Yesterday, I decided to test the new “In-Store Personal Pickup” option Apple is now offering customers when you order from the online Apple Store. I had to take the iPad 2 plunge — times two! — and I placed a nine-item order online at 10:30am in the morning and planned to pick up everything from the 14th Street Apple Store in New York City when I finished teaching later that night.
The original title of this article was — “Don’t Touch an iPad 2 or You’ll Be Sorry!” — because I made the mistake of touching an iPad 2 during one of my many visits to the 14th Street Apple Store and, compared to my original iPad, the iPad 2 is so natively unctuous and perennially delicious and thin that I could think of nothing but working out a way to buy two of them as soon as possible.
I don’t care if the iPad 2 is updated in March, or if there’s an iPad 3 coming during the Summer of 2012. The current iPad 2, once touched — and twice bitten! — will coo at you from afar until you surrender and come on over to the updated side of iOS 5 iPad 2 living.
Unfortunately, this article is not just a rave review of the iPad 2. Yes, the 2 is thinner and faster and prettier than my original iPad and yes, I hate the new folding cover. Why would you buy something that makes a thin device twice as thick and clunkier?
This article now also deals with my curious and unfortunate experience picking up my iPad 2 order last night at the 14th Street Apple Store in Manhattan. After I placed my order, I was almost instantly sent this confirmation email:
A few minutes after that email, I was sent this Pickup Notification telling me my order was ready! I was so excited. I didn’t know if I could make it through the day knowing all my stuff was just sitting in the Apple Store waiting for me to pick it up.
After teaching, I arrived at the Apple store at 8:02pm to pick up my order.
A blue-shirted worker named Nick offered to help me. When I told him I was there for an “in-store pickup” he was surprised and told me I was the first person to pick up something from that store that had been ordered online.
That turned out not to be a good first.
Nick turned to another worker and showed him my printed-out order. The other guy didn’t really know what to do, either.
Nick pulled out an Apple communication device and found my order and the handset stepped him through the process of checking my government-issued ID and the credit card I used to pay online.
With everything confirmed on the handset, Nick told me my order would be brought up from the basement and we’d be done.
Janna and I found a quiet corner and waited and waited and waited and waited.
I was under the notion that ordering online and picking up the order in person would be a quick and seamless way to buy stuff from Apple — and so did Nick, because he kept apologizing for the long wait.
After 12 minutes of waiting — I thought I’d be in and out in under five minutes because, I thought, from everything I’d read online, that my order was pre-picked and put in a bag and waiting for me on the ground floor to swoop in and pick up and leave.
Nick told us that since the store was closing at 9pm, and because lots of other orders were being processed that were being purchased that night, and because the store was doing “inventory” with “only one person working in the basement” — even though the store was still open for business — I would have to wait a bit longer.
I told Nick it would’ve been faster if I’d skipped ordering online and just come into the store and bought everything in real time. I’d seen several people who had entered the store after me, initiate a purchase with an Apple employee and then walked out happy with their new stuff while I sat there and waited and waited.
Nick agreed and he told me he’d go down to the basement to see if he could pick my order himself.
Janna and I decided to wait near the elevators where Nick disappeared because it was getting harder and harder to spot Nick as more people entered the store.
After seven more minutes of waiting, I descended from the Apple Heavens and into a rigid and unfamiliar otherworld as a short guy with a baby face and ruddy cheeks — and dressed in a black windbreaker — came up next to me and started staring at me.
The guy stared at me for a good sixty seconds before I finally asked him if he was a manager.
“You want a manager?” The guy said.
“No,” I replied, “I’m asking if you’re a manager here to help me.”
“No, I’m not a manager.”
He kept staring at me.
Ah! Then I got it. The attitude. The earpiece with a wire tucked into his windbreaker…. “You’re security,” I said.
He paused for a moment as if he didn’t want to answer me. Then he made a clear decision to answer me — but in slow-motion, “Yes. I’m. Security.”
“Who told you to come over here?” I asked as I looked around the store looking for the security camera trained on me.
There was a long pause before he answered me. I wondered if the long pauses in his conversation were because he was listening to someone speaking to him in his earpiece. It was an eerie experience to watch his eyes zone out as he was speaking to me.
“Well,” I said, “I’m a upset because my online order is messed up and I’m a little unhappy and the guy helping me disappeared. Where are we allowed to stand?”
With that, Nick turned the corner behind me and showed up with my order. None of it was packed or sacked. The creepy security guy melted away.
Nick apologized again and repeated the story about doing inventory with one guy on duty. I told Nick I understood and I appreciated his helping me. It’s the process that’s flawed, not Nick’s execution.
All the items I purchased had my name printed on them, which made it seem even stranger that none of it had been picked before my arrival. Nick scanned all the stuff with his handheld to check me out and finish the purchase:
We put everything in my bag and left.
On my way out of the store, creepy security guy was standing by the spiral glass staircase — staring at me again — and I approached and told him I was sorry about the misunderstanding and I held out my hand to shake in reconciliation.
Creepy security guy purposefully crossed his arms, refused to shake my hand, and told me to move along.
I’d just spent $2,000.00USD at the Apple Store on 14th Street and my most stinging memory of the evening was not the waiting or Nick’s frustration — but that stony-eyed creep in the black windbreaker who tried to stare me down for no reason at all. I was just standing by the elevator entrance talking with my wife waiting for Nick to come back from the basement. We weren’t touching any products. We weren’t shouting or making any trouble. We were just, I guess, standing in the wrong place, and our punishment was having to deal with the earpiece windbreaker dude.
It was an almost 30-minute experience picking up my online order in-person and it really isn’t something I hope to repeat any time soon.
My online Apple Store account reflects my in-store pick up:
When we arrived home, Janna tore open her 32GB iPad 2 and was met with the iOS 5 screen. She downloaded her iCloud backup and was set up and running in minutes. Her iPad 2 battery was pre-charged at 82%.
When I turned on my iPad 2, I was met with the ugly and dreaded “wired iTunes” animation that meant I had to actually plug in my more expensive 64GB iPad 2 and do an update to iOS 5 and then “restore” my new iPad in an attempt to set it up. My battery, out of the box, was pre-charged at 78%.
The process of trying to get my new iPad 2 restored was something that took me two hours and several restores. You can’t restore an “iTunes-started” iPad 2 iOS 4 activation from iCloud. There’s no way to get your iCloud backup downloaded to your new iPad because iCloud identifies the iPad as “pre-existing” — even with iOS 5 installed — because it was first touched by wired iTunes for updating.
I finally realized I had to re-backup my original iPad using wired iTunes instead of iCloud and then tell iTunes not to back up that iPad to iCloud. After the original wired iTunes backup of my original iPad was finished, I plugged in my new iPad 2, did a restore, and then used that new wired backup to bring my new iPad 2 up-to-date. It was a tedious and tiring process.
It seems the 32GB iPad 2 machines are selling faster than the 64GB version because of the iOS differential we experienced — and believe me, if you’re using iOS 5 and iCloud on your current iPad and you want to upgrade to iPad 2, make sure you buy an iPad 2 with iOS 5 already installed — or you’ll have to devolve back into the netherworld of wired iTunes to get started.
UPDATE: (10 minutes after publication)
Nick asked me if I wanted my receipt printed at the store or emailed to me or both and I am so happy I said “both” because I just opened that receipt and there’s a survey link included with the email receipt asking for my feedback on my Apple Store in-person pickup experience. I included a link to this article in my feedback and it gave me great pleasure to check these particular radio buttons:
We’ll see how quickly things change at the 14th Street Apple Store.