As loyal readers know, Apple stores are not particularly cash-friendly; in the case of the iPhone and the iPad, they’re downright cash-hostile. Both devices require a credit or debit card for purchase, although you can waltz down the block and buy an iPad with cash at Best Buy if you like (and you can use a gift card for iPhone, but not for iPad).
There are some points on Apple’s side for the pay-with-plastic requirement (the primary one being that it’s hard to enforce the two-per-person purchase limit without some way to track buyers), but it’s clear that the rule is a source of annoyance to some potential customers. Now the annoyance is getting magnified.
In a post that is destined to be enshrined under the Wikipedia entry for “irate screed,” David Gewirtz at ZDnet reacts to this KGO-TV story about Diane Campbell, a Palo Alto woman who tried (and failed) to buy herself an iPad using good old greenbacks. And when I say Gewirtz reacts, I mean he absolutely goes medieval about this “outrageous” miscarriage of justice.
“Apple’s policy of not accepting cash is a direct slap in the face to hardworking Americans – and to our American way of life.” Yikes! “Apple is dangerous. And, as we saw in the case of Diane Campbell, Apple is becoming an out-of-control, discriminatory monster.” Wow!
After finding a fire extinguisher to put out this smoldering upholstery, let us note the following points. Gewirtz suggests that Apple is discriminating against Campbell (who is disabled and on a fixed income) and indeed against all disadvantaged Americans by refusing to accept cash — but Apple’s policy is clearly stated, long-standing and applied equally to all customers, so ‘discriminatory’ is a bit of a stretch. He also calls Apple “elitist,” “dangerous” and says “This time, the company has gone too far” — but there are ways to get an iPad with cash or a check, including heading for Best Buy or enlisting a friend with plastic.
Gewirtz references cash as “legal tender,” but of course there is no legal mandate that a particular business or entity must accept a particular method of payment (just try paying your plumber in coins). And Gewirtz’s sense of moral outrage doesn’t seem particularly tuned to the risks Apple Store employees would face if required to handle and secure thousands of bucks daily from cash iPad sales, even though we know that they are already targets for thieves.
You can’t help but feel bad for Ms. Campbell on her fruitless shopping trip, even though the reality of cash-free storefronts (and airplanes, and city offices) is nothing new. But the KGO “7 On Your Side” reporter could have saved plenty of time and trouble — not to mention David Gewirtz’s near-aneurysm — by simply offering to put the iPad on his credit card and taking the cash from Campbell. Frankly, a quick-thinking Apple Store manager who overheard the conversation between Campbell and the checkout clerk could have done the same; it would have been breaking a rule, but it would have helped the company dodge a PR sting.