Various reports indicate that Apple may have black-listed Best Buy because the retailer is putting a freeze on iPad 2 sales.
The news first appeared on CrunchGear last night, based on an email supplied by a Best Buy employee. According to the unnamed source, the store was purposely telling customers that it was sold out of iPad 2 tablets when in fact there were units stacked up in the stockroom. The employee said that the store was refusing sales because it was meeting its quota of sales for the day.
TUAW also received a separate tip from a reader claiming that Best Buy was freezing iPad 2 sales. The site brushed it off as rumor until CrunchGear published its article. BGR actually took the initial story and ran, confirming with two local Best Buy managers that the stores were not to sell additional inventory (after the daily quota) as of Thursday afternoon. Best Buy even communicated the iPad 2 freeze to retail employees via an SMS message reading: "NewsFlash: ipads cannot be sold according to BBY. All ipads except for pre-orders MUST be held until further notice. Cant tell customers were holding them either."
From a moral standpoint, the fact that Best Buy stores actually stock a product and tells the consumer otherwise seems like a downright lie. A customer waltzing in through the doors at 7pm with $600 on hand, only to be told that the tablet isn't available, will likely not return. Actually, they'll probably take their business and likely not return after discovering Best Buy employees actually lied to their face.
But product freeze is a common practice according to the electronics retail chain "Best Buy continues to receive iPad 2 inventory from Apple on a regular basis," the company said in a statement to BGR. "As we’ve said previously, we are fulfilling customer reservations first. Our stores have been asked to temporarily hold non-reserved iPad 2 inventory for an upcoming promotion. This is a customary practice for us when there are supply constraints. Best Buy enjoys a great partnership with Apple, and we’re delighted by customer response to iPad 2."
As for the black-listing from Apple, that's probably rumor. CrunchGear's tipster said that Apple COO Tim Cook was somehow involved, "helping with negotiations" with Best Buy. There's even talk that Apple has declined to sell additional iPad 2 units to the retail chain.
But Tim Cook said that he wasn't aware of any units being held back by Best Buy. "My understanding is most of their stores sold all of their initial supply on the first night of the launch and the balance were out by the following day." There was also no mention of black-listing Best Buy or the status of additional iPad 2 units.
So what's going on? Best Buy is apparently putting a freeze on iPad 2 sales-- save for those who pre-ordered the tablet-- for an upcoming promotion. Best Buy claims it has a great relationship with Apple, but Apple's COO isn't even aware that the company has frozen sales. Bottom line, those walking into Best Buy wanting to get Apple's new tablet may be denied even though units are stocked in the back. Consumers may just want to bypass the mess altogether and find a more reliable retailer.