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The iPod Scam

"I want an iPod 20 GB," I told the clerk at CompUSA.  I was exasperated at having to wait so long for the one person tending the audio department.  I was about to leave when he finally caught up with me.  I had just checked the prices:  $299.99.  The same as at the Apple Store.  The only reason I was here was because I sort of hoped I could haggle a discount on the iPod.

"You know, I just spoke with my manager," the smug sales guy said.  "I'll give you $20 off on the iPod if you buy the extended warranty."

I know about the 'extended warranty' scams.  "No, thanks.  The iPod is going to Mexico; it's a gift for my brother."  I'm also well-aware that there is such demand for iPods that neither Apple, nor any retailer, offers them for less than list price.

"Oh, it's a worldwide warranty.  Apple will replace it anywhere."


"Really.  $59.99 for the warranty, and $20 off the iPod.  If it doesn't work out, you can return the warranty for a refund, as long as the box (a piece of paper in a box!) is unopened."

I'm running numbers in my head.  I can get a cheaper iPod, go see my brother, who couldn't care less about the extended warranty, then I can return on Monday morning to get a refund.  I agree to buy the iPod for $279.99 and the warranty.

I'm about to head back to the garage where I parked my motorcycle when I decided to go to the super-yuppie Apple Store.  If you've never seen one, they're fancy computer boutiques, the computer world equivalent to Tiffany & Co.  Getting a liter of blood out of them is easier than getting a discount.  If anything, they're proud of how overpriced they are.  I walk in and I'm immediately greeted by Chris, a smiling and knowledgeable Apple sales guy.

Chris and I chat about portable hard disks for a bit.  He can't help but notice my accent and the iPod and warranty in the transparent CompUSA bag.  "Where are you from?"

"Oh, here, San Francisco."

"I thought you were from somewhere else," he said, pointing at the iPod bag.  "The accent, you know.  I'm glad you're states-side because those warranties are only valid in the US and Canada."

"Really?  The iPod is going to Mexico; Chrismas gift for my brother."

"Can you get a refund?" he asked, as he showed me the tiny print on the warranty description off the Apple web site.

"Yeah, I think so..."  and I explain to Chris about the discount and all.

"If you can return the whole thing, I'll match the price if you buy it from us."

Before you can say "OK" I dashed out of the store, got to CompUSA right before they closed, and returned the iPod and warranty.

I returned to the Apple Store, found Chris and asked him to get me an iPod, no extended warranty and a portable hard disk.  "Are you still going to match the prices that CompUSA offered?"

Chris looked around nervously before saying, "sure".

Five minutes later I walked out of the Apple boutique carrying a brand new iPod, a brand new FireLite SmartDisk, and $40 extra in my pocket.  Chris made good on his promise to match CompUSA's price.  $20 off the iPod, $20 off the portable hard disk.

As I headed to my motorcycle I realized something, though:  I didn't buy, nor return, a portable hard disk from CompUSA.  Oh, well...  those $40 will come in handy at some point...