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Dear Mr. Gates, for Christmas we would like…

Chances are you’ve eBay in one tab and this feature in another whilst frantically clicking refresh on Amazon until they say that they have Xbox 360’s in stock; if you’re from Europe, then you’re not alone as gamers and mums scour high street stores and the dark corners of the interweb searching for Microsoft’s new fancy console. Nope, we’ve not found one either. Well, except for Max, who’s swiped his fellow housemate’s console and now refuses the leave the house for the Thunderbolt offices should someone else should jump in and start playing Perfect Dark. We hate him. Max sucks.

There’s more chance of us finally getting up the console review of Far Cry than casually walking into a high street store and finding Heidi Klum naked, sprawling around on the floor covered in baby oil caressing the last available Xbox 360. The fact that the supermodel and Thunderbolt tea-girl is away in Germany, fully clothed and posing for the FIFA World Cup draw only strengthens this argument. But in the name of persistence (and the fact we really needed a feature on the site), I drew the short straw and decided to take a wander in Darlington in hope of finding both Heidi and the console intact.

There she is, teasing us with her white cover and shiny green buttons

The odds were incredibly bad, but I decided to arm myself with my bank card, complete with a huge fee-free overdraft, and GAME store vouchers should the sun decided to shine on this nimble Thunderbolt staff writer. Also picked up before bolting through the front door for the bus were Thunderbolt business cards, to leave ‘accidently’ around unsuspecting shops and stores. Hell, we need the publicity – you can’t fault us for that.

As a self-acclaimed retail expert, I was looking for all the signs that shops were ready to shift consoles. I didn’t choose the retail background by the way; I’m vastly under qualified for rocket science, plus dole money and excessive socialising just doesn’t bode well for someone who needs cash. My first port of call was GAME, in the warm and clean Cornmill shopping centre, surrounded by sellers of the Big Issue (do your local sellers make those funny noises to really push the magazine? We want to hear about it! Head to the forums, posthaste!). The shop front itself was plastered in green and white console boxes; my heart was racing at this point- had I literally stepped off the bus to heaven and found Jesus’ secret stash of Xbox 360’s?

I decided to arm myself against the barage of mums shopping for christmas

Had I hell. Despite all the advertising and compensation claim-inducing stacks of boxes, I was scoffed at by asking the stupid question, and told to come back around Spring 2006. A quick gander around the pre-owned section for Ico, and leaving business cards scattered everywhere and I was off to WH Smiths and Woolworths, but a few feet apart. Same story, but I did find a comprehensive guide to GTA: Liberty City Stories on the shelf rack in the former, and managed to cunningly stand there and do the mission on my PSP, magazine in hand, without being asked to leave by big and burly security guards. The videogame racks looked in serious need of attention in both stores, as for 10am it looked as if a big red arsed monkey had swung about on the racks.

In between my own shopping of cheap clothes and various stocking fillers, I made my way into HMV on the way back to the bus stop, if only to compare the laughable prices to those of and Amazon, and still found no consoles. Plenty of games on offer (at fifty bleeding quid!!!) but no console boxes on show, which always seem to give the impression that the shop is literally swimming in unsold Xbox’s.

Right lads- GAME don’t have any, so let’s bomb the buggers!

I took the bus to a business park on the outskirts of town and quickly visited Comet and Currys – if I wanted to be scoffed at by spotty shop assistants with BO issues, bad breath and greasy hair then I’d have simply hung around the internet café in the town – both shops had ludicrous amounts of console boxes thrown about, big displays and ready-made bundles; upon setting traps and chasing down shop assistants and managers for help, I managed to get the information out of them that despite all the advertising, they had none left, and one reliably informed me that I should “take a look at that eBay website”.

Where the conversation got heated was when I turned around and saw a display unit ready to play. 3 millimetres of Perspex separated me, a member of staff for this internationally and critically renowned website, and Microsoft’s gift from outer space; a match made in heaven, if you will. But despite further enquiries, protests and a threat of a full on floor-stamping tantrum, not even an offer of £400, IN CASH, could convince the store manager to simply open up the display box and let me have the console. They said it was against Microsoft’s strict guidelines; my bet was they all wanted to choke themselves over the sheer greatness of Call of Duty 2 on their lunchbreaks. The buggers.

So, a 20-mile round trip in the freezing cold, enquiries made, Thunderbolt business cards cunningly placed, jeans tried on and bought and Big Issue sellers masterfully dodged and I was still Xbox 360-less; perhaps the only redeeming moment of the morning was I did actually get my hands on a breast – not Heidi’s, rather on that of a chicken kept in distressed and cramped conditions, being fed chemicals on a farm somewhere for KFC. But it tasted nice though.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

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