line.

My final observation... attending a midnight ornament premiere is an interesting way to spend a July Friday/Saturday, but I don't really see the value in the activity beyond seeing what ornaments are worth buying during a regular premier and which might sell out before you get a chance to buy. I don't see to many stores going to this sort of thing, especially if other stores have the same checkout system. The end result for me... an 8 hour jump start on Christmas.
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