What You Buy From The Apple Store, You Must Return To An Apple Store



Apple recently introduced in-store pickup at all of its retail stores. They call it “Personal Pickup.” order an item online, and you can go fetch it in person at your local Apple retail store, assuming that you have one. But you can’t perform this trick in reverse. At least, that’s what Randolph was told when he tried to return a sealed AirPort Extreme without taking it to a retail store.

I’m a veterinary student who lives in Auburn, AL. While visiting family in Pittsburgh over the Christmas holiday I purchased an AirPort Extreme from an Apple retail store. After arriving back in Auburn, I decided to upgrade to a TimeCapsule. I thought this wouldn’t be much of an issue because I had not opened my original purchase.

I logged on to Apple.com to chat with a customer service representative to explain that I wanted to return a product purchased in a retail store. I was informed I would need to call Apple. After speaking with several representatives, I was told that Apple.com and Apple Retail stores are in no way affiliated (other than their name I suppose).

The only way for me to return my purchase is for me to drive the 100+ miles to a different Apple store. As a professional student with an extremely busy schedule, this is basically impossible. Hopefully you can spread the word so that other people do not fall into the same trap as I did.

I would love any advice you can give me on resolving this problem; advice that hopefully doesn’t involve driving several hundred miles.

Thanks in advance.

Well, in future you could get around this would be to order online for in-store pickup, since Apple’s own site says that you can return by mail that way. Just order online from inside the store, then marvel at the absurdity of it all.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Browsing says:

    I fail to see the issue…..

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      Well, when I see Sears say that Sears.com is seperate, it makes some sense. Sears.com sells items through vendors other than Sears.

      When Best Buy says Bestbuy.com is seperate due to different pricing, that makes some sense.

      When Apple, who makes all their own products, owns all their own stores, has set prices on all products, has a retail location and an online shop, I fail to see why these are not essentially just retail ends of a parent company. As such, it’s all under the same umbrella, and there shouldn’t be an issue like this.

      • Fiona says:

        Everyone knows you can’t compare Apples to Apple.coms.

      • jiubreyn says:

        You can’t return something to an online store if you didn’t buy it from the online store. There are more security checks required when purchasing something online whereas in the store you pay and go — no billing/shipping addresses.

    • jeadly says:

      You’re not failing.

  2. Rachacha says:

    Apparently the OP has not taken problem solving 101:
    The Problem:
    OP Purchased a product in a store & later changes mind to get a different product
    OP is informed that he can not return the product to Apple.com as they are not affiliated with Apple B&M locations (this is not unique to Apple)
    OP does not live near a physical Apple store

    The Solution:
    The OP should contact his family in Pittsburgh and see if they would mind returning the product for the OP
    The OP can ship the product, with the receipt to his family. A family member can then drive to the Apple store and return it and have the money refunded.
    OP can purchase a Time Capsule from Apple.com

    Alternately, the OP could write an e-mail to Steve Jobs, but I hear that lately he has not been responding to e-mails (too soon?)

    • RockerGal says:

      *snicker* I liked it but I am sure you will get a mob of apple fan-boys flaming u for that last comment.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      They are having trouble forwarding Mr. Jobs’ mail at the moment. They are working on the problem.

      (Apple fan, not annoyed by your post)

    • Hedgy2136 says:

      Or the OP could just take about 4 hours out of a Sunday afternoon and drive to one of the 5 Apple stores that are within ~100 miles of Auburn, AL.

      I realize that being a Vet student doesn’t leave a hell of a lot of free time, but I would hope he can manage that.

  3. what? says:

    Time to drive to Hotlanta!

  4. pot_roast says:

    Uh.. yeah, this is not specific to Apple at all. And Rachacha wins the entire thread.

  5. Brontide says:

    I doubt he is the first person to need to return an item long distance, I would bet dollars for donuts that there is a “exception” process in place for this kind of thing. He may have to send an email or speak to a manager ( I see no indication that he actually pushed the CS rep at all ).

  6. apple420 says:

    Yea they have had this policy for a while. It can be a bit of a pain. Maybe he could ship it back to his family to return?

  7. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Great non-story. Who would have known that you have to return a product to the actual entity you purchased it from, instead of someone else, to get a refund?

    • 180CS says:

      I know, right? Who would have known that apple.com and apples stores, both owned wholly by apple inc, are not affiliated?

