Apple iPad 2 Distribution Design – Ridiculous Line Hurts Brand Identity

That day was the fourth day that I arrived at the Apple Store at 6AM to stand in line to buy an iPad (Thurs 21st, Fri 22nd, Sat 23rd & Mon 25th). On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, after waiting for between 20 minutes – 1 hour, we were told there were no iPads that day.  This evident disconnect between the channels of distribution and Apple’s own branded retail store seems ridiculous to me.  Especially from a tech company such as Apple.  A company that tracks and reviews every song download and iPhone/iPad application proposal.  For the retail store to tell me and every other customer that they “have no idea” what they will be receiving that day is crazy.  Someone does.  Even possibly as little as two people up the supply chain.  If Apple wanted to have that information available, they (you) would.  What if a potential customer could log onto iTunes or a special Apple website at midnight the night before and find out what each store would be offering in the morning: 10 iPad 64G, 15 iPad 32G AT&T, etc.  Or none for that matter.  That way the customer wouldn’t have to waste their time getting up ridiculously early and go to the store only to find that, oops!, there are no iPads that day.  Come back tomorrow and try again!  Apple would still sell the same amount of iPads.  And please do not use the excuse that giving out this retail availability information would allow people to game the system.  The system is already being gamed.  12 of the 13 people ahead of me in line yesterday morning were Chinese.  I tweeted a photo of it if you would like to see evidence.  They all bought two iPads.  And the ones that I saw while I was waiting to purchase mine all paid in cash.  I am not sure what is going on here but I bet someone at Apple does.  Is a blind eye being turned?  The New York Times even wrote an article about it happening at the Soho store a few months ago in regards to the iPhone.
I am a designer and brand consultant so I understand the concept of leveraging distribution to build demand.  But if the system that is put in place to manage demand is not designed correctly, it has the potential of doing harm to the brand image.  Maybe I am alone in thinking this, but to me it does not take much thought to realize that Apple’s system of distribution and customer information is flawed.  And we the customers suffer.  If I didn’t need this iPad for a trip this week I would have never stood in line four times and be turned away three times to buy one.  I definitely won’t do it again.  I like Apple.  But I like Apple a lot less than I did a week ago.

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Quoted from the Apple post-purchase Customer Survey that I filled out after buying an iPad 2 at their Manhattan Upper West Side store:

“That day was the fourth day that I arrived at the Apple Store at 6AM to stand in line to buy an iPad (Thurs 21st, Fri 22nd, Sat 23rd & Mon 25th). On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, after waiting for between 20 minutes – 1 hour, we were told there were no iPads that day.  This evident disconnect between the channels of distribution and Apple’s own branded retail store seems ridiculous to me.  Especially from a tech company such as Apple.  A company that tracks and reviews every song download and iPhone/iPad application proposal.  For the retail store to tell me and every other customer that they “have no idea” what they will be receiving that day is crazy.  Someone does.  Even possibly as little as two people up the supply chain.  If Apple wanted to have that information available, they (you) would.  What if a potential customer could log onto iTunes or a special Apple website at midnight the night before and find out what each store would be offering in the morning: 10 iPad 64G, 15 iPad 32G AT&T, etc.  Or none for that matter.  That way the customer wouldn’t have to waste their time getting up ridiculously early and go to the store only to find that, oops!, there are no iPads that day.  Come back tomorrow and try again!  Apple would still sell the same amount of iPads.

And please do not use the excuse that giving out this retail availability information would allow people to game the system.  The system is already being gamed.  12 of the 13 people ahead of me in line yesterday morning were Chinese.  I tweeted a photo of it if you would like to see evidence.  They all bought two iPads.  And the ones that I saw while I was waiting to purchase mine all paid in cash.  I am not sure what is going on here but I bet someone at Apple does.  Is a blind eye being turned?  The New York Times even wrote an article about it happening at the Soho store a few months ago in regards to the iPhone 4.

I am a designer and brand consultant so I understand the concept of leveraging distribution to build demand.  But if the system that is put in place to manage demand is not designed correctly, it has the potential of doing harm to the brand image.  Maybe I am alone in thinking this, but to me it does not take much thought to realize that Apple’s system of distribution and customer information is flawed.  And we the customers suffer.  If I didn’t need this iPad for a trip this week I would have never stood in line four times and be turned away three times to buy one.  I definitely won’t do it again.  I like Apple.  But I like Apple a lot less than I did before standing in line a week ago.”