The Raiders of the Lost Walmart is a recurring series here at Consumerist, where the brave explorers who read this site excavate their local discount stores, finding ancient treasures along the way. What we mean is that readers send us pictures of overpriced electronics that are obsolete or even unusable, and that will probably never leave the clearance shelves.
Earlier this year, the series reached its fifth anniversary, and we thought that we’d take a look back at the most interesting and least useful items that readers have sent to us over that half-decade. Grab your Zune and your iPhone 3G, and let’s revisit overpriced gadgets of years past.
It began back in 2012 when a reader submitted a photo of an early flash drive with an appealing sales pitch. The drive holds the equivalent of 256 floppy disks, so it was like carrying 256 floppies on your keychain.
“You’ll be bringing your kids in here some day, and these will still be here,” an employee told reader Joseph. That’s probably true. It’s unlikely that anyone will ever buy the drive unless they’re technologically clueless.
Walmart employees have since explained to us (off the record) that the reason why very old items languish on the shelf is that they have a low budget for discounts, so they can only mark items down a few bucks from the original price.
“Marking down items affects the bottom line of an individual store since the clearance discount comes off of [the store’s] gross numbers, whereas leaving the item in the inventory is neutral to the gross numbers,” a former Walmart employee explained to us. “Local stores are incentivized against getting rid of old and antiquated items.”
The phrase “Raiders of the Lost Walmart” began as a one-off joke for just that article, but readers began to send us more overpriced retail antiquities, and we realized that there was a trend.
For example, one reader spotted this 2.5 GB “high-capacity storage” hockey puck hard drive marked down just a few bucks and inexplicably for sale. In 2013.
External hard drives can languish on the shelves for a while, like this 80 GB example from Seagate, also found at a Walmart store.
You could buy this device, or you could spend less money and get a one-terabyte hard drive that weighs five ounces from Amazon for ten dollars less..
It’s not just obsolete hard drives on the shelves at Walmart and other retailers, though. Games, digital cameras, MP3 players, other kinds of gadgets, and even toys and collectibles can go into warehouse hibernation or sit unwanted and not discounted on a shelf for years.
Pay For No Play
Over in the games department, one reader noticed this box, not on clearance, containing the game DC Universe Online. The catch? By then, the game was free to download and play online. It’s still around, and is still free. No $50 piece of software needed.
What’s worse than paying for a free game? Paying for one that you can’t play at all. This game, Tabula Rasa, is a multiplayer game that has been shut down. You can’t play it at all, and anyone buying these copies would be wasting their money.
Knowledgeable gamers have noticed these copies over the years, and would try to explain the situation to Walmart employees, who were powerless to do much of anything about it.
This title that a reader found on the shelf went free to play in 2012, then shut down in 2014. Yet one of our readers found it for sale at Walmart in 2015, grossly overpriced at $15.
It’s not just games that languish on discount store shelves. This demo unit Game Boy Advance somehow stayed out for years after the Game Boy Advance was discontinued, and long enough to make it impossible to tell what color its case originally was. Redditors guessed maybe orange.
Take A Picture, It Won’t Last Longer
The Sony Mavica that saved photos to floppy disks was the first digital camera that I ever used. Eleven years later, there it was still on the shelf in a Walmart in Illinois for $269, which was then the price of a camera with six times better resolution that fit in your palm. Also, good luck finding a floppy drive.
If you want to accessorize your Mavica and save pictures on something more modern, like the largely obsolete Sony memory stick, some Walmarts even have decade-old accessories for your camera, too.
Maybe you’re one of our younger readers, and are wondering what a memory stick was. You can get that particular history lesson at Sears, apparently, where one of the late-’90s relics was available in a closing store with a handwritten price tag and at a baffling price.
This Flip camera has a pretty impressive markdown, from $149 to $99 at Walmart. That may be because the company behind it was out of business by then, making it hard to get warranty support, tech support, or much of anything.
The strangest items that readers find on the shelves aren’t just really old, but they’re also unusable. Take this MSNtv device, for example: The Webtv service was shut down in 2013, yet Walmart was happy to charge someone $200 for an internet appliance that they wouldn’t be able to use.
Do you wish you had the opportunity to buy one of the most famously indestructible phones of the aughts? It’ll cost you only $75. This Walmart may have been ahead of its time and just a little overpriced, since another company is re-introducing this famous model of Nokia and will charge around $60 for it.
This eMachines computer for sale at Walmart was nothing unusual, except for the sticker warning the store not to sell it before January 30, 2007. The store was well within the rules: A Consumerist reader photographed it in April of 2014.
In 2015, someone at Walmart put this Garmin GPS unit on clearance, and the system concluded that knocking $18.88 off the price was an acceptable thing to do. This model was eight years old at the time.
The MobiBLU will haunt the shelves of Walmart for as long as the retailer stays in business. It was a cute little cube-shaped MP3 player that was better than the then-popular iPod Shuffle, and had more features. It was a Walmart exclusive item in the United States, and came with free Walmart music store downloads. While those songs self-destructed back in 2008, the devices haven’t gone anywhere. You can find them on Walmart’s shelves, often at full price.
Earlier this year, we finally found one marked down to only $55. That’s still at least five times what it’s worth.
Finally, one of our favorite retail antiquities isn’t quite a gadget, but did get shoved in a far corner of a warehouse for 20 years or so. It’s the U.S.S. Defiant from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a TV series in the ’90s. When reader Josh found it on the shelf and went to buy it, he couldn’t.
“For kicks, I bought this toy – it took a team of three employees to figure out how to sell it (it was not in the system) and they ended up pricing it at $20,” he wrote to Consumerist at the time.
It was there for so long that even the mighty computers of Walmart didn’t know it was there.