I’ve ordered numerous items from Apple over the years, including two iPods an iBook and now the iMac. As such, and like a lot of other Apple customers, I’ve become quite au-fait with their shipment procedures. In fact, it seems Apple customers are really quite anal when it comes to tracking where their precious delivery is!
When you view any hardware product on the Apple Store, it gives an estimated “ready to ship” date. If this is “within 24 hours” that normally means the product is in stock at a distribution point and you are ordering a standard configuration. If you are customising a product then your order becomes a BTO/CTO (Build-to-order / customize-to-order) order with a typical ready to ship date of 2-3 days. This will be fulfilled from the factory in most cases (iPod engraving being an exception – that is done at the distribution point) Of course, the ready to ship date is the date it is, er, ready to ship from the distribution point or factory, not the date you can expect to receive your shiny new purchase. If you are especially keen to get hold of a standard config, you might be better off heading down to your local reseller (John Lewis are best if you happen to be in the UK)
Once you’ve ordered, your order confirmation will give the RTS date, and an estimated delivery date. You will also have an order number typically beginning with W80 or W81. This is where the fun begins. If your order is CTO hardware then it is most likely going to be built in a factory in China. From there it is possible that it may be shipped directly by courier. You’ll know if this is happening as the shipping method on your order status page will be “Fast Ship (EMEA)” This means that a courier (TNT or UPS in the UK at least) will handle the delivery from factory to your door. Once your item is shipped you’ll receive a dispatch email from Apple which will contain a ten digit delivery reference number beginning with 80.
What happens now is up to the delivery method. If it is a single item through Fast Ship deliver then you are in luck. You should be able to use the delivery reference number to do a track by reference on the courier web site (try both TNT and UPS) though you will have to wait for the courier system to pick up the details after you receive the order shipped email.
Alternatively, if you’ve ordered more than one item, then congratulations, you’ve now entered the world of the fabled distribution centre. In Europe, this is the TNT European Distribution Centre (EDC) located in The Netherlands. No doubt it is surrounded by lovely windmills and tulip fields. It is here that all your items meet up and get packaged together (or merge in transit if you like) for a single delivery to your door. Factory sourced items are shipped here by a company called Kuehne + Nagel. Going through the EDC tends to add time to your order delivery, so think twice before you add that extra piece of software to your hardware order!
So, the net result is that there are various possible ways in which goods ordered from the Apple store might get to your door, so it would be nice to have a single point at which everything could be tracked, right? Well, unfortunately the Apple Store tracking system is not the best. However, help is at hand thanks to a very nice man called Thomas, and his Appletrack site. This collates information from K+N right down to the nitty details such as when your package picked up, booked on a flight, to when it gets handed over to a courier. It also has a helpful forum which contains more information that this post ever could. It is also a fun read to see people fretting about the fate of the plane their new Mac is on as tracking shows it being in the air for 48 hours!
Not that I’ll be laughing if the iMac doesn’t turn up. Now where’s my order reference number…