Tale of two tent cities - PS3 launch

Posted by Humphrey Cheung and Mark Raby

Hawthorne (CA) - Customers at electronic stores across the country are eagerly camping out for Friday's Sony PlayStation 3 launch. In Hawthorne California two very different camps formed at the Circuit City and the Best Buy store across the street. Management at Circuit City maintained a hands-off policy with their camp, while Best Buy employees have been holding regular meetings with their campers and have even helped pick up the trash.

PS3 tent cities forming in front of stores ...

The Hawthorne Circuit City is one of five stores that will have one hundred PlayStation 3 consoles. There will also be a raffle and five lucky winners will get a free console. The first campers showed up Sunday morning and during our visit Wednesday night, we estimated there were more than one hundred people in line.

The line starts at the side of the store and winds around the back and onto the sidewalk. Chairs, mattresses and several tents line the route along with drink coolers and boxes of delivered pizza.

The crowd seemed well behaved when we arrived, but we did see two Hawthorne police cars maintaining order on the sidewalk. The campers told me the police had been called several times and have tried evicting the sidewalk campers.

Circuit City management has maintained a "hands-off" approach to the campers. "We have our own government," said one person while another told us that management "hasn't done anything." No official instructions have been given by management and no roll call has been taken, this has forced the campers to form a de-facto government and take their own roster.

There seemed to be tension between people who are first in line and the ones on the sidewalk. According to the first group of people, the sidewalk folks aren't agreeing to their roster. A second camper-made roster has been made to compete with the original roster.

The first group told us they were concerned that groups at the end of the line or even troublemakers in the neighborhood could rush the door, ignoring the line order, to get a console.

The scene was much different across the street at the Best Buy store. The crowd was much smaller at around 30 people and Best Buy employees seemed to make every attempt to make the campers feel welcomed.

According to one camper, the employees have provided them with trash bags, cleaned the sidewalk and have even let the campers play Guitar Hero inside. At first, managers wanted to kick the campers out, but the employees vouched for the group and petitioned management to let them stay. Managers consented and have made an official roster that requires roll to be taken every 20 minutes. Campers also cannot leave for more than an hour.

A camper who was fourth in line at Best Buy was previously in the Circuit City line. He moved over because of the store's "lack of organization" and says people started cutting in line.

The Circuit City store will open at midnight Friday morning, while the Best Buy will open at 8:00 AM.