Orderly but eager iPad buyers line up for Apple's latest gadget

  • Khadir Lel-Jallad, 23, of Timonium holds the boxed 16 GB Apple IPad he just got at the Best Buy in Timonium. He was in line before the store opened to snag one of the tablet computers that went on sale Saturday morning.
Khadir Lel-Jallad, 23, of Timonium holds the boxed 16 GB Apple… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kim…)
April 03, 2010|By Fred Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

It may have been Easter Saturday, but for the handful of people lined up outside the Best Buy store in Timonium, the morning's anticipatory atmosphere made it feel more like Christmas Eve.

The Apple iPad was about to go on sale and fans of the tablet computer that allows users to read books, browse the Internet and enjoy videos and games, didn't want to go home empty handed.

Confusion as to when the store actually opened may have accounted for some of the early arrivals. Even when Matt Dawson, the Timonium store's day manager, came outside and informed the crowd that the store would not open at 9 a.m. but rather 10 a.m., few showed signs of yielding their place in line.

Jim Salamon, 28, a logistics management analyst for Northrop Grumman Corp., left his Owings Mills home early enough to be first in line at 7 a.m.

"Obviously, I got here way too early," he said, laughing. "I actually pre-ordered it and wanted to have it in time to show my family for Easter."

Salamon said he planned to use his iPad "mostly for entertainment and not work. I'll surf the Internet and stuff like that."

Second in line but soon to be first when Salamon switched places, was Beth Valencia, who was holding her eight-month-old son, Mason, who was tightly wrapped in a blanked to ward off the early morning chill.

Her husband, Alexi Valencia, works in information technology network security.

"I was sent here today by my husband who is an Apple junkie and is working today. We basically plan to use it just for fun," said the 26-year-old who lives in Lutherville.

Mike Brown interrupted a run to the nearby county landfill in Texas, to join the band of iPad shoppers.

"I have one on order but I stopped by to pick up one for a friend," said Brown, a 34-year-old Parkville resident and real estate entrepreneur. "A lot of people would see a line forming and not stop, but that didn't bother me."

Jim McGill, 57, who lives in Timonium and is a health information administrator for Life Bridge Health, said he planned to use it for "both work and pleasure."

Sipping coffee, munching on bagels and light-hearted banter helped to pass the time.

Jeff Helman, 58, a software developer for Interactive Technologies, who lives Cockeysville, had a different reason for buying an iPad.

"We need it for testing. It's part of what I do. Stay ahead of the curve and get new ideas," Helman said.

Dawson, the store's manager, said that the iPads arrived by UPS shortly before midnight Friday, and were being held in a metal cage under lock and key. He declined to reveal the number of units the store had received.

He came out shortly before the 10 a.m. opening to explain the drill to the folks who had queued up.

"We have enough iPads to take care of those folks who are line. We're going to go into the store in a line. This is not a grab and go operation," he said.

If anyone expected a Black Friday-like rush for the gold, as the doors swung open at the appointed hour, they were sadly disappointed.

Buyers chose from three Apple iPad models ranging from $499 to $699. The most expensive version was also the most popular.

Khadir Lel-Jallad, 23, an information technology graduate student at Towson University, alternately cradled and hugged his new iPad with all the tenderness of a father holding his newborn baby.

He couldn't wait to high-five his friend, Greg Hargest, 44, of Carney, who came with him to the store and works for Best Buy Mobile.

For Lel-Jallad, the iPad adventure nearly ended in disaster.

"I went through a lot to get this," he said. "We were at the Apple store at Towson Town Center and there must have been 250 people there. And then I found out I was in the wrong line, so we raced up here."

By 10:25 a.m., the Great iPad Race had ended as Dawson looked around the store that was filling up with more casual and less intense Saturday shoppers.

Dawson declined to say how many iPads had been sold.

"I guess most people got them to give for Easter presents," he said. "Whatever happened to just giving and getting candy on Easter?"

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