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T.J. Maxx throws $399 iPad curveball

A week before Black Friday, clothing retailer announces deal for Apple devices. Why would T.J. Maxx pull this? The phrase "15 minutes of fame" comes to mind.

Sorry iPad seekers. T.J. Maxx announced today that it's sold out of the devices. Screenshot by Christopher MacManus/CNET

T.J. Maxx, which is best known as a clothing retailer, caused seismic activity in the land of technophiles over the last few days by selling limited quantities of Apple's 16GB iPad with Wi-Fi for only $399, nearly $100 less than the suggested retail price.

Initially reported by Engadget, the discounted iPad created a great deal of buzz online for T.J. Maxx. The company threw gasoline on the fire when it confirmed the promotion on its official Twitter account.

Many forum posts and comments discussing the matter indicated that nearly all of the discounted iPads were located on the East Coast. Consumers learning about the deal blew up the phones at T.J. Maxx wondering how to score a proverbial golden ticket.

Alas, reality wasn't so sweet, as the deal died before the end of the weekend. The number of actual $399 iPads in the wild might be around 80, according to Andrew Murphy, a research analyst with investment firm Piper Jaffray. The fact that T.J. Maxx isn't an authorized reseller of Apple products means the company bought the popular tablet in bulk and sold them at a loss.

Why would T.J. Maxx pull such a move? The phrase "15 minutes of fame" comes to mind.

News about this deal spread far and wide online, and many major media outlets carried a story about the deal. T.J. Maxx might have lost thousands on this endeavor, but the loss has most certainly been negated by all the publicity.