      I mean, really, who do you think we are, Walmart/Target/Best Buy?

    • red says:

      I have never returned a product online that I bought at a B&M

  8. az123 says:

    This is just stupid, I don’t see how Apple is mis-aligned with what almost all other retailers do. For the most part you can buy online and pickup and even return at the store, but I am not sure of any other retailer you can buy in the store and return sending back to the online. There may be some but then again if I tend not to buy things in stores 100 miles away from me unless I know that I really want the item.

  9. dullard says:

    Call Apple again and ask to be transferred to Customer Relations. You may encounter a bit of resistance, but be insistent and remain pleasant. Most likely Customer Relations will work something out for you. Apple has some of the best customer service available.

  10. kranky says:

    I marvel at how many problems would be avoided if people would evaluate and compare first, THEN buy a product. Nothing against the OP, but wow, so many unhappy customers only because they bought something on impulse then changed their minds.

    • Rachacha says:

      One of my biggest pet peeves. Research your purchases, consider all of your options and future needs for expansion, and then make the purchase. I generally tend to “overbuy” for this reason, purchasing more product/features than I may actually use (of corse balancing this with the cost differential) For example, right now I am looking to purchase a Gigabit ethernet switch. Based on my current needs I need an 8 port switch (that I will completely fill), however for a little bit more in cost I can get a 16 or 24 port switch which will likely serve me for life.

  11. taaurrus says:

    What is a “professional” student?? I’d like to know because I’m a student also and I want to know if I’m “professional” too? /s

    • taaurrus says:

      Also – if Apple stores & Apple.com are not affiliated so he can’t return a store purchase in the mail – they how come he was able to order from Apple.com and pick his purchase up at an Apple store?? Am I missing something or are Apple.com & Apple stores only affiliated when convenient?

      • Ogroat says:

        They are very likely separate entities for accounting purposes. When you buy something online for in-store pick up, the order is being charged to the B&M account. When you just order it online to be shipped to your house, they charge the order to the online account. Returning it to the online entity may be problematic because they have no record of your purchase.

        While I’m sure it’s technically possible to do it, it would likely be an exception and a royal PITA to the people involved.

    • FatLynn says:

      Professional student generally means you are a student in one of the “professions”: law, medicine, vet med, etc. Often a university refers to these as the “professional schools”, as distinct from the graduate school.

  12. taaurrus says:

    If Apple stores & Apple.com are not affiliated so he can’t return a store purchase in the mail – they how come he was able to order from Apple.com and pick his purchase up at an Apple store?? Am I missing something or are Apple.com & Apple stores only affiliated when convenient?

  13. whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

    Soooo … If Apple stores and apple.com are separate, why do we pay sales tax on apple.com purchases?

  14. Guppy06 says:

    “I was told that Apple.com and Apple Retail stores are in no way affiliated”

    If someone is dissatisfied with someone using your brand name and logo, you either get “affiliated” and deal with the issue, or you revoke the other guy’s ability to use your name.

    Brand Dilution 101.

  15. RogerX says:

    “I have to drive over 100 miles…”

    …or pay $7 priority mail shipping to relatives in Pittsburgh and ask them to do you a favor and return it? Still a hassle, but it seems like it would cost less than the gas to drive.

  16. TheBigWhiteWolf says:

    Ship it to the store from which it was purchased?

  17. dush says:

    Just like the swallows to capistrano.

  18. TonyK says:

    Interesting. I returned to products purchased from Apple.com to our local Apple retail store with NO issue.

  19. barbcole says:

    Call the store you purchased it from. They will give you their mailing address and you can ship it directly to the store for the return.

    As long as you’re either certain the return will be accepted, or willing to have an issue trying to get it back to you if it is not.

    I’ve never heard of a company that lets you buy in store and return to the online mail address. I’ve done it plenty of times the other way, but never in reverse. Not saying it’s an unreasonable request, just that Apple’s restriction isn’t unusual.

    • britswim04 says:

      Apple doesn’t take returns via male in store. A manager COULD make an exception, but it would be very risky. The amount of shipments via mail, UPS and FedEx that an Apple Store gets in daily means your product could get lost very easily. It’s not standard practice in any way, shape or form.

  20. britswim04 says:

    They are affiliated, they’re the same company.

    The two inventory systems (as well as receipt and order numbers) don’t talk to each other though. Sometimes there are products in retail online doesn’t have access to, and vice versa.

