I placed an order last night at store.apple.com, indicating that I intended to pick it up at the Cambridgeside Galleria. They had the correct model in stock, so my order, they said, should be ready within an hour of placing it. They would send me an email.
This afternoon, around 2:30, about 15 hours after placing the order, the email had not yet arrived. My order status said "Processing" and "In stock for pickup." I called the Cambridgeside store to ask what was up, and got transferred (invisibly) to the central Apple number. She was sympathetic, and told me their order system had been down for maintenance. "Call the local store to see if your order is ready," she said. "I did," I said. "That's how I got you."
Armed with the secret override code for the automated system ("SALES REP"), I re-dialed the number, and reached someone at Cambridgeside. "Oh yeah," he said. "We filled that order this morning. You can come down and pick it up. If you don't have the email, just bring the order number and a photo ID."
"Woot," I said.
After an eight-mile bike ride in an eighteen-knot headwind, I arrived at Cambridgeside, and told the floor rep I was there to pick up an order. She asked if I'd received the email, and I explained the situation. I showed her my order number and photo ID. She disappeared into the back — for sort of a long time. Ten or fifteen minutes. Eventually, someone else asked, "Are you still waiting for your order?" I nodded, and they vanished into the back after her.
After a while, she emerged, carrying an iPad box. "Good news and bad news," she said. "We have your model in stock, and I can sell you one right now."
"Great!" I said. "And the bad news?"
"Your order hasn't reached us yet, so it wouldn't fulfill your order."
"The what now?" I said.
"If you bought this iPad, your order would go through later, and you would own two iPads," she said. "But we can cancel your online order, and then you can just buy this one!"
I thought about this for a moment. "Gotcha," I said.
We went over to a big iMac, and I logged in to my order page. "Just click 'cancel'," she said. I clicked cancel. Nothing happened. "'This order cannot be cancelled,'" she read. "Hmm."
She instructed me to call Apple, to get them to cancel the order. ("Buying from Apple is usually really seamless!" she said — which, to be fair, I believe. "Can I get you anything to make you more comfortable?") I navigated the automated system until it said it was going to connect me to a human. Then it hung up. I tried again, and it hung up again.
(All this time, an iPad very much like the one I'd purchased was sitting next to me on the desk. It was not the one I'd purchased, however, and I could not leave with it, unless I bought it as well. Had I not placed the order online, and just gone to the store like a normal person and bought it, I would have that iPad right now.)
Eventually I got through to Apple, and they told me they couldn't cancel the order either. It was in the ether, between them and Cambridgeside, and no mortal hand could turn it aside. By this time it was 5:00, which happened to be the time I was supposed to meet adfamiliares in Harvard Square for dinner, so I called her to apologize, then left.
One hour and twenty-three minutes later, at 6:23, I received the email saying my order had cleared.
Not sure when I'll be able to make it back to East Cambridge.