Friday morning, 2:50 a.m., the alarm on my iPhone began plunking out the opening measures of Clocks by Coldplay, my alarm ringtone of choice. Normally I wake up a bit foggy but this time I had a mission to accomplish so I sprang out of bed – well, rather, I rose fluidly from bed and made my way to the office next door. It’s now 2:55 a.m. and I logged onto store.apple.com expecting to see the “We’ll be back soon!” page as the 3:01 a.m. event approached. Instead, the store appeared with the iPad 2 front and center waiting to be ordered. Hmm, I thought, that’s a bit odd that they are already open for business. Usually when you are so precise to give a 3:01 a.m. time you usually don’t open at least 6 minutes early. I followed through with my plan and ordered a black, 32 GB AT&T model with a navy blue leather Smart Cover. I waffled a bit with the color choice. I really wanted to get the cheaper cover but I didn’t care for any of the colors. Then I wavered a bit between navy blue and red but went with the more “toned down” navy blue. I admit that at the time I was a bit disappointed with the 3-5 day shipping estimate. I was hoping that I would have the iPad 2 delivered by the following Monday via FedEx. I was even more disappointed when I received the confirmation email stating that the expected delivery date was between March 18 and March 25. Hear is where I should explain that last year. I pre-ordered my iPad 1 and received it via UPS the same morning as launch day. Even then I had a two-fold plan and had reserved another iPad at the Apple Store in Brandon, Florida. We were visiting my wife’s parents in Sebring. For some reason, I had this expectation that this year’s iPad 2 launch would be even easier and enjoyable.
That morning at work, I kept thinking that I should make some attempt to find a store to get one on launch day rather than wait the one to two weeks for delivery. I had read online that the Sam’s Club store in Oakdale was the only store in Minnesota that would be getting iPads. I started planning to make my launch day attempt to secure the device by leaving work a bit early and heading over to that Sam’s Club since it was close by. Meanwhile, I was tracking updates via Twitter at the lines forming all day at various local Apple Stores. The Minneapolis and St. Paul area is fortunate to have five Apple Stores in close proximity. I had contemplated the Rosedale store, but decided it was too far from home even though it was close to work. Our family had a 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. commitment so waiting awhile and then having to drive that long of a distance home was probably not a good option. I considered the Uptown Apple Store which is a beautiful facility, probably the best in Minnesota. The problem with that option is that the parking around the area is sketchy with mostly metered street parking and the last time we were there for a Mac class for my wife, we ended up with a $46 parking ticket – not a happy day! The Mall of America Apple Store seemed to be the best option if I was really going to commit to standing in line. It is probably Minnesota’s flagship Apple Store and would likely have the largest stock of iPad 2s. That option became less and less viable as the late morning wore on. Many of the tweets I was reading on Twitter were reporting growing lines at MOA’s store and the likelihood that I would lineup, get in the store after 5:00, get an iPad 2 and most critically get home in time for our engagement was slim to none.
I settled on the Sam’s Club option as my best choice. I left work early and arrived at the Oakdale store around 3:30 and talked with a store worker in electronics. He informed me that they were handing out numbers and that they were waiting for delivery and would only have wifi models in stock that day. That’s when a light went on in my head. I left the store and got in my car and started heading for home. I thought the 2nd best option would be to call Walmart, but I was suspicious that Walmart would also only have the wifi models. My call confirmed that I was right. At that point I decided that my final option would be to call the Best Buy near home. I reasoned that if nothing else, the short drive from the store to home would allow me a little longer waiting time in line. The recording from Best Buy said that the store would begin handing out tickets at 4:30. It was 3:45 and I was about 30 minutes away so I decided I would make this my last attempt and if it worked out and I got an iPad 2, fine. If not, then I would try again later in the evening or the next morning. At worst, I still had an iPad 2 on order online as my fall back plan. When I pulled into the parking lot at Best Buy Lakeville, I could see more than the usual amount of cars in the parking lot. I also could see the line outside the store along the front wall. It looked like about 35 people already in line, a decent number, but less than I expected. My hopes were elevating. I parked the car and made my place in line. Shortly afterward, a younger dad with his baby daughter in a carry style car seat joined the line behind me. I struck up a conversation and we chatted for a little while and exchanged stories about why we were there. Meanwhile, the line continued to grow. I do a poor job estimating numbers, but I would guess the line eventually grew to near a hundred folks seeking to get their hands on the new device. Finally near 4:30, a store representative came out and spoke with the group lined up against the wall. She explained that the store did not know how many iPads they would have, but that we would soon be entering the store. The whole plan to hand out tickets seemed to have been abandoned for some reason, rather at about 4:40, another Best Buy employee came out and instructed the line to file into the store and to stay in order (I think the folks in line were well determined to police that effort – particularly those closer to the front). Like a small town parade, we snaked our way around the store in a complete counter clockwise circle beginning our way through big screen TVs, past the computers , and ending up in appliances. All the iPad 2 purchases would be rung up in the Geek Squad area and since appliances didn’t seem to be a very busy part of the store, it was probably the best place to stash us until 5:00 rolled around.
