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How to beat the line at the Apple Store
A visit to your local Apple Store during the holiday season can be maddening. The stores are overrun with other shoppers, there's a mob around each gadget table, and waiting for your turn to be helped by an Apple Store employee takes eons. The walk-in line to purchase an iPhone 5 alone can take upwards of an hour, depending on how many people are in front of you. While we generally like the Apple Stores no register system, it can be a real headache during busy periods.
This year, there are a few ways to avoid waiting in a long line. It just takes a little planning ahead.
Check yourself out
Bring your iOS device to the Apple Store, because the Apple Store app is a handy guide for holiday shopping. The app shows you where the nearest Apple Store is, lets you search for product availability at specific stores, and allows you to purchase items yourself.
The Apple Store app also has a feature called Express Checkout that lets you directly purchase items from the online Apple Store by quickly entering your Apple ID and password. Designate whether you'd like to pick the item up in a store or have it shipped. The app bills the card on file thats linked to your Apple ID and will ship to the address on file as well; you can adjust these settings by selecting Edit in the app itself at checkout.
If you're just purchasing accessories or other small gifts, there's no need to wait for assistance at the store. The Apple Store app has a feature called EasyPay, which is essentially a self-checkout system. Customers scan items with the iPhones camera and pay using the credit card associated with their Apple ID. While EasyPay is limited to accessories and non-Apple products -- you can't use it to buy an iPhone, MacBook, or any other piece of Apple hardware -- it can certainly eliminate your wait time, since you don't need a blue shirt to help you out.
Before using EasyPay, make sure you enable the app's push notifications and location settings. EasyPay will work only within an Apple Store, so if your location settings are disabled, the app wont recognize that youre in a store and wont grant access to the EasyPay feature.
Once the Apple Store home screen pops up within the app, tap EasyPay. (This home screen also lets you make a Genius Bar appointment, ping an employee for additional checkout help, and sign up for in-store workshops.) Next, scan the barcode using your iPhone's camera. Once the item is recognized, a product page displays more information about the item scanned. Tap Pay Now at the bottom of the screen and enter your Apple ID and password. The item will be charged to the credit card associated with your Apple ID and iTunes account, so make sure you have that card with youbefore you can complete the purchase, you must enter the cards security code. The app emails you a copy of your receipt and stores another copy within a section of the app.
The EasyPay feature does have a few kinks to work out. It allows only one item to be checked out at a time, which might actually slow your shopping down if you have several items on your holiday list. Be prepared to enter your Apple ID and password multiple times and to have a bevy of receipts sitting in your inbox. You'll also have to flag an employee down if you need a shopping bag or a gift receipt, which could also slow you down. Additionally, EasyPay works only on the iPhone 4/4S and the iPhone 5, and requires iOS 4.2 or higher.
Another limitation restricts what you can actually purchase with this app. When I scanned a $99 Apple TV unit, for example, the app prompted me to get an employee for checkout help. When I called over an Apple Store associate, she explained that Apple TVs and Time Capsules require additional checkout assistance because of their Apple serial numbers. However, I was able to scan a Magic Trackpad, a Smart Cover, and a Lightning adapter, and they registered as items available through EasyPay.
It does seem as though price is a factor as well. When I scanned the $400 Libratone Zipp AirPlay speaker system, EasyPay prompted me to find an employee to complete the transaction. Look for the EasyPay tag on store shelvesthose products are the ones that are available for purchase through the app.
Returning items is a breeze; just show an Apple employee a copy of your emailed receipt or the one directly from the app. You'll need to have your credit card with you when making a return, and make sure youre within Apples return-policy deadlines.
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