A St. Petersburg man hoped to surprise his wife with an iPad for Christmas, but she got a lower tech surprise when she opened the box: legal pads.
The case mimics one from earlier this month where people were selling what they said were iPhones and iPads, but buyers opened the sealed boxes to find ceramic tiles cut in the shape of the Apple devices.
Patrick Metz, of St. Petersburg, had been working hard to guarantee his family had a nice holiday.
"I'd been working two jobs, getting extra for Christmas. I have three kids so I wanted to make sure my kids and my wife had a good Christmas," Metz said.
But when his wife opened the box, she was shocked to see a stack of legal pads instead of the electronic device.
"I was astounded. It was like, really? I don't know, it was just mindblowing."
Metz said the box had been sealed but someone got inside, adding that the legal pads had been glued inside the box.
"It was like a sick joke," he said.
A spokeswoman from Walmart said it is a reoccurring problem that has struck other customers.
"It's happening all over and it's happening to all retailers," said Sarah Spencer, a Walmart spokeswoman. She would not say how many reports they've had or where it's happening. "It's been all over."
Metz said he got little help from Walmart when he returned to the store.
"The manager walked up, looked briefly at it and said, 'That's not my problem. That's yours. You need to contact Apple."
Metz went to Apple, but they sent him back to Walmart, where he did get a refund.
Spencer said customers can ask an employee to open a box to make sure the product is inside and added they are still trying to figure out how some iPad boxes got replaced with paper pads.
Walmart also is reviewing surveillance video and checking its return process to see if customers are taking the iPads and returning the boxes with other items inside.
Earlier this month, two men offered to sell Apple devices to people at the Rice Restaurant, 7525 Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa. The suspects showed the victim real iPads and iPhones, but sold the products in shrink-wrapped boxes.
The victim purchased four "iPads" and an "iPhone5" for $710 in cash, but deputies said the victim discovered the iPad boxes contained ceramic tiles, wrapped in paper with an iPad image printed on it. The iPhone5 box contained a charger, an ear bud set, a metal tool for opening the side storage card drive, and a phone. The phone was powered on, but read "no SIM card" at the top. The phone turned out to be non-operable and may possibly be a display model, deputies said.
The second incident occurred at Silky's Beauty Supply, 8555 Hillsborough Ave. Deputies say a male and female sold the victim two "iPads" for $500 but later discovered the boxes contained ceramic tiles.