My place in line was a bit more precarious due to the fact that with so many different models offered (18 variations) and the fact that Best Buy’s allotment, though bigger than any other non-Apple reseller, was not going to be sufficient for every one that wanted one. About 4:50, a couple of store employees show up at our part of the line with printed papers – each one representing a corresponding model of iPads Best Buy had available to sell. One guy had the wifi models and the other had the 3G models. Neither one had many of the papers left – in fact the guy with the 3G models only had three sheets in his hand. Two were Verizon 3G models and one was a white, 64 GB AT&T iPad 2. I had early on toyed with getting a white iPad but eventually decided on black – the safe choice. I also only wanted 32 GB. That the size I had already with my first iPad and I never came close to filling it up. There it was, I needed to make a quick decision; others behind me would gladly snatch up one of the last models available for sale if I didn’t make a decision quickly. I grab the paper from the guy in the blue shirt and paused a moment to consider if this was in fact the best choice for me. I didn’t think about it for too long. I decided that white would be a cool choice if for no other reason than it was different. I had already decided to keep my first iPad as a test device for application development and it was black so having another iPad that was a different color seemed to make sense. I had heard the pundits discuss the benefits of the black border and the opinion that the black disappeared as you became engaged with the iPad. That seemed to sound like someone who was over-analyzing the options. I decided that I was happy with the white option and though I had a larger storage size than I had wanted, that was a better option than not having enough.
At this point, the line started to move as more and more iPad 2 buyers completed there sale at the Geek Squad register. Of course the good folks at Best Buy recommended their financing, their extended warranty, and other products including a new Apple TV. The only other purchase that I was contemplating was getting a smart cover. I wanted a Smart Cover on day one to protect the screen. When I arrived near the register, it was apparent that Best Buy did not have all the options for Smart Covers that the Apple Stores did. I could get the polyurethane cover in pink, gray or lime green; or the leather cover in tan or black. In a less than enthusiastic decision, I opted for the gray polyurethane gray Smart Cover. I checked out and then headed for home, very pleased that I now had an iPad 2 but not so sure about the color choice for the Smart Cover. The gray cover would have worked for me if I had purchased a black iPad 2 but it didn’t seem like a very good choice for a white iPad 2. When I arrived at my office at home, I went online and discovered that my navy blue Smart Cover had already shipped, but the iPad 2 that I had ordered early that morning had not. In fact, the option to cancel the order was still available. I then canceled the order successfully – a decision I later regretted due to the amazingly quick depletion of Apple’s iPad 2 inventory. I mused that I might have been able to make somebody’s day – someone who came up short in some line to get the new iPad 2 – by selling them them the FedEx delivered iPad sometime later in the week, or perhaps even have made some profit by reselling it at a modestly higher price. In reality, I was better off to do what I did and simply be happy with my success in getting the iPad 2 on launch day.
Footnote: I decided to wait it out a bit and delayed opening my iPad 2 until the following Tuesday evening after the navy blue leather Smart Cover arrived. I returned the gray poly Smart Cover to Best Buy. The Best Buy experience overall was pretty good, however next time I think I will return to waiting in line at the Apple Store, and bringing Hunter along for companionship!