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Using Apple's In-Store Pickup
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Dec 9, 2015, 10:10 AM
When three to five business days are just too long to wait, and perhaps the crowds at the Apple Store might be too intimidating as well, there is online ordering plus in-store pickup. Apple would have you believe that is convenient and fast, so we tried it to see. Yes, it's convenient, it's a rather slick process -- and we found it so fast that we were quicker than the Apple Store's own systems in-store.

We tried it over the new Apple iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case: the moment it was announced and Apple had done that "available today" shtick they are so good at, we cracked our knuckles and went to the online store.

Apple's online store has recently been revamped to take away the Store button. It makes it a chore getting to the thing you want, unless there's something about it on the front page, and this time there was. So click, click and we were at the Add to Bag page. Just underneath that there was information: one about how long it would take to deliver by post, and one about pickup availability.

This image is from when had gone through the process and went back to check the details: it's remembered the real-life store we bought from. It's also remembered that store's postcode: B91 3GJ is the code for the Apple Store in Solihull's Touchwood shopping centre, UK. It's not our own address.

That's a curious detail to get wrong, but we were more focused on the pickup options. Click on that, and the online store gives you a list of the nearest Apple Stores, plus their distance and whether the item is available today or not. Again, this is an After picture rather than Before: when we ordered through this, the battery case was so new that it wasn't available in all stores.

We will neither bore you with the ordering steps, nor reveal our credit card numbers, and instead continue the story with What Happens Next. After the checkout process, you get an email saying the order is being processed, but you also get this on screen:

The key line in that is how you should please wait there, rather than get in your car just yet. The time it takes to process the order must of course vary, but the advice that "items shown as available today are typically ready for pickup within an hour" proved true in this case. It took 13 minutes. That's when we got the email saying we could go get 'em; we then got a text saying the same thing about seven minutes later.

When you get to the store

Apple says to just approach the first employee you see, but the first one we saw had to go get someone else. Apple Store staff are still as friendly and genuine as they always have been, but this is the third time in a row someone didn't know what we needed. When we got the next person, and he began the process, he told us how pickup is a new thing at this store, yet is already going very well.

Before we could press for footfall figures, he had used his Store iPhone to scan a QR code on our iPhone's email. There is something distracting about one iPhone scanning another. It feels like the future, even though Store iPhones are bulky because they have a scanner attached, and the software where they enter your details is pre-iOS 7, and so looks ugly. Still, it works.

Until it doesn't. This part of the process was flying, it's the next ones that hit snags, and clearly only because the case was so very new. Our guy went off to fetch it, and the came back to keep me talking while someone else searched. We had the impression that boxes were being opened backstage, parcels flung over shoulders until someone finally yells that they've got it, by George, they've got it.

They brought out this quite small Apple box and an Apple bag 30 times too big for it and then, oops. The final stage should be the Store staff using their iPhones to scan the barcode on the back of the packaging, but when they did this, their systems didn't recognize the product. They did what every British person would: they tried again.

This time they went off to discuss it, and you could imagine them arguing about how they weren't going to send me away after they'd grazed their knees searching for this thing. Eventually, they came back with an answer. Paper. In the middle of an Apple Store, having ordered online and with more technology than you can wave a barcode reader at, the answer was to write down all the details on a piece of paper.

Again, this was because the item was so preposterously new. "You can tell people you're the first in Solihull to buy it," they said. "Uh-huh," we replied. "Thrilling." (We're British: think dry, think droll, think different.)

Total time to order online: about four minutes, including picking which store. Total time in the store: maybe 25 minutes. Total time in the store spent playing with an iPad Pro while waiting: 21 of those 25 minutes. Drive to the store and back, 90 minutes.

Call it two hours. From hearing of the existence of this battery case to having it on our iPhones, two hours. If you retraced our steps today, with the case now available everywhere, and doubtlessly on Apple Store systems, you'd be in and out of the shop in moments.

Despite our specific hiccups, online ordering and in-store pickup works well. Here's how well: those minutes playing with an iPad Pro may have sold us on buying one -- and if we do, we'll order it to pickup in store.

