Pro Tip: Do Not Buy An iPad Made Of Clay

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The story goes that at least ten customers were sold clay iPads over the holidays from Canadian electronic stores. These customers were sold what appeared to be sealed iPad 2s, but turned out to contain slabs of clay rather than, you know, iPad 2s. Best Buy and Future Shop of Canada opened investigations, but since the stores already compensated the customers, we’re in the clear to laugh at the situation a bit.

This scam is a lot less scandalous than the iPad McDonalds story. In that case a lady went against every shred of common sense and purchased what she thought was an iPad from a pair of men in a McDonald’s parking lot. It turned out to be wooden block. But this time, the buyers purchased sealed boxes from reputable retailers. They had no idea that a slab of clay was inside the box.

The popular theory right now is that scammer purchased the iPads and replaced the units with a block of clay weighing the same as the iPad. The person than re-wrapped the iPad in retail-grade cellophane and returned it to the store as an unopened item, effectively circumventing any return policy. The scammer likely had to employ a bit of social engineering too as most stores log the customer’s ID on large returns. From there, the retailers simply returned the units to the shelves to be sold to unsuspecting customers.

Of course once these customers started showing up at the retailers, the stores responded with suspicion and bewilderment. At first the customers were turned away with the stores claiming they were the scammers. But after a bit of persisting, the stores recanted and refunded the purchase amount, and at least in one case, also gave the customer a free tablet to compensate for the hassle.

Returning a brick in a box is one of the oldest scams. If that box gets placed back on the store’s shelves, the customer will lose nearly every time. Consumers have no protection against it aside from opening the box right in front of the cashier. I mean, most will not buy an iPad from guys in a McDonald’s parking lot. That’s just straight up dumb. Buying an iPad from a major retailer shouldn’t throw up the same warning flags.

So here’s what you do: Skip the iPad and buy a Playbook or Xoom 2 next time. No one is going to go the trouble of putting a brick in Playbook box.