I bought my new iPad at midnight from Walmart, and I’m still smiling

Features Stacy Warden 11:11, Mar 16 2012

Braving the big blue store and the crowd of Apple fanbois was so worth it

Before we begin, I have a confession to make: I wasn’t planning on buying the new iPad. Well, that’s not entirely true. I was fully intending to get one, but not anytime soon. I didn’t pre-order it and I certainly had no intentions of waiting in an unfathomably long line. I thought maybe I would request one for my birthday, maybe even Christmas—that’s how long I could have waited.

I wanted to hold out until the hype died down, until I could saturate enough really solid reviews to make me feel 110-percent confident in my purchase (given my impulsive nature, I’m far too acquainted with the post purchase stomach-churning that is buyer’s remorse). But something strange happened last night while scanning my tech feed in Google Reader: I saw a headline telling me that I could score a new iPad in just a few hours at Walmart (I know, I know), even before the pre-order folks got theirs.

At first, I thought something was off, even though the news came from a reputable source (thanks, Mashable!). It didn’t seem right that Apple would allow some other retailer—especially this one in particular—to peddle its current most coveted device before the tech giant itself had a go at it. So, like any skeptic, I called the nearest Walmart to see if this was indeed true. Before (finally) getting transferred to the electronics department on my fourth attempt, no one on the other line had a clue what I was talking about.

At last, I was connected to the electronics dude. Despite the obvious irritation in his voice (clearly I wasn’t the first person to call about the new iPad), I felt relieved. He told me that there was no line yet (this was around 9:30 p.m.), but that the tablets would “sell out immediately after midnight.” OK, “Why?” I prodded. Instead of offering any further information, he hung up.

Crap. He just made me want it more.

Suddenly, I had a desire like never before to rush to a place I often talk smack about. Of course, I live in a major city where Wal-Marts aren’t readily available (the closest Apple Store, on the other hand, would’ve only been a 10 to 15-minute drive). Nonetheless, I jumped into my car just after 10 p.m.—hit every red light on my way, got stuck behind the slowest of drivers, pulled over for 3 different sirens—and hit the store’s parking lot at about 10:45 p.m. I actually sprinted into Walmart and all the way to the very back where a small line of diehard fans had already formed. “It’s like Black Friday,” one said to me as I tried to catch my breath. “Yeah, yeah—Black Friday for NERDS!” another chimed in.

I quickly gathered that no one really knew what was going on, or if they would even be getting what they came for. None of them had bothered to ask what the deal was—the quantity available, limits per person, how many of each model, etc. So I scouted out the nearest worker and pushed for questions. I don’t think she actually listened to a word I said because the minute I mentioned “Apple,” she pulled out her iPhone 4S and started explaining to me how unhappy she’s been with Siri. “Why did I pay extra for this?” she asked me in her thick Russian accent. “It doesn’t even listen to what I say.”

I apologized, told her that I agreed, it sucks (look, I really didn’t care, I just needed answers) and could she please direct me to someone with info on the new iPad. She pulled some dude over (presumably the same one I spoke with over the phone, as he had the same sharp, somewhat bitter tone). He told me that there were 15 available and that it was a one-per-person limit. There were definitely more than 15 guys in line. Yikes.

About 10 minutes later, he walked over to the line with new information and proceeded to give us the lowdown: Twenty total devices, five of each including 16GB Wi-Fi; 16GB Wi-Fi LTE; 32 GB Wi-Fi LTE; 64GB Wi-Fi LTE. And then two words that drew groans of annoyance from me and the only other female in line (save for some kid’s mom who, by the way, should get some sort of “awesome mother of the year” award): BLACK ONLY.

Look, I understand that black is better for viewing videos and whatnot, but you like what you like, you know? And c’mon, white is definitively Apple. Anyway, other lady and I worked it out; we made ourselves feel good about the black tablet. We talked it up in the same fashion we would a newer, albeit slightly less attractive boyfriend: Maybe not as hot as the last one, but so much more in-tune with our needs.

I was a little miffed about the lack of Wi-Fi only choices, as I had planned on a 32GB. I really have no great need for LTE and frankly, I didn’t want to throw down a boatload of cash on something I wasn’t even planning on buying up front. I was 9th in line, so my chance of Wi-Fi only was a total gamble. There were still about 15 or so guys behind me—they were hoping someone’s credit card wouldn’t go through, or, maybe worse (seriously, you guys, it’s Walmart—and for the record, I wasn’t the first in that crowd to bring up the mace incident).

Anyway, the first three buyers went 16GB Wi-Fi only (the entire crowd clapped and cheered as buyer #1 completed his transaction, for real). I was getting nervous. So was the guy behind me. He kept asking me which version I wanted. I told him I hadn’t made up my mind yet. I think he developed a temporary twitch when I said that. I offered him a mint. He declined.

In that moment, the fourth 16GB Wi-Fi only tablet was purchased. I could be over-dramatizing here, but I’m pretty sure I saw a bead of sweat drop from his brow. It wasn’t just him; my heart was racing, too. That’s it; I decided then that if the last 16GB was available on my turn, I was definitely taking it. And that’s exactly what I did.

The cashier—the same guy who was short with me earlier—asked me which version. I told him. He slowly drew his face up from the register, looked me dead in the eye and firmly stated, “You. Are. So. Lucky.” And then he loudly announced that I was purchasing the last one, which turned out to be a really bad idea because the rest of the line wasn’t as cool with it. Those tough guys at the very back, they were legitimately angry.

That’s when Andy, Rick and Track Jacket Dude—the three guys who had gone just ahead of me (we became line buddies during the wait)—deemed it necessary to escort me to my car. This might not come as a surprise, folks, but Walmart has a severe lack of security.

After walking me right up to the door of my little Saturn (Thanks, Andy! Thanks, Rick! Thanks, Track Jacket Dude!), we all shook hands, congratulated each other and talked shit for a second about all of the poor bastards still waiting it out at the Apple Store.

New iPad and I have been together for about ten hours now and I have yet to feel even a tinge of buyer’s remorse. It probably helped that we cuddled all night long, but the sexy new retina display really is just as breathtaking as everyone said it would be. I can’t believe I ever considered waiting, I think this might be love.


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