Could you fathom an Apple Store employee telling you that you are banned from purchasing an Apple product?  Would you be stunned, shocked, puzzled, or all of the above?  I know I would be pretty upset if I was told that.  Protocol Snow’s blogger had this exact experience when trying to purchase a couple of iPads for some friends overseas.

It almost reads as a Robin Hood story, where our blogger is Robin Hood, not so much stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.  Moreover, purchasing a hot new item that is only available in the United States, and sending it to friends overseas that are less fortunate.  Well, less fortunate in the respect that they still cannot purchase an iPad.  And, the Apple Store employee is Prince John, not wanting to sell the much sought after iPad.

Our story begins here

The blogger has been purchasing several iPads for friends overseas, following the purchasing protocol of only two per person.  So far this has worked.  Until that one faithful day when the blogger’s world was turned upside down.  Here is what happened:

“I walk into the store today and ask somebody where I can pick up my iPad reservation. He notes my name and says he’ll be back, going behind closed doors to the stockroom.

I take advantage of this opportunity to place another iPad reservation using a store PowerBook. There are a couple more NeoGAF people considering a purchase, but they haven’t paid me yet. Oh well, by the time this reservation comes in, one of them should have made up his mind and sent payment.

But drats, reservations are limited to one per iTunes account. Luckily I have a second account so I used that to place the reservation. No sweat.

The employee emerges a few minutes later with the iPad and I hand over my credit card. If you’ve never been to an Apple store before, instead of checking customers out at a register, the employees use hand-held credit card terminals to ring up purchases. Adds to the hip factor, I suppose.

But instead of using his handheld device, he walks to the back of the store where the “Genius Bar” is. Naught a word spoken. There are registers here but this area is used mainly for technical support. I follow the guy there. He still hasn’t said anything to me. He gives my credit card to one of the staff there and says, “I want you to help me ring up this purchase.”

Guy #2 (looking at the handheld terminal) — “Why don’t you just use that?”

Guy #1 — “I need to check the card for… uh, pre-authorization.”

Guy #2 — “Ok.”

He swipes my card and they click around for about half a minute while looking at their monitor and whispering. Meanwhile, I’m standing on the other side of the Genius Bar, only half paying attention to these two guys. Instead I was curiously watching an employee ask a girl what she loves most about Apple.

Guy #2 (murmuring) — “…yeah, the 14th.”

My attention snaps back when I catch this snippet. April 14th was my last trip to the Apple store, and I had bought 2 iPads that day. When I walked to the Genius Bar, I hadn’t suspected anything out of the ordinary. But now I suddenly realize I will not be walking out of here with an iPad today.

Guy #1 says to Guy #2 — “Hold on, I’ll be right back” and disappears to the stockroom again. Guy #2 is still clicking around, not looking at me.

Me (nonchalantly) — “Is there an issue?”

He’s still staring at his monitor and a few seconds pass before Guy #2 carefully says, “There is a limit to the number of iPads that customers can buy.”

Me (playing dumb) — “Oh, is that right? What’s the limit?”

Guy #2 — “Only 2 per customer.”

Ok, so the gig is up. I stand around waiting for a bit and was preparing to leave when Guy #1 returns.

Guy #1 — “I’m sorry sir, but you have reached your lifetime limit of iPad purchases and will not be allowed to buy any more.”

Me (anticipating that statement) — “Is the iPad limit per person? Per credit card? Per household?”

Guy #1 — “All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit.”

Me — “What does that mean? Can I use a different credit card to buy it? I’m buying this for a friend.”

Guy #1 — “You are not allowed to buy this iPad.”

Me — “Uhh… is it ok if I have a family member or friend come to buy it for me? My reservation doesn’t expire until 6:00 PM.”

Guy #1 — “All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit.”

Me (suddenly realizing what he’s saying) — “Wait, what? Lifetime? What does that mean?”

Guy #1 — “All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit of iPads and will not be allowed to buy any more.”

Me — “I’m banned from buying iPads? I know there’s a shortage right now, but I can’t buy any more once there’s plenty of stock?”

Guy #1 — “All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit.”

I pause and look at him with incredulity undoubtedly written all over my face. Everybody tells me I have the worst poker face. Hey asshole, nice job with the passive aggressiveness, but who do you think you’re talking to? I’m from Los Angeles; nobody does passive-aggressive like we do!

Me — “Ok buddy, I’m not going to make a scene so I’m leaving. How many iPads is the limit by the way?”

Guy #1 — “That information is not available.”

Me (looking at Guy #2, who has been silent this whole time) — “He tells me that the limit is two.”

Guy #1 — “I wish I could say but I do not have that information.”

Me — “I’ve already purchased more than 2 iPads. Why didn’t anybody else stop me in the past?”

Guy #1 — “I wish I could say but I do not have that information.”

Me — “Alright, I’ve had enough. Have a good day.”

The icing on the cake? When I came home, I found an email from Apple waiting for me. It was an update about my reservation, the one I had placed today in the store using my 2nd account!”

My thoughts

I think what might have happened is when the blogger ordered the two new iPads while waiting for the original reserved iPads it probably sent up the red flag.  In the sense that something in Apple’s systems might have flagged this person as purchasing multiple iPads in a short amount of time.  Since the Apple Store employee couldn’t give the blogger a straight answer to lifetime ban on purchasing iPads.  I think the system wouldn’t allow the sale, and that is the only thing the employee could think of at the time.  It would not be in Apple’s best interest to start banning customer’s from buying their products.

So, the moral of this story is, whether your intentions are just or not.  If you try to purchase too many iPads in a short time span, you too might be banned.  The reality of this happening again is unlikely.

Photo Credit: iPad boxes

Article Via Protocol Snow

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