You've finally made up your mind. You want an iPad; you need an iPad; you are totally getting an iPad. Just one problem: You waited too long. You didn't get your reservation in on time and now you can't pre-order. So what can you do? Apple is no longer accepting day-of-release reservations; they simply don't have the stock to guarantee April 3rd shipments.
Are you out of luck? Is there nothing left to be done?
Worry not. TUAW has been hard at work figuring out the best strategies you can use to get a beautiful shiny new iPad into your hot sweaty little hands without breaking the law, clicking on a flashing "Win an iPad!!!1!!11" advertising banner, or committing armed robbery. Here are three practical ways you might yet be able to score an iPad on the 3rd.
1. Call your local Best Buy to see if they're stocking iPad units
Start with Best Buy. All the Best Buy stores that have Apple Solutions Consultants and Apple in-store Mini Stores will be carrying 15 pads per store. You can check the Best Buy website to find out whether your local store is part of in this ASC program (search by state in the middle of the page, look for the stores marked with a *); if so, call to confirm stock on the 3rd. It may even be worth your while camping out at an ASC store with a nice McBreakfast early on the morning of the 3rd, in the anticipation that each store really gets its 15 units.
There are approximately 675 iPad-friendly Best Buys out there; let your fingers do the walking and be ready to linewait or dash out early Saturday morning.
2. Call your local Apple Store to find out when they will release their reserved iPads
Current reports suggest that reserved iPads remaining unpurchased will be released to sale at 3:00 pm local time, on a per-store basis. Check with your local store now, or on the day of, and find out when that actual time will be.
If you haven't managed to do a Best Buy deal by early afternoon of the 3rd, you may want to grab some lattes around 2:30 pm (assuming a 3 pm release) and hang out at the Apple Store, waiting for one of those units to come free. If you have several stores nearby, check at 1 pm to find the store that has the most "not yet picked up" units. It wouldn't hurt if you showed up with a tray of, say, chocolate chip cookies or brownies for the Apple Store employees. Just saying. [Don't really bring cookies. –Ed.]
For all you know, the store reps might simply say "Come on over, we have some for immediate purchase" when you call. Some stores are expecting (according to anonymous TUAW tipsters) a 10% "bump" in stock quantities, especially in large cities like New York and San Francisco. It is unlikely that any store will reveal their bump in advance, so these are calls you really need to make on the afternoon of the 3rd itself.
3. Buy one off someone else at the store.
There's a fair number of people who reserved two units, deciding to wait until the last minute to choose which model they would settle on. Find someone who is only going to buy one of their two reserved units and offer them a little financial incentive to let you get in on the second. You can hover at the store on the day to try to find someone (a big "Reserved 2? Only want 1?" sign might help) or, you can track down a "reserved but will not buy the second unit" partner over Craigslist in advance.
It will probably cost you less than you'd expect and you won't have to wait until the end of the day for a reserve unit release. Make your offer attractive (at least a nice iTunes gift card) but not desperate. You don't want to plant seeds of doubt as to how much that second unit would fetch on eBay.
Alternatively, catch your consumer on the way out, instead of the way in. If you're frantic for your iPad, if money is no object, how about offering people departing the store more than what they paid? The real-world cost plus a small (or large) bonus might swing the deal. As Joshua Topolsky from our sister site Engadget puts it, "If someone offered me double, I probably would take it." And he's a tech geek!
What would Joe or Jane Normal Consumer say? They'd probably say yes. Figure out exactly what a day-of-release iPad is worth to you. Doing a departing-the-store deal might just snag you the unit you're after.
Thank you, TUAW tipsters (both anonymous and, um, nonymous).