For the first time, Apple offered in-store launch day pickup for online orders of the new iPad Air. The process was far from smooth. How did your launch day buying experience go?
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My iPad Air online order for in-store pickup was a disaster (how about yours?)

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With plans to snag the iPad Air as early as possible today, I figured ordering online for in-store pickup would be the best way to go. It’s the first time Apple has offered the option for a launch-day device that warrants an early 8AM opening and typically draws lines outside of their stores.

Hoping to avoid those lines, I woke up early, completed an order for a 16GB iPad Air and matching Smart Cover, requested in-store pickup at my closest local Apple Store, and set off to the mall. Apple’s site says online orders should take about an hour to process; then you simply show up, flash your receipt, and walk out of the store with the goods.

When I arrived at the Apple Store, things weren’t quite what I expected. The iPad Air hadn’t drawn a huge launch day crowd, after all. While Apple’s tablet launches tend to not garner the same attention as a new iPhone, I assumed the store would at least be busier than your typical Friday morning.

I was quickly greeted by an Apple Store employee, informing him I was there to pick up an online order. He asked to see my confirmation and then informed me that they had yet to receive my order. Being that Apple is pretty advanced when it comes to the technology they employ at their retails stores, I asked if there was simply some way to usher the process along faster. Nope, I would have to return when I received a second email saying the order was ready for pickup.

By this point, it had been well over an hour since I placed my initial order. I proceeded to wander around the mall aimlessly until my phone was pinged. I eventually did receive the second email about three hours after my order was initially confirmed. I had entered my mobile number to receive a text alert, as well, but never received one (as of writing, that text still hasn’t arrived).

So back to the Apple Store I went, confirmation ready to go. Again I was able to quickly grab an employees attention and explain I was there to pick up an order. Off to the back of the store he went. When he returned, he informed me the iPad Air was ready for pickup but the store hadn’t received authorization for the Smart Cover.

At this point, the series of events was almost laughable. A separate employee informed me the online ordering system was experiencing overwhelming demand, and since launch day in-store pickup was a first for Apple, the volume was a bit too much to handle. Eventually, though, I was able to leave the store with an iPad and Smart Cover in hand (though I had to cancel my online Smart Cover order and pay again in store — a refund on the first purchase could take up to 30 days).

What I learned? Given the ample stock and relatively light crowd, purchasing the tablet direct at the Apple Store would have been much quicker than their online ordering system. Yes, I still walked with a shiny new iPad Air on launch day. Yes, it’s a bit of a #firstworldproblem. But if Apple plans to offer in-store launch day pickup again, they have some kinks to work out.

That was my iPad Air launch day experience. How did yours go?

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