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Woman buys iPad at Wal-Mart, gets box of notepads instead

A woman in Texas complains that Wal-Mart sold her an iPad that was merely a box stuffed with yellow notepads. At first Wal-Mart refuses a refund, but after a news station steps in, the company concedes there was a scam.

Imagine the pain in this 15-year-old's eyes. Poor Courtney Akers.
KHOU Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

We try never to state the obvious here, because, well, if something's obvious then it surely needs no words.

However, before this weekend begins and you begin to think about the holiday season, it's worth just mentioning one perhaps obvious thing.

When you buy a gadget, it's best to open the box at the store, just to check the gadget is actually in there.

I only mention this because of an ill-starred tale that come from the Lone Star State.

As Houston's KHOU tells it, Bobbi Linden went to Wal-Mart in Sealy, Texas, and bought her daughter an iPad for her 15th birthday.

Or at least she thought she did.

For, in fact, she bought her a pile of yellow notepads in an iPad box.

This was not some clever suggestion for her daughter to follow a legal career. "I thought they were joking. And they weren't," explained daughter Courtney Akers to KHOU.

Her mom, Bobbi Linden, eager to show her serious side, rushed back to Wal-Mart and declared (I'm making up the exact words): "The box says iPad. You gave me notepads."

At Wal-Mart, they examined the box. It had, indeed, been wrapped in plastic. And it was, indeed, around the same weight as an iPadded box would have been.

The store manager was, though, not entirely helpful.

"She was just saying she has never seen it happen before and she couldn't help us," Linden told KHOU.

Could she not imagine it had been a scam? They do happen, but more often in parking lots. Who could forget the story from Spartanburg, S.C., where a woman paid $180 in a McDonald's parking lot for what she thought was an iPad?

It turned out to be made of wood.

So the intrepid KHOU crusaders contacted Wal-Mart and pleaded for restitution. Finally, success.

Wal-Mart's Diana Gee offered KHOU this statement:

With the information you provided us, we were able to trace the product history and determine that this is a case involving a fraudulent return. Unfortunately it resulted in an innocent customer falling victim to a scam artist's greed.

Scam artists prey on Wal-Mart's goodness? Is nowhere safe anymore?

Wal-Mart added that someone had bought an iPad at its store, professionally resealed it with the yellow notepads inside and returned it. The company is now examining surveillance video to see if the miscreant can be identified.

So, please, whether you shop at Wal-Mart or elsewhere -- especially if it's for a teenager -- be sufficiently difficult as to ask to see inside the box you're buying.

There is nothing worse than a disappointed teenager, is there? You have no idea how they might take it out on you.