iPad 2 Mania Leads To Shortages

March 14, 2011

Corey Dade

Emmanuel Dunand
A customer reacts after trying the iPad 2 at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York on Friday.

Weekend sales of Apple Inc.'s newly released iPad 2 soared beyond industry expectations, so much so that the device left most store shelves before the weekend actually ended.

From the product's rollout Friday afternoon on the West Coast, and cascading across the U.S., consumers reported standing in lines for several hours. And retail Web sites quoted delivery dates of four weeks out.

When the original iPad debuted 11 months ago, Apple said it sold more than 300,000 on the first day. Sales reached 1 million after 28 days.

By some estimates, iPad 2 sales may already be approaching that mark. Analysts put the weekend's volumes at between 500,000 and 1 million.

Apple on Monday didn't disclose actual sales figures, but said the product launch has been "amazing." The company said it's working to replenish inventory at stores as quickly as possible. Many retailers, including Best Buy, Target and Walmart, have said they could receive more shipments late this week at the earliest.

By last Saturday morning in many parts of the country, the quest for the new tablet had become a quest for something exotic and rare.

Photography student Brad Chatellier, an Apple devotee who lives in western Massachusetts, called every nearby store early Saturday, but found no trace of the device.

Chatellier resorted to Craigslist. He found precisely what he'd wanted, one with a 64-megabite memory and Wi-Fi. The seller asked him to meet him an hour away. No problem, Chatellier thought. The seller wanted $900 for the device, compared with the roughly $740 Chatellier would have spent at a store. Chatellier was willing to pay the mark-up.

"I figured when you worked in the taxes, I would have paid about that much anyway," Chatellier said later.

One problem: It was Saturday afternoon and banks had closed, leaving Chatellier able to withdraw only $700 from the ATM. He already had another $100 in his wallet, but he was still $100 short.

"'What am I going to do?' I thought. Then I remembered I had a bunch of change in a glass jar. I'd been putting my change in this jar for, like, a year and a half. I figured there'd be $150 in it," Chatellier said.

With cash and jar in tow, he set off to meet the seller at a grocery store in Ware, Mass.

"I didn't know if this grocery store had a change machine. Didn't know if this guy would let me buy him groceries to make up for the cash," Chatellier said. "Didn't know even know if he'd meet me. The whole thing felt like a stretch."

The store did have a machine that converts change to dollars. Chatellier's jar mercifully belched $120 in coins, more than enough to make up the difference.

"I'm admittedly an Apple fanatic," Chatellier said, now content with his new toy. "So what I did was a little bit ridiculous. I'm a die-hard loyalist." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.