Local Man Still Waiting In Line At Wal-Mart

Martha Throebeck on Monday, December 18, 2000

from the and-you-thought-the-government-was-slow dept.

POPLAR BLUFF -- Ron Herbein planned on getting his Christmas shopping done early by hitting all of the sales on the day after Thanksgiving. It didn't quite work out that way. Ron has been waiting in line at Wal-Mart for the past 24 days, and doesn't expect to get back home until December 24th at the earliest.

"It's awful," a disheveled, unshowered Herbein said while waiting at Checkout Five. "This is worse than that time I waited in line for three days at the DMV."

Thankfully, Ron brought his cell phone with him, so he's been able to keep in contact with his family and office. His wife is currently waiting in line at K-Mart, and his boss has been at Sam's Club since November 12th. "Heck," explained Ron. "All of my co-workers are waiting in line somewhere. I'm not missing anything at work."

"I feel sorry for the idiots who procrastinated until the last week to do their shopping," he added. "At this rate they might get their shopping done by Christmas 2001 -- or maybe 2002."

It all started on November 24th, when Ron waited in line for six hours just to get a parking spot. He then had to wait another five hours to grab a cart, a feat he accomplished in such a short time only because he snatched one from a little old lady who wasn't paying attention.

Afterwards he staked himself out at the back of the store, waiting for an unsuspecting pimply-faced employee to walk in carrying a PlayStation 2. It took five days, but finally an employee carted one in from the stockroom, and Ron immediately pounced on it. The employee never knew what hit him.

Unfortunately, the commotion caused a nearby tower of unsold Furbies and Tickle-Me-Elmos to come crashing down. Ron emerged unharmed, although it took him nearly 30 minutes to paw his way out.

Next, he waited in line for 12 hours to get a scooter, and then he quickly dashed to the checkouts. Well, "quickly" is only a figure of speech. The "Express" line -- the shortest one -- stretched all the way back to the Produce section, then out through the emergency back exit, across the street, down several residential streets, and out into the country, ending about two miles away.

Ron subsisted on pizzas he ordered from Dominoes while hiring several professional line-holders to keep his place when nature called. After five days of waiting, he finally made his way back into the store. Then after another 24 hours, he reached the head of the line, only to discover that he had 16 items in his cart, one more than the maximum number allowed in the Express Lane. He had to start all over in another line.

Nearly 24 days, 52 pizzas, 1,433 candy bars, and two city council meetings later (the mayor and several councilmen have been waiting in line behind him), and Mr. Herbein is, as of this writing, finally in sight of the cashier. It may take a few more hours, however, since the old lady in front of him has 400 items in her cart, all of which will probably require a price check (and of course she'll try to use a credit card that's maxed out).

Still, once he pays for his merchandise, the Shopping Trip From Hell won't be over. "Oh, I'll have to wait another six hours just to get out of the parking lot, and then another hour or so to get through the stoplight and on to Highway 67. This ain't over by a long shot," Ron said.