-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Dec 16, 2015 at 05:12 AM. )
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Dec 9, 2015, 11:07 AM
The only glitch I found was when I did this on the Apple TV release day, several weeks ago. I drove from my work place and I did an online order before I left to head to the store... 45 minutes away. The order on the app went well. I arrived at the store and they said, oh its not ready yet, can you come back in 20 minutes or so? I said, "There is a large stack there on the table behind you, can you give me one of those?" Salesman says: "No, yours is in back being processed" An awkward few moments go by and I say "but, I'm not sure why you can't just sell one of those to me..." He then goes on to tell me he can but he will need to cancel the online order and then sell me one of those... I said "If I don't have to wait 20+ minutes, lets please go that route" Im not sure why I had to ask to do that but the thought of leaving to walk around the mall for 20+ minutes when there is a pile of several dozen, grazing his elbow, seemed ridiculous.
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Dec 9, 2015, 11:16 AM
"Touchwood"? Teehee.

A friend of mine broke her leg the day before her birthday so I decided I'd buy her an iPad Mini on my way to the hospital. To save time, I placed an order for pickup at the Apple Store closest to the hospital. I was in and out of there with my purchase in maybe a minute and a half. Very impressive.

I had a similar experience at one of the iPhone releases when they were first experimenting with in-store pickup. When I got there, I wasn't sure if I should wait in the long line, so I just walked past them all and asked the guy at the door. A few minutes later, they came out with my phone and handed it to me in front of a hundred pairs of angry eyes.

I don't think they've done in-store pickup on any new releases since then. Do you think there is a reason, other than wanting to maintain the spectacle of hundreds of people in line outside the store on release day?
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Dec 9, 2015, 11:26 AM
Apple clearly states that when you order on-line for a store pickup, you have to wait for your confirmation e-mail for pickup, which could be 1 to 4 hours depending on store location. Says so right in the order process. My iPad Pro pickup took 45min. for confirmation, then 15min. to walk to the store, which is always crazy busy, and 12min. to process, get paperwork, bag up and leave (I checked out extra accessories in the meantime). Fastest purchase experience ever in this typical crazy-busy store and I know what my next accessories will be.
Life's all about pushin' forward...
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Dec 9, 2015, 06:04 PM
If I'm within walking distance or a very short drive of an Apple Store and need something small and low enough cost/configurability that it's in boxes on display – as @scottbohlen's experience with the Apple TV, I use the Apple Store app on my iPhone to see if the item is available at the nearby Store, and if so, just walk or drive there and use Easy Pay. Nothing is faster than that.

I've used in-Store pickup when I've been farther away, or the item I mean to purchase is large or expensive enough they don't have piles of boxes sitting around out front: say, a Mac or an iPad. At least at the local Store (Montgomery Mall, Bethesda MD) and the Upper West Side story in New York City, that's been very quick, too. Disclaimer: after making a horrible mistake[*] once, I never enter any retail establishment other than supermarkets between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so ymmv if you're doing christmas shopping.
[*] The horrible mistake was trying to pickup a work iMac in for repairs and that was supposedly ready for pickup at the Annapolis MD Apple Store some years back. Simply getting to the Store and then threading my way to the back was hard enough, but then I was told that the (one! the week before Christmas!) guy who worked in the back room, and had to certify the repair (which was already finished), was at lunch, but would be back in 20 minutes. There was literally no physical space in which to wait in the Store, so I bumped and dodged my way out to the mall fairway.... where it was just the same (on a weekday). Went back in after 20 minutes (probably 25 before I made it to the back of the Store again, only to find The Guy wasn't back yet. Lather, rinse, repeat until an hour had gone by, and at long last, success. Then, of course, I had to navigate back out to the mall fairway with an iMac box in tow. And through the fairway to the parking lot. Did I mention the mall muzak? I now admire (in the original sense of "wonder at") people with the guts to shop in malls at this time of year. I salute you. Especially if you're schlepping a iMac box.
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Dec 9, 2015, 06:51 PM
< offtopic >Looks like that front page comments display doesn't like the characters bracket-asterisk-bracket. Weird. < /offtopic >
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