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Apple Store does Kafka

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A US gamer has been banned from ever buying another iPad. Why? He reached his "lifetime limit".

Who knew that such a limit existed? Not The Reg.

Using the handle Protocol Snow, the now-banned iPad buyer tells his story of intrigue in a personal blog post. But be forewarned: as he notes, the post "is getting hammered with traffic and load times are quite substantial".

So let us summarize - and include one mildly edited bit of dialog between our blogger and what might kindly be described as tightly-controlled Apple Store retail droids.

It seems Snow wanted to pass a few iPads to fellow NeoGAF gaming forum members outside the US who were craving their own "magical and revolutionary" devices, but whose hopes had been dashed by Apple's decision to delay international iPad sales by a month.

And so, being a Good iSamaritan, he took it upon himself to buy multiple iPads and ship them to his fellow gamers, charging them only enough extra to cover tax, shipping, insurance, and Paypal credit card fees.

But it was not to be. After buying just a few iPads and shipping them off to his friends, Snow was thwarted in his attempt to continue his mission of multitouch mercy.

After two Apple Employees - identified in the tale as Guy #1 and Guy #2 - check his identity via credit card, Guy #2 informs him: "There is a limit to the number of iPads that customers can buy." Our protagonist ask what that limit might be, and Guy #2 answers: "Only 2 per customer."

At that point, Guy #1 returns, and the conversation takes on a Kafkaesque quality:

  • Guy #1: I'm sorry sir, but you have reached your lifetime limit of iPad purchases and will not be allowed to buy any more.
  • Me: Is the iPad limit per person? Per credit card? Per household?
  • Guy #1: All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit.
  • Me: What does that mean? Can I use a different credit card to buy it? I'm buying this for a friend.
  • Guy #1: You are not allowed to buy this iPad.
  • Me: Uhh... is it okay if I have a family member or friend come to buy it for me? My reservation doesn't expire until 6:00pm.
  • Guy #1: All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit.
  • Me: Wait, what? Lifetime? What does that mean?
  • Guy #1: All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit of iPads and will not be allowed to buy any more.
  • Me: I'm banned from buying iPads? I know there's a shortage right now, but I can't buy any more once there's plenty of stock?
  • Guy #1: All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit.
  • Me: Okay buddy, I'm not going to make a scene so I'm leaving. How many iPads is the limit by the way?
  • Guy #1: That information is not available.
  • Me (looking at Guy #2, who has been silent this whole time): He tells me that the limit is two.
  • Guy #1: I wish I could say but I do not have that information.
  • Me: I've already purchased more than two iPads. Why didn't anybody else stop me in the past?
  • Guy #1: I wish I could say but I do not have that information.
  • Me: Alright, I've had enough. Have a good day.

It would seem that Snow has reached his lifetime limit. Should a 128GB iPad be released that comes complete with video conferencing, LTE or WiMAX connectivity, an OLED display, and perhaps even an SD card slot, a lifetime ban would mean that he will be - now and forever - S.O.L.

When his story was linked to by Valleywag, one commenter, self-described as an Apple Store employee, noted: "The employee got it wrong. The *daily* limit is two iPads per day. The 'lifetime limit' is ten."

And this Appleonian said that there's a reason for this restriction. "Nothing is sadder than seeing the look on a little kid's face when you don't have the toy they want, because you just personally sold the last half-dozen to a shady guy in sunglasses who reeks of cigarette smoke. It gets old really fast."

In other words, Apple is clamping down on the gray market. Hard, apparently. And, in traditional Cupertinian fashion, they're not providing users with anything more than the absolute minimum information about their policies.

We can only hope that the Apple Store employee who posted to Valleywag doesn't now find himself in hot water. ®

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