updated 05:55 pm EST, Fri November 9, 2007
iPod scam claims AL victim
One shopper at a Target store in Montgomery, Alabama says he was cheated yesterday after purchasing what he believed to be an 80GB iPod classic for his daughter. Upon returning home and opening the box, however, his daughter discovered a used and scratched 30GB iPod video in place of the shiny new 80GB iPod classic pictured on the box. "How could this happen?" asked George Mardre, a confused and frustrated customer. "Target will not refund our money. They will not allow us to exchange it." After speaking to several customer service representatives, Mardre was told Target would review a surveillance tape and get back to him. "Meanwhile, my daughter is out $275," Mardre told MacNN.
Mardre recounted his shocking experience as he returned home after making the purchase.
"Before I could get my tie off, [my daughter] called me in to show me that the iPod was all scratched up and was a 30GB instead of an 80GB classic. I could not believe it. I cinched up my tie [and] went back to the store."
"The first person I talked to just looked at me. Then she called the electronics supervisor. She told me, 'we don't accept returns for iPods.' When I told her that it did not say that on the receipt, and that the salesman did not tell me that, she changed her story to, 'well I can not take this back because the serial number on the iPod does not match the one on the box.'"
Standing in front of Target employees who did not speak to him, Mardre waited for the store manager before he was told that the issue was actually Apple's problem.
"They claimed that because the clear wrap was over the box, [that] the mistake was Apple's," he said. "I'm standing there, in a business suit, obviously not an iPod thief, helpless."
Mardre later explained to a Target customer service representative on the phone that reviewing surveillance tapes would not prove that the box he purchased in fact contained the iPod as advertised.
"I told [Target] that the tape would reveal that I could have switched iPods after I took it from the store, that I have no proof that I did not switch them, except my own good name in the community," Mardre said.
"I am still having a hard time believing it is really happening. I have wasted my whole day on it. I do not know any further recourse I can take," Mardre concluded.
Not the first time
This incident is not the first time a Target customer has opened a just-purchased iPod box to discover something other than the portable media player they expected. Two Texas Target stores in early October served as scenes of embarrassment when an angry mother found rocks inside the box that was supposed to contain a new $350 iPod.
The woman was denied a cash refund and was not even allowed to open a second exchanged iPod without first buying the device using in-store credit offered to her as compensation for the initial stone-filled box. When she opened the second box in front of Target store employees and it contained rocks as well, the Texan was still denied a cash refund and again offered an in-store credit for the exact price of the player.
Target isn't alone
Retail behemoth Wal-Mart also dealt with similar circumstances after one customer in Hawaii brought back a box that was supposed to contain a new fifth-generation video iPod, but instead held a sealed fish or meat product. The woman insisted that the box was properly wrapped when she made the purchase.
Another Wal-Mart customer expressed disappointment after opening her newly purchased iPod package to discover six AA batteries taped together in an effort to simulate the weight of the missing 30GB iPod video. In a bazaar twist, the culprit even drew a screen and buttons on a piece of paper to simulate what the package should have contained.
Examining sealed surprises
Both of the supposed iPods purchased from the Texas-based Target stores were fully shrinkwrapped with no signs that they had previously been opened or tampered with. Mardre's iPod packaging, however, revealed signs of mischief after he carefully examined both the box and the shrinkwrap the following day.
"The wrap does look 'cheap' and I do not think Apple would use shoddy wrap," he said. "Also, the box has a scrape on it where someone used a sharp object to pry the original wrap off."
Yesterday's scam victim offered a word of advice for Montgomery residents looking to purchase an iPod from Target: "Open all boxes and packages INSIDE the store in front of the manager. Otherwise, you may not get what you bought."