Random thoughts and insights – always shaken, never stirred

MartiniPundit Adds an iPad

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Well, some time ago I posted that I had added an iPhone. While I was not the earliest adopter amongst my friends, I was early enough that I had no concerns about my tech cred.

Not so this time.

Indeed, one of my long-term readers (perhaps the only one) beat me by nearly a year. Nonetheless, MartiniPundit has now joined the iPad ranks.

It was not easy. It was, in fact, ridiculous. I had decided to wait for the second incarnation of the device, and then there were a couple of months before I felt free to spend the money. The iPad 2 was released March 11th, and by the beginning of May, I was all set. I assumed I could walk into the Apple Store and buy one. What a fool I was.

I had decided to combine the iPad purchase with other errands. I finished my other shopping and then went to the Apple Store. Now, if you’ve been to an Apple Store you will understand that sometimes the experience is a little too intense. I walked in, and was immediately asked “What brings you to the Apple Store today?” I knew, but didn’t feel like sharing. “Do you need a reason to visit the Apple Store?” I replied. “Yes,” came the unlooked for answer trailing behind me as I tried to head to the back of the store where the accessories are kept. On my way there I had to endure two additional employees/goalies. Once past their clutches, I looked for my purchases. Consider me weird – I do research and always know what I’m going to buy. I don’t need the saccharine Apple Store employees to help me out. I love Apple products, and I recognize how critical the retail experience is to them, but I don’t find it all that edifying.

Thus, when I was ready to be helped, all I really needed was for them to retrieve my iPad of choice. I was not prepared for them to say “no.” They were sold out!

I was shocked, but then I went out into the mall and sat down. I pulled out my iPhone and fired up the Apple Store app. After calling virtually every store within the range of my fuel tank, I began to realize something was not quite right. There were no iPads to be had. After returning home, I used my friend Google and discovered that there were organized groups – mostly Chinese – who were buying up iPad 2s as fast as they were being delivered. This was an arbitrage opportunity since the devices were not available in the Far East but people there were willing to spend up to three times the retail cost in the US to obtain one. Apple – for better or for worse – was encouraging this activity by not requiring the iPads to be activated in store (something that had been true for iPhones) and allowing customers to buy two. I read an article about scalping which made me realize that the iPads were not so easily obtained. A strategy would be needed.

So I set out to scan the Apple Stores near me. I decided that Hingham – far off the beaten track – was a good shot. I got up early, drove down, and parked, arriving about 7:30am. No one was around. Was this a good sign or a bad? I didn’t know. I had brought a book, so I camped out on the bench near to the Apple Store and waited. The women who used the outdoor mall for an exercise course went by more than once, and then a man arrived and was admitted. Prior to this, the only person I had seen at the Apple Store was the window washer (they do have a lot of glass). Over the next thirty minutes other employees arrived, and I was intrigued to see that I had not witnessed all of then arriving. A back door? I think so.

Next, a man drove up in a big BMW, and was admitted. Now it should be said that the Apple Store did not officially open until 10 am. Yet here we were at 8 am with some serious foot traffic. Another woman, also driving a big BMW arrived. I’m thinking this is the Apple Store in the morning. Of course, in theory, iPad sales would being at 9. As the key hour approached, I moved towards the door to position myself as first in line. Others also arrived, bolstering my confidence that I was on the right track.

At about 8:50am the Chinese arrived.

Yep, the stories were true. A Chinese man and two Chinese women arrived and got in line (on the opposite side of the door from me – nothing doing I thought). I imagined them buying my iPad and sending it for resale to Beijing. I chatted with the woman next to me. She was on her third trip to an Apple Store to buy an iPad. Eventually the salesgirl came out, and after some elaboration as to who was first in line, she announced that they only had a couple of 16GB models in stock. Well, I was only interested in a 64GB, and I knew that there was another Apple Store at the South Shore Plaza but a few minutes away. I dashed to the car and made a beeline for the mall.

Once I got there, all was peaceful. A woman mopping the entrance told me the store was not yet open. I knew that. Yet, as in Hingham, there were people inside, people coming by, and all sorts of activity. The Apple Stores are more than retail outlets it seems: they are training and educational facilities. Apple’s retail strategy is far more complex than their competitors and seems an integral component of their success in gaining market share over the last decade.

And then it happened. The Chinese arrived again. The same Chinese man who had been in Hingham, and trailed by his same molls. At least I had beaten them here. Eventually, another employee came out, and I talked to him, learning that they had had no delivery that morning and were out of iPad 2s. I was beginning to think this was ridiculous. I called other Apple Stores in the region and got the same answer. As I drove home, I decided to swing by the Apple Store in Cambridge where I was told that they had no deliveries on Monday, but any other day of the week would be good. Okay, so I went home, and the next morning went back. There, two lovely Apple Store employees informed me that they had had no delivery of iPad 2s that day. As I informed them that I had been told in this very store not even 24 hours before that this would not be the case, I was told that they never knew when they would get them in. Astonishing.

In disgust, I went home, and ordered one off the Apple website – two weeks to delivery. And so I waited.

About a week later I called the store in Cambridge out of curiosity. They did have some iPad 2s at one o’clock – Verizon models only (they don’t work overseas).

Then, as it happened, I did a little more research a couple of days later and discovered that the model I had ordered (the non 3G model) did not have GPS capability. Well, that’s pretty important I think, so I canceled the order. Nothing left to do but try the Apple Store lottery again. Thus, the next morning I drove over to Cambridge, but I didn’t try to get there especially early. Indeed, I think I got there a few minutes after ten – the official store opening. I asked about iPad 2s, and was directed to a fellow outside the store. I spoke to him. He had a stack of little pieces of paper in his hand. I told him what I wanted. He had a slip! Here it is:

Whoa, I thought – I’m actually going to get one of these suckers. And so it came to pass. Apple Store employee Sarah (I should have taken her picture too) came out and escorted me inside. She brought me the sacred box. I handed over the credit card and relished the irony of paying Apple hundreds of dollars for the privilege of buying their artificially scarce device. Sarah asked me if I needed anything else today, and I suggested an armed guard to escort me to my car would not be out of place.

Since then, I’ve been enjoying my new iPad 2. It is a fine device, and it is doing everything I expected of it. Apple, interestingly, has sent me several e-mails asking about my buying experience. I don’t think they want to know.


Written by martinipundit

May 16, 2011 at 1:24 am

Posted in Apple, General, Technology

Tagged with ,

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