    This is not news, this is the OP being an idiot. Not unique to Apple at all.

  21. britswim04 says:

    They are affiliated, they’re the same company.

    The two inventory systems (as well as receipt and order numbers) don’t talk to each other though. Sometimes there are products in retail online doesn’t have access to, and vice versa.

    This is not news, this is the OP being an idiot. Not unique to Apple at all. At least they let you actually PICK UP rather than Wal-Mart’s asinine “ship to store” thing where if they physically have a product there, you still HAVE TO WAIT FOR IT TO ARRIVE ON A TRUCK WITH YOUR NAME ON IT.

  22. ScandalMgr says:

    Because nobody else said so, yet…

    I do my own returns… using a cannon loaded with Apple products aimed at the Foxconn fortress.

  23. dwm says:

    Apple is not angel when it comes to returns or claiming that the two stores are different (I call B.S. on that one). I caught this story about an iPhone 4S return for exchange problem that a customer encountered:


  24. AllanG54 says:

    A “professional” student? Hey…that’s sounds like a great job. I wonder what the pay is.

    • ScandalMgr says:

      Professional Students are paid in Apple products, which they must then find a way to return to Apple to pay for textbooks.

  25. benjitek says:

    The policy isn’t limited to the Apple Store. I’ve purchased mobile phones both online, and at the carrier stores. I’ve found the same to be true — if I purchase a handset online, I have to call CS and they send shipping stuff for the device to be mailed. If I purchased in-store, I could only return or exchange it at a store.

    Nothing groundbreaking here, other than a slow-news-day blog posting.

  26. farker says:

    Ummm….why would you think you could return something online that you bought in a brick-and-mortar store? Normally I hate to blame the OP, but I don’t think Apple did anything wrong here.

  27. BadBart says:

    The best solution may be to keep the AirPort Extreme and buy an external hard drive to use with Time Machine. You pay a premium for the all-in-one packaging of a Time Capsule, but there’s no difference in functionality of a Time Capsule vs. AirPort Extreme + USB harddrive.

    • CurrentGeekSquadEmployee says:


      Although, one of the big advantages to my Time Capsule is not having to waste a USB on an external(even though I do anyway). The OP would need to get a USB hub for multiple devices on either purchase.

  28. Darkneuro says:

    Instructions for happy ending:
    1. Call mother.
    2. Recite the following: “Mom?” *wait for acknowledgement* “I’m sending you the Airport I bought at the Apple store. I know it’s a pain, but could you return it for me? I’m so sorry to put you through this, but they’re being meanies and won’t let me mail it to them. And you *know* how busy I am with school and everything, I can’t take the time to drive to the nearest Apple store.” PAUSE FOR MOM’S RESPONSE “Gee, thanks, Mom. I love you So much. I’ll take you to lunch next time I’m in town, OK? Give my love to everyone!”
    3. Go find a mirror & look at yourself.
    4. Call yourself a whiny baby.
    5. Call FedEx & pay for the direct signature to your mother.
    6. Repeat 3 & 4

  29. neverecho says:

    I don’t know a single store that would let you buy something in person but return it online.

  30. rambo76098 says:

    Logistics fail. Go Apple!

  31. JonBoy470 says:

    Interesting that the OP manages to go to school somewhere that’s actually 100 miles from an Apple Store. Given the expansion of Apple’s retail operation, that now takes some doing, at least east of the Mississippi River.

    Anyhow, I suspect the reason apple hasn’t made this easier/possible is that there’s not much demand for it. Most people regard return shipping as a pain, and a drawback to online/mail order shopping. Just going across town to a local store is considered by most far more convenient, hence the push in recent years to allow in-store returns of items ordered online. Given the aforementioned proliferation of Apple Stores, driving 100 miles to get to one is definitely the “boundary case”

  32. mikells43 says:

    The personal pickup is actually a fancy word for reserve ur shit online and pick it up in store. Just plug ur USB extrernal hd in the air port and be done with it. Bam unhave a time capsule then. Or go out and buy an external if ur a pro student and don’t have the time since u didn’t read the terms. Ovb u paid the sore for the personal pickup so it’s a store issue not an online issue.

  33. akirabass says:

    This is an unfortunate situation, but I don’t think the brick-and-mortar store/website disconnect is that uncommon. I remember a post here a while back about someone running into issues because of a lack of coordination between Target and Target.com.