A line was loosely formed outside the new store, “Slashed!” and Gayle Levy was glad to be in it. She had heard the store would be the ultimate fast paced shopping adventure and was fired up to get some great deals.
In reality, Gayle knew she didn’t need anything, she just loved the thrill of finding a bargain and had gone out for years on Black Friday to get the deal, not the item. Just a few years ago she had made the news when a group of women fought over the last 4K television at a local chain and she ended up getting it, with a few other women getting black eyes. Fortunately, No charges were filed.
The store in front of her was in an old Wal-Mart, closed from the attacks on retail from online shopping companies that offered low prices and near same day delivery for free. In the new world there was no need to even see someone else, Gayle hated the idea of that, after all, where is the fun in that. Where is that thrill of winning.
Looking around the line had grown since she arrived and over three hundred people were gathered to cram into this new store with more cars pulling up every minute. Men in grey uniforms walked around and handed people small papers.
“What’s this?” Gayle asked.
“Contract, no one gets in unless it is signed, allows video access and is a general release of liability.” the guard said.
Gayle reached in her purse, got a pen, then filled out and signed the paper. Nothing was stopping her shopping today.
A massive bell sounded. The bell was reminiscent of the bell that rang as horses were let out of the gate at popular race tracks. The doors opened wide and the signed “Slashed” lit up bright blue.
People began to push into the doors as men checked contracts. One by one people were let through as their contracts were checked then slipped into a file folder. Some were stopped to sign or change something but the line flowed with great vigor. Gayle noticed each contract being fed into a document scanner at the door and whisked off to who knows where. Gayle pressed as hard as anyone as she handed over her signed contract. As they pressed forward she found herself in a massive white room. People stood impatiently and huge fans blew air downward into the group keeping it from getting hot. A diminutive woman stood on a high podium and began talking.
“Welcome to the future of shopping!” the woman began. “My name is Lizzie, and I will be opening these doors in just a moment so you can compete for the best deals you can get anywhere, online or offline. The rules are simple, you make your best deals by getting the products you want at the best price. If you achieve certain goals you advance to the next room and get more discounts up to the fourth room where you have the opportunity to get 99% off. To advance to more savings you must get the best deal, and be chosen to move to a new level. No one moves forward unless chosen.”
There were some groans and some “ahhhs” in the audience.
“Now don’t worry,” Lizzie continued, “Everyone will walk out of here with a deal, but only the most tenacious people will move on to the challenge rooms and better and better prices! As the doors behind me open you will find your deal, and the prices will be slashed based on you and your ability to make your deal happen.”
Gayle was ready and the people around her pushed forward.
“When you hear this sound,” a groaning low pitched horn sounded, “someone has checked out and moved out of the area and is headed home or back to the start.”
“When you hear this bell,” a ring sounded like the one she had heard previously, “You will know someone is moving on to better prices and more intense competition. Is everyone ready?”
“yes,” came the weak murmur around the room.
Lizzie strained and took a deep breath, “I asked, is Everyone READY?”
Screams echoed in the room as people cheered “Yes!!!!” and the bell rang.
Gayle was pushed forward with the crowd at first and saw bin upon bin in front of her as the halls began opening in the first rooms. There were about 30 bins of difference sizes filled with merchandise. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it. To the left was a door marked cashier, Huge men in blue uniforms pocketed the area like massive sentinels looking over a prize, everything else was about the deal. this room was massive and could hold hundreds of shoppers.
Within seconds there was a ring and Gayle could not see what happened. She did see a tall woman escorted to a door marked “2” in front of her. Guards at the door kept anyone else from thinking about going to “2” unescorted.
The bell rang again and another woman moved forward with several items in hand, then another, and another.
Gayle saw a woman with an armload of merchandise head to the cashier door and she heard the low pitched moan as the woman went out of the one way door. People were grabbing things left and right. Gayle saw something in front of her, a name brand purse worth a lot sitting on a table. She grabbed at it as another small woman grabbed it as well. The two pulled and Gayle saw a fire in the small woman’s eyes. She decided she was going to get that purse and she turned and as she did she elbowed the woman in the stomach. Choking, the woman dropped the purse.
The bell rang and a huge man in a blue uniform walked to Gayle, and pointed her towards door 2. Escorting her she heard the bell ring again and again. More people made their way to door 2. The door swung open and Gayle was in a new room. There was Lizzie, standing on a new podium. She began to speak.
