An odd rumor out this morning indicates a rift between Apple and Best Buy over the electronics retailer’s handling of iPad 2 sales. According to an unnamed CrunchGear reader who reportedly works for Best Buy, the store was only selling enough iPad 2 units to meet its daily quota. Workers would tell potential buyers that they were out of the second-generation Apple tablet, and to come back later, even though they still had some in stock.
This sales strategy was apparently not what Apple instructed. So Cupertino has sent down direct orders to no longer sell iPad 2s through Best Buy, at least until the quarrel is settled.
The Best Buy informant goes on to say that the two companies are in negotiations, presumably to make sure Best Buy stops withholding iPad 2s from customers. The Apple representative at the store where CrunchGear‘s source works has apparently confirmed the negotiations, which he said extends all the way up the Apple ladder to chief operating officer Tim Cook.
As unlikely as this whole scenario may seem, allegations of a dispute between Apple and Best Buy — one that has prevented Best Buy from continuing to sell iPad 2s — have been corroborated by a number of other similar sources (i.e. other Best Buy employees).
One Best Buy employed reader tells 9to5Mac that managers have prevented any further sales of newly received iPad 2 units, but have not given employees a reason for having to stow away the tablets. Another reader says the spat is “over price protection of the remaining stock of iPad 1s,” and that it is actually Best Buy — not Apple — who has imposed the hold on iPad 2 sales.
“Apple is only providing price protection on units that were delivered 28 days before the iPad 2 launch, which left Best Buy with thousands of units that weren’t protected,” the reader wrote to 9to5Mac. “This translates into 10’s if not 100’s of thousands of dollars they’ll lose. This hold back on iPad 2s is a negotiating tactic to get Apple to cave on their price pro decision.”
Based on all the above information, it seems that a rift of some sort between Best Buy and Apple is underway. Which side upset the other remains to be seen. It does, however, seem unlikely that Best Buy would have an abundance of highly-sought-after iPad 2 units laying around, and simply choose not to sell them to paying customers — or that Apple would combat this peculiar tactic by preventing Best Buy from selling more iPad 2s to customers altogether.
Neither Apple nor Best Buy have so far commented on the status of their relationship, so file this one in your “grain of salt” folder until further notice.
UPDATE: Not long after this article went live did Apple’s Tim Cook send CrunchGear‘s “original tipster” an email debunking basically every part of the supposed Best Buy-Apple feud. It reads:
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. I am not aware of any units being held.
While this doesn’t totally debunk the rumor — Cook could, of course, be feeding misinformation — it does line up more with what we’ve heard about iPad 2 availability. And, as we mentioned before, it would just be silly for a store to arbitrarily decide to not sell the most in-demand gadget on the market just because it had ‘met its quota.’
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