Oct 17, 2014 · 2 minutes

It's strange to think that Apple can promise the future of payments when it can't process financing requests in its own retail stores. But based on my experience seeking 12-month financing for a new laptop last night, that inconsistency is all-too-common in stores.

I thought it would be easy for Apple to process the request, grab the device, and hand it over to my fiancée and me. Instead we were treated to a system built around an online store over which the retail employees have no control or even very much information about.

Let's start with the application process. Many stores allow you to give some information to an employee who then runs it through their system. Apple doesn't do that. Instead, it directs you to one of the many laptops on its showroom, where an employee will then click on seemingly random links until finally locating the "financing" link at the bottom of Apple's online store.

You're then allowed to enter sensitive information over a WiFi network shared by every device in the store. If your financing is approved, you can head over to Apple's online store, find the device you want to purchase, and add it to your cart. (We were shopping for a new laptop, though that doesn't really have any bearing on what happens next in the story, or so I think.)

The problem is that it won't detect that you're shopping from an Apple Store, so you then have to go through the process of finding it on the site, choosing an in-store pickup, and then waiting for them to grab the device from the back. Unless something goes wrong with the online store -- then you'll have to wait a few hours, or so we were told when we asked about the laptop later.

So you walk around the mall for an hour, hoping to kill time somewhere that isn't teeming with Apple employees convinced that you're going to try to bend the iPhone 6 Plus or get lost in the sparse retail store. Thanks a lot, teenagers, for making previously pleasant employees paranoid.

You head back to the store, where you'll have to give your information over to a manager, who will then disappear into the back while silently cursing you for wanting something just a few minutes before the store closes. If you're lucky you'll finally get your new laptop; if not, you will have the same experience we did, which led to us being told that the online store sometimes takes up to 24 hours to release a device to the retail store.

I understand that no one's to blame for this problem. The retail employees were all helpful, and there's nothing they can do about a problem with their online store. But it's strange to think that Apple's lauded retail presence often involves little more than directing people to a laptop, clicking a few random links, and then leaving them to figure everything else out for themselves.

It's stranger to think that the company offers no recourse for retail stores that haven't received a release from the online store and are thus subjected to a worried couple checking in every few hours to see if they're going home with a new laptop or if they'll have to drive out the next day. Does that seem like a company prepared to simplify the payment process at other retail stores?

[illustration by Brad Jonas]