“Welcome to level 2 where prices are better than any online location could offer! We offer the best pricing because our backers are interested in you and your shopping habits! Get ready to experience shopping like never before in our Electronics Area! Make sure you get a cart to keep your purchases safe!”
People saw the row of carts and began taking the steel reinforced monstrosities and putting their items in the carts. The carts had grates on them that pulled over the front of the top opening making it difficult to reach in. Gayle got a cart, put the purse in it and pulled on the handle closing the top off with a steel grate. She played with the handle and the grate slid up and down on rubber gliders easily. She saw others playing with the lever that worked the grate, and wondered how cutthroat the prices would be to set this type of cart up.
Guards in orange shirts and blue pants opened the next set of doors and the group of perhaps 50 men and women rushed the next room. Gayle pushed forward and was happy her cart was not one from grocery stores. The wheels and bearings were slick and easy and pivoted so easily they seemed to read her mind. Gayle wound her way through the bins and grabbed a few watches and saw the price was hundreds less than normal. A woman grabbed an Apple Watch from her and threw it in their cart. Gayle was furious but saw another one and grabbed it. She put it in her own cart and began to move on when a man started to reach into her cart for the watch, smiling at her with an obvious disdain. Gayle grabbed the grate lever and pulled hard closing on the mans arm. He winced and began to pull back, but as Gayle allowed a little opening for him to withdraw he began to reach in again. Gayle jammed the lever hard and he yelped looking a her with obvious anger. His arm pinned he swung at her with his free arm. Gayle grabbed the lever and slammed it over and over until the man began to tear up and started to pull away. Gayle was not having it and pulled again and again catching the mans hand as he pulled out and seeing bruise and blood as he cradled his arm. As the man backed away from Gayle her eyes glared with righteous indignation.
A guard in an orange shirt came up to the man and escorted him out of the area through the door marked “cashier” and she heard the low groan again. Moments later a guard came to her and she was concerned she was in trouble, but instead the man escorted her to a door marked “3” on the wall, and for the first time in room 2 the bells sounded.
Gayle and her cart were now in a smaller podium room with Lizzie walking to the podium. A massive woman with a bit of blood on her lip and a few items in her cart joined Gayle. Then a man with mussed hair and a slight limp with a fuller cart. He was followed by a short woman with a blonde ponytail that looked like a soccer mom, she popped her gum with her half full cart and Gayle could see a little blood on her running suit.
Soon about 20 people were in the room and as the door opened Gayle could see more and more people entering room 2. Each time the door opened she could hear the groaning klaxon or the ringing bells, over and over like some massive assembly line of shopping.
Lizzie began talking again. “Welcome to level 3. I have a special gift for all of you in here, a 20% off coupon on your cart so far!” Men in green shirts began passing out the coupons to each person in the room.
“Are you ready for kitchen deals?” Lizzie asked.
The room was filled with nervous energy and everyone in that room screamed. “Yes!!!!!”
The bells rang and everyone, including Gayle ran forward with their carts. Gayle grabbed the Ninja blender and threw it in her cart for a great deal off. There were only a few and another big woman in black spandex grabbed one but was knocked down and kicked as a man took it from her. He put it in his cart and Gayle heard the bell sound. She saw the man escorted to the door marked “4” on the side of the room. The big woman in black spandex stood and grabbed a “Kitchen Aid” mixer and as a smaller woman reached for it swung the box by the handle and knocked the smaller woman reaching for it across the floor. The big woman in black spandex put the mixer in her cart but as the other smaller woman struggled to get up, she also opened her cart and took a bunch of items and moved them over to her waiting cart.
The smaller woman on the floor dove onto her and started swinging. As she did Gayle moved to the big woman’s cart and took the Mixer. Opening her cart and putting it in Gayle moved away from that scene. Gayle grabbed a knife block from a display and put it in her cart. She then came to a display of meat tenderizers and grabbed one. A hand was on her shoulder and she turned to find the big woman in black spandex swinging at her.
“Give me my mixer!” the woman screamed. A little blood dripping from her cut lip.
Gayle swung the meat tenderizer up and smacked the woman in the chin. She felt a crunch and the big woman fell back to the floor. Gayle saw the blood spray and the woman’s jaw was now at an odd angle. The guards in green came forward and the bells and groans went off at once. Gayle was escorted one way, the big woman in black spandex another.
“She asked for it,” Gayle said but soon realized she was moving to the door marked “4”.
A new woman was at a podium with only a few others in the room. The 4 waited together as others were ushered into the room and guards with red shirts wandered around the room offering water bottles to the shoppers.
