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You've got four days to beat the Color Gameboy shortage

Only in the UK, but it's an interesting tale anyway...

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In the UK right now colour Nintendo Gameboys are in serious short supply because of - as local Reg specialist Tony 'Don't you read my copy then?' Smith testily pointed out - colour LCD shortages. Which is a problem if you've a daughter demanding one before you go on holiday.

Trudge up and down Oxford Street, no dice, so do you trust the Web vendors to deliver? Tricky. The ones who're prepared to give you approximate stocking levels are showing empty, and the ones who don't will probably just take the order, and then maybe six weeks later...

But we got a tip from the schoolyard - Argos, she said. Despite what you might hear, The Register doesn't write stories on the say-so of just any ten year old, but as we'd run out of other inspiration, we thought we'd check this one out. And well done, Cilla - you led us to how you beat the Gameboy shortage in the UK. For the next four days, only.

For the benefit of our non-UK readers we'll explain Argos. It's just about the naffest retail outlet this side of Dnepro-Petrovsk, and cool cybermedia certainly wouldn't want to be seen dead in a branch. Argos is catalogue-based; you go into the store, look the product up in the catalogue, fill the catalogue number in on a form, take it to the checkout, pay (generally, a tad more than you might pay elsewhere), then go to the pickup point and get the gear. Does Argos have the suss to successfully anticipate and intercept a major global component shortage? No way, surely.

But it does, albeit apparently by accident. Here's the wrinkle. Argos is releasing its new catalogue this Sunday, and the Color Gameboy being newish, it's not in the old catalogue.* So it's really difficult (not quite impossible) for people to walk in off the street and buy a Color Gameboy, even though they've got plenty (purple and lime green only - this is Argos).

So how do you get the catalogue number without a catalogue? Easy-peasy. The new catalogue's up on the Web. But here are the numbers: 364/6629 for purple, 364/7288 for lime green.

Next, you go to the Argos Web site, and click on the store locator. Having picked up the three digit code of the store nearest you, dial the stock information and reservation (oh yes) number. Without human intervention, with the aid only of a touchtone phone, you can find out if the branch has stock, and reserve it if it does. They just give you a reservation number, you could be anybody. You get two days to pick it up, and you don't need to make a holding deposit. We liked this, tried it, and it worked. She has a Gameboy, and for about the next 30 minutes we're Superdad.

Argos is still just about the naffest retail outlet this side of Dnepro-Petrovsk, but we begin to warm to it, and sliding ever so gently into a serious Cash Register piece, we can see a killer e-commerce script here. Argos has a big network in the UK, and the sort of gear it sells is portable enough for people to be happy picking it up. Bigger stuff can be delivered, but the network itself is sufficiently pervasive for UK shoppers generally to view it as a spur-of-the-moment, I-want-it-now kind of outlet.

The Web site is allegedly one of the UK's top ten trusted ones, and we guffawed privately when we saw this report, not just because Virgin was in the top ten too. But we take that back. You can check out the up to date catalogue on the Web, use phone to interrogate individual branch stocking levels and reserve the product easily, for free, then go get it.

It might cost a few bob more than the tag on out-of-stock product elsewhere, but how much of your life do you want to spend trudging along Oxford Street, or waiting for the etailer to deliver? Argos is still naff, but we can see cool potential here... ®

* We've since been mailed by someone claiming to have an old catalogue that does have the Color Gameboy in it. But it didn't seem to be in the in-store catalogue we looked at, and if you can buy them easily from Argos after all, how come Argos has got any?

** Meanwhile Nick Allen of Special Reserve tells us that Special Reserve (coincidentally) has stocks in all colours. Check ukhandhelds.com or specialreserve.net or phone (UK) 08707 259999.

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