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‘Apple Online Store Causing Grief’ and more iPad news

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ipad_prepared_for_shipment

A lot has happened since we first announced how the iPad could be ordered through US Unlocked from outside the US. Most of the US Unlocked iPad order statuses today state ‘prepared for shipment’. But it was an interesting ride to get there.

Let’s just say that Apple has their own peculiar ways of controlling who gets the iPad. We knew beforehand that Apple does not want the iPad to leave the US, but perfectly innocent US citizens as well as celebrities also got their pre-orders canceled.

Let’s list the most recurring reasons:

  1. We do not ship to Freight Forwarders. Therefore your order has been cancelled.
  2. We have been unable to obtain payment for your order.
  3. To ensure that all customers are given equal opportunity to acquire this product we have limited the amount available per customer. Therefore,this order has been cancelled.

On March 12th, initially all the US Unlocked users were able to successfully place their pre-orders paying with the US Unlocked Card. We also placed a small number of pre-orders through Personal Shopping (now closed) for the very first iPad enthusiasts. Everyone received an order acknowledgment, everyone elated (including us). This feeling lasted for two weeks and then on March 25th the first order cancellations came pouring in. Ayayay, darn it Apple!

1.We do not ship to Freight Forwarders. Therefore your order has been cancelled.

We were surprised (and slightly flattered) to overnight have become a ‘known freight forwarding address’, Apple really had no way of knowing that unless they had figured it out by actually going on our site and pretending to be a customer. We have said it before: we did not name our company US Unlocked for nothing, so we are determined to make it work. We feel everyone has a right to purchase the iPad!

We provided alternate addresses to those customers whose orders we could successfully verify as cancelled. And sure enough there were a few that could not be verified because ‘We could not locate an order with the information you have entered below, please try again.’ Hmm, did we just expose an Apple spy?

Most customers used the US Unlocked Card for the iPad pre-order. The US Unlocked Card is a virtual pre-paid Discover debit card with your own US billing address, that together with an IP shield works like a charm to order from websites that only accept US credit cards. We were convinced it would work just as easily for Apple orders….

2. We have been unable to obtain payment for your order.

This was the next challenge. The alternate addresses helped getting the orders through (sometimes after providing even a second alternate address). Apparently, it was only now that Apple was actually looking to get paid for the iPads because now we received messages from customers not being able to get their card through. Incredibly frustrating to not being able to pay when you know you are good for it! We researched and worked around the clock to find out the what, why and how to solve it. Everyday, we learned something new which helped us help the customers to successfully place their order and reach the desired ‘prepared for shipment’ status. This is what we learned about how Apple handles payments:

The golden $51 rule

We had already found out that when registering a credit/debit card to an iTunes account, Apple seeks authorization for $51. As it turns out, when buying from the Apple store, authorization is sought for the $51 AND the entire purchasing amount (including sales tax and domestic shipping). This means you will need to have the $51 of extra cushioning on your card. Every time you try to place an order, a hold is placed on the card for $51 even if the order did not go through. The holds cause the available balance to shrink every time with $51. These holds usually are automatically lifted after 3 days. To avoid this, try this work around:

First open a US iTunes account while registering your US Unlocked Card to it (remember to use your Hotspot Shield!). You can choose to either have the extra $51 cushioning (which you can later use to buy iBooks for your iPad) or to wait three days after opening the iTunes account before placing the order. Then log into your iTunes account during check out. Since you are using your iTunes account no more new authorizations will be sought.

One order processed per day

If you placed an order for more than one item it is possible that you will get the ‘unable to obtain authorization’ message. When getting to the bottom of this issue, it turned out that Apple processes one iPad per day per order. So, your order will be fine and paid for the next day. No reason to panic, although we understand quite well you are freaking out.

We also found out that the Apple customer service team is incredibly helpful and resourceful on the phone. You can reach them by clicking on the phone number on Apple.com and you are transferred for free through Skype. One Apple representative stated that ‘the online store was causing grief’. Well, yeah! Contacting Apple directly to place the orders and to inquire about the worrying emails seems to be the best way to be successful. We also found out that these emails are sometimes sent out AT RANDOM and when verifying the order is still in tip top shape. Didn’t we mention the word ‘peculiar’ in the beginning of this post?

3. To ensure that all customers are given equal opportunity to acquire this product we have limited the amount available per customer. Therefore,this order has been cancelled.

This email also appears to be sent out at random sometimes but also when the Apple system picked up you were trying to be creative in getting your hands on as many iPads as possible (ok, guilty). Best again to place a free call to check with the Apple rep.

When re-reading all of the above we truly cannot wait until we can finally announce to our customers that we have received their iPads. The relief and the joy, everyone will feel! Some customers gave up along the way, can’t say I blame them, since it was proving to be too frustrating. We do hope to be able to ship them an iPad when the hype has blown over and they are still interested. Even our competitors gave up because: ‘Apple has deployed sophisticated means to detect any order that would be delivered to consumers outside the US and cancel them all.’ We certainly did not give up and we are very grateful to the massive amount of customers who did not give up either and remained patient while we were sorting it all out.

Another special thank you goes out to Scott from [email protected] for his tireless support as well as to the friends of US Unlocked.

Says one customer: ‘I would also like to stress, your continued support for my problems has really helped and given me a lot of trust in US Unlocked.’ That is just awesome, thank you so much!

News flash: Besides the status ‘prepared for shipment’ some customers report to have ‘shipped’ as their status!

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