“Hi” The woman said as 10 people were counted in the room. “the 10 of you will now compete in our sporting goods department. The deals are amazing, and before we start our proprietors have given each of you a 50% off coupon for any purchases you have made or will make today. Use it with your 20% coupon and your savings will be stellar!”
A muscular man to Gayle’s side said, “We aren’t gonna get in no trouble are we, I mean, I know I broke that dudes nose but he was trying to take my vacuum.”
“No, by the terms of the store agreement you are in no trouble,” she paused, “In fact it is your tenacious shopping habits that make you the best for room 4. Are you ready?”
The 10 screamed an affirmative and Gayle found her heart racing. 7 women and three men entered the room. It was larger than some others but the tables had fewer items. Gayle noticed there were camera’s in the ceiling everywhere. Gayle rushed to a counter and grabbed a tent. As someone walked towards her she opened her cart, threw in the tent and grabbed the handle of the meat tenderizer. A man reached for her cart and she swung the hammer at his hand, smashing his fingers. He pulled back and looked at her as she blew air to get her hair off her face and swung at his groin. The mans eyes opened wide and he groaned and fell to the floor writhing.
A big black man saw Gayle take the first man down and opened the man on the floors cart and emptied it into his in just seconds. Gayle ran to another table with Gerber machetes on it. She grabbed 4 of the big knives and put them in her cart. A few feet down was a table full of baseball bats and Gayle took a bat, then ducked as a small Asian woman swung one at her. Gayle backed off and moved to another table. The Asian woman hit another woman over the head with the steel baseball bat and pummeled her several times. Gayle thought she saw the woman’s head deform a little and blood began to pool under her. The Asian woman then took items from that woman’s cart.
Gayle looked back at the floor and saw the twisted body of the woman just beaten with the bat. She was now convulsing and blood was running from a gash in her head.
Gayle moved on to the next table and scrapped the contents into her cart with a sweeping arm. She had no idea what she just got but didn’t care, it was hers. A dozen boxes filled her cart and as she closed the top grate she saw she had just taken shotgun shells.
She moved to the next table and turned to see people losing interest in the sales and instead fighting like crazed lunatics over the previous items. As another person fell, the guards in red shirts picked them up and carried them out of the room through the door marked “Cashier”. The groan sounds came one after another. There number of people reduced.
Gayle looked forward and saw the next table and grabbed the item on the table. She knew it well. A Remington 12 gauge shotgun. Gayle reached into her cart, ripped open a box of shells and loaded the weapon with 5 shots. No guard moved, no one came towards her.
Four people remained and Gayle walked back within a few feet of them all. Each was lost in their own fight. Gayle chambered a round as one man looked at her. Gayle shot him in the chest and blood sprayed as he was thrown back. Gayle’s ears rang, but she was already chambering a second round and let it loose on the woman to her right. The shot caught the woman’s arm, and removed it. The woman fell to the floor writhing. Gayle heart pounded but she would not lose!
Another woman was running toward the cashier door with her cart and Gayle let loose a third round into her back. Gayle heart pounded even faster but this was now her deal. The woman’s back peppered with blood and she fell forward into the ground. The last man, the black man who had emptied the cart earlier looked into Gayle’s eyes. He stood for a moment and pushed his cart towards her, then walked to the cashier door empty handed.
Gayle panted, she walked forward and yelled, “Hey.”
The man turned and Gayle shoved his cart to him. The man smiled and pushed the cart out the cashier door. The groan sounded.
The men in red shirts were cleaning up and taking the fallen shoppers out of the room as Gayle gathered the carts together and moved items to her cart. A few men in black uniforms rushed in with mops and cleaned the floors even as Gayle finished loading her cart. She looked up at the dozens of camera’s. Men in grey uniforms came in and were patching walls and painting with rapid haste now. It was a theater of efficiency.
“I’m ready to check out,” Gayle said.
Lizzie walked in the room, “Of course Gayle, and the proprietors have given you this special coupon for 99% off for your fantastic shopping ability! Thank you for your tenacity! You can combine it with your other coupons making your days shopping almost free! What do you think!”
Gayle blew the hair out of her face, took the coupon and made her way out the cashier door. “It’s a lot better than shopping online!” she replied as she left the fourth room.
Behind the cameras, in another room dozens of men and women laughed. “Good job Mister McMillan. We did not see that coming. Number 77, Gayle Levy is the winner. She paid 15 to 1. Congratulations sir! The second group is setting up now, place your bets. Only 5 minutes remain until bets are locked for group 2 in the fourth room.”