My hunt for the elusive iPad 2 delivers some big game

The Apple iPad 2 launched in stores yesterday and reports indicate it may be close to being sold out already. Apple performed well with their marketing plan and people are buying.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
As I wrote early yesterday, the Apple online option quickly sold out. Apple's in-store orders, available at Apple, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and Target, kicked off at 5 pm last night. I visited four places and called several others before I finally found one in stock. I thought it was a funny story while also showing how successful the iPad 2 launch weekend is going to be.

I ordered a 16GB WiFi white model just after the online store opened and my order status showed 3-5 business days. Since I cover the iPad here I really wanted to get my hands on one for this weekend. Unfortunately, I was on business in Alaska so had to first fly home to start my in-store iPad hunt. I landed at SeaTac International at 4:20 and was at my first Apple store at Southcenter at 4:45 pm. I was planning to buy a 16GB or 32GB WiFi model, but also had to make sure I was at my daughter's flag football exhibition game at 7:00 pm because no tech device trumps my family.

If you are reading this then I assume you are a tech lover and can understand this is the way we get our adrenaline up. I am sure there will be judgmental comments about how much of an idiot I was and why are we all so stupid, but please try to limit this and if you need to make those comments why even take the time to read this blog post?

Please share your "hunt for the iPad" story in the comments. Here is how my iPad 2 hunt worked out (times are as close as I could recall):

  • 4:20: Departed my plane and made my way to the car.
  • 4:45: Arrived at Southcenter Apple store. Hundreds of people were in line, longer than I have EVER seen for an Apple launch. I started walking to get into it, but it just kept going and going down the mall with the end too far away for me to seriously consider getting in. There was no way in the world I was getting out of there to make my 7 pm event. I ran to my car and took off to the closest Best Buy.
  • 5:00: It turns out that the Best Buy I have shopped at before in Tukwila is open and I just went to the wrong small shopping center (should have used my GPS to drive one block further south). closed and was turned into a Kohl's. I did pass an AT&T store so I ran in there. They had none in the store and tried to get me to order one for delivery to their store. No thanks, let's keep moving.
  • 5:02: I called the Tukwila Target store before leaving the AT&T parking lot. They had five, but were all sold out now. Time to get moving again so I jumped on the I-5 freeway to head south towards my home.
  • 5:05: I called the next Best Buy down the highway (I used a Bluetooth speaker so was safely driving hands-free), but they would not answer the phone. I remembered there was a Target on the way so I called them. They had one 16GB white WiFi unit left, but wouldn't hold it. I was only about 5 miles away so kicked it up and headed that way.
  • 5:15: Traffic on the exit was really stacking up so I called the local AT&T store and was given the same option to purchase and have it delivered. I could not find an AT&T store with any new iPads and wonder if they even got any in for the launch event. It took me some time to get to the Target parking lot thanks to the traffic lights and congestion on the exit. I called them back to check and found out that last one was SOLD. What's next?
  • 5:25: I called the next closest Best Buy and was told there was a line, but they should still have some and the guy couldn't find the person handing out the tickets to verify what models were left so I should come in.
  • 5:27: I arrived at the Best Buy and ran in to check. Darn, all SOLD out here too. It seemed that I was not destined to pick up an iPad today so I decided just to drive home and wait for my online order to ship.
  • 5:33: I remembered there was one last Wal-Mart on the way home so I called them. I figured Wal-Mart probably had less stock than even Target, but was pleasantly surprised to learn they had some in stock still. The lady asked to place me on hold so she could go check which ones they were.
  • 5:36: I arrived at Wal-Mart, I was still on hold, and made it to the electronics section (yes, I was jogging). I got in line and then the lady came back on the phone to tell me they had one 32GB WiFi model and a few 64GB 3G models. I told her I was right behind her and that I would take the last WiFi model. Oh, sorry, the guy right in front of me was buying it. So close, yet so far. The kid buying it wanted the 16GB model and was paying with cash so he did not have enough. They told him he could run to the cash machine and they would wait. I have to tell you I was ready to jump right in and buy it if his cash situation didn't resolve itself. He came back a few minutes later with the cash to buy the last WiFi model.
  • 5:40: In a desperate act to get an iPad, I told the lady I would buy the 64GB 3G AT&T model (it was white while the Verizon one was black). This is NOT what I intended to do, but I really wanted the iPad and was interested in trying out the 3G functionality. Wal-Mart has a great no-questions asked 14-day return policy too so I might just stick with the 16GB model I ordered and return this one. At the rate they are selling though, maybe I will keep this one and sell the 64GB model. Wal-Mart did not have any Smart Covers, but I ordered an orange one online so that should arrive next week.
  • 6:15: Made it home, plugged in the iPad to charge it up, took a quick shower, and then headed to Mal's football game. My wife was OK with the hunt and purchase too since my birthday is on the 13th and she was having a tough time thinking of a gift. The game was fun and they ended up losing by just 1 point. BTW, my daughter is a natural fullback, just like I was :)

I have to admit, I was quite shocked about the lines and stock sell outs of this second generation iPad. There were no lines close to this size for the first iPad, but they had a pre-order system and people didn't really know if they needed or wanted a tablet at that time. Apple has really changed the game in the tablet space and their marketing is brilliant, if not annoying. Timing the launch in stores at 5pm on a Friday with no pre-orders was certain to bring out the people and the press. I still thought there would be a limited line and am shocked by the hundreds of people at the Southcenter Apple store. There was cheering, waves, and general excitement at that location and seeing this just confirmed to me that other tablet makers have major challenges ahead to compete in this space.

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