GottaGetiPad: Where to Go to Pick Up an iPad Today

Today is the launch day for the iPad, and with Apple already sold out of its pre-order inventory, prospective new iPad owners who did not pre-order have several options to pick from to acquire the new iOS slate. With pre-orders now delayed for two-three weeks, users can either wait in line at Apple retail stores and hope to be the first in line to get dibs on launch day supply, or they can head to any number of Apple retail partners. Be sure to also read our Buyer’s Guide as well. Here are some of your best bet if you absolutely must have a new iPad today:

Apple Retail Stores: As with previous product launches, Apple retail stores will probably be the most well-stocked source for new iPads and will have the most inventory of all channels. The down side with Apple stores is that almost everyone will be headed there, so you’ll have to deal with long lines, or get up early to be first in line. Stores will open at 8 AM. The good news for Apple shoppers is that Apple does not charge a restocking fee if you’re still on the fence and may return the tablet.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless: As the iPad will come with 4G LTE mobile broadband through AT&T’s and Verizon’s wireless networks, you can expect that both carriers will be stocking at least a few units. Lines at carrier stores will typically be shorter than lines at Apple’s own stores, but the downside is that carriers usually have more limited inventory on hand so they can run out quicker. Carriers will probably be better equipped to get you off and going on a mobile broadband data plan if you intend on activating your 4G or 3G connectivity on the spot.

Verizon will be opening stores at the same time Apple opens at 8 AM. AT&T is sticking to their 10 AM schedule. Be sure to ask your carrier about return periods and restocking fee as Verizon charges $70 for restocking.

Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile: Long-time Apple partner Best Buy is also a good spot to hunt down an iPad. Depending on your location, you may encounter long lines and long wait times, or limited inventory. The good news is that Best Buy has amended their return policy to allow customers up to 30 days to try out the tablet and the big box retailer does not charge a restocking fee should you change your mind. Best Buy opens its doors at 10 AM.

Target: Target offers customers the lengthiest time to try out the tablet with a 45-day return period. That’s a month and a half to test out Apple’s flagship tablet and see if it will fit into your daily life. However, unlike Best Buy (30-day period) or Apple (14-day period), Target will assess a 15% restocking fee should you change your mind. On the 64 GB 4G tablet, that amounts to almost $125 for the privilege of being able to return the tablet within 45 days, but at least you won’t be out $830 for the highest end model if you don’t like it. Your best bet may be to resell the tablet, in that case, through eBay or Craigslist, rather than returning it as Apple is likely to be in short supply and there will be a lot of pent up demand. Target opens its doors at 8 AM.

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Radio Shack: Radio Shack is another good option and offers an unconditional 30-day return policy with no restocking fee, matching Best Buy’s satisfaction promise. As a smaller chain, it’s unclear how many units Apple is shipping to each Radio Shack location. Given that it’s a smaller outlet, chances are the Shack would have less inventory on hand, but also less people lining up. Doors open at 10 AM.

Walmart: Walmart had announced that it would start selling iPads starting at midnight on launch day, beating out Apple and other rivals to get the tablet into consumer’s hands the soonest. As a larger retail chain, Walmart may get more supply than rivals Target or Radio Shack, but it’s unclear how much inventory each location will get, but you may want to check there if you wake up before everyone else opens and don’t want to spend the entire day waiting in line unless you have to. The chain does not charge a restocking fee if you do change your mind within 15 days of purchase. Walmart-owned Sam’s Club warehouses, if you have a membership, offers a more generous 30-day return policy and opens at 10 AM.

Grey Market: And if you absolutely must have the tablet this weekend and couldn’t get an iPad at any of the above retailers, there will be people who will resell you their iPads on eBay and Craigslist. Just expect to pay a significant premium. In the past with the launch of the iPad 2, there were foreigners who bought out inventory of the slates at retail locations to export it to countries where the iPad was not yet available, creating a stiff grey market with high prices.

Return Policies: Before you plunk down cash for your iPad, or sign on the credit card slip, before to check out what the return policy is at your retailer. Inquire to see how long you can test out the iPad before committing as well as what the restocking fees are. If you aren’t sure about keeping the iPad, make sure you keep the box, cables, and all the packaging materials intact so you can return them if you do change your mind. If you purchase your iPad with a credit card–like an American Express, Visa Signature, Mastercard, or Platinum card–you can also check to see if your credit card offers any extended purchase protection beyond the store’s return policy. Some cards will refund you a portion of your purchase price if you return the iPad to them if you change your mind. Given that inventories will be constrained this early in the game, you can probably break even, gain a bit, or lose a little money by turning to the grey market if you fall outside of your retailer’s return policy by reselling it on eBay or Craigslist.

Insurance: Now that you’ve plunked down between $500 to $830 before taxes on your tablet, be sure to read our guide on insuring your tablet.

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