I would not be surprised to find out that there is a first rule of Apple Store fire sales stating that you do not talk about Apple Store fire sales, so utterly devoid of advertisement are they. But for those who do know, substantial savings can reaped, savings greater than the "Special Deals" section of the Apple Store online. To that end, it's time to break the code of silence.
Apple Store fire sales are supposed to take place on the last weekend of the month, but sometimes happen during the first weekend, and sometimes not at all. They never happen at the Palo Alto store on University Avenue, which coincidentally (not) is the store closest to where Steve Jobs lives. Fire sales are uncharacteristically cluttered and disorganized events among the sharp lines and antiseptic lighting of the retail outlets, a jumble of discontinued items, returns, and demos haphazardly sorted on folding tables and in boxes on the floor.
The Macs for sale are labeled demos or refreshed, that is they have been inspected and ensured to be complete and working. However, they cannot be resold as new, even though the warranty is exactly the same as a new Mac. Refreshed Macs are generally slightly more expensive than demos, but have the advantage of not having been beat upon by small children for weeks or months. An employee can show you the Mac you want (a good idea), and can even boot up to the registration screen, so you can check for dead pixels. Discounts for Macs run up to 20 percent. Here is a list of some of the items and their costs from the sale I saw today.
15" MacBook Pro (demo) 2GHz Core Duo/1GB RAM/100GB HD/SuperDrive US$1999.9520" iMac (demo) 2GHz Core Duo/512MB RAM/250GB HD/SuperDrive US$1529.9513" MacBook black (refresh) 2GHz Core Duo/512MB RAM/80GB HD/SuperDrive US$1349.9513" MacBook white (refresh) 2GHz Core Duo/512MB RAM/60GB HD/SuperDrive US$1169.9513" MacBook white (refresh) 1.83GHz Core Duo/512MB RAM/60GB HD/ComboDrive US$989.95MacMini (refresh) 1.66GHz Core Duo/1GB RAM/100GB HD/SuperDrive US$849.9560GB iPod US$349.9530GB iPod US$249.95iPod Nano 4GB US$199.95iPod Nano 2GB US$159.95Airport Extreme Base Station US$129.95AirPort Express US$79.9515" PowerBook G4 battery US$69.95
Who would buy a returned battery? An employee told me batteries are returned because someone bought the wrong one, which sounds crazy but I took a chance. The battery I bought last month gets 3 hours of battery life, which is what I would expect from a new one, and for nearly half off.
For those considering a Mac and within traveling distance of a brick-and-mortar Apple Store, better deals are difficult to find. And if you don't live near an Apple Store, is there really a point to living?