Man buys iPad, finds nothing but clay in box; gets arrested for fraud

Tesco is the U.K.’s largest retailer, and one of the world’s largest too, beaten only by American giant Walmart and France’s Carrefour. Roughly £1 of every £7 spent in the U.K. is spent in Tesco stores, and for many consumers, the company provides a one-stop shop for groceries, home furnishings and even electronics.

Colin Marsh was one such consumer, and he purchased an Apple iPad from his local Tesco Extra store in Whitstable, Kent, paying £470 for the device as a gift for his two daughters. But when he opened the box expecting to find a shiny new tablet inside, all he found was three lumps of clay.


Colin Marsh with his family, and the Apple iPad box containing three lumps of clay

Marsh of course returned the box and its contents to the store to request a refund, but Tesco staff were, naturally, suspicious of his claims and reported the matter to Kent Police. Two days later, he was summoned to his local police station. Marsh told The Telegraph: “I just thought they wanted to know what had happened, but the next thing I know I’m being bundled into a cell. I was in there for three hours. It was then they told me the iPad had been activated in my name. I just thought ‘how can that possibly be?’ It didn’t make any sense.”

Arrested on suspicion of fraud, he was subsequently released on bail as the police investigation continued. It was not until seven weeks later that the missing iPad was finally located, over 200 miles away, in Wales.

Kent Police said that although “the iPad in question had apparently been registered in his name… this was investigated and as soon as it became clear that Mr Marsh had not committed any offences, his bail was cancelled and he was informed police would not be taking any further action against him.”

Marsh has since received a full refund from Tesco, but says that the retail giant has still not properly apologised to him: “You just can’t treat people like that. It’s absolutely disgusting. I’ve not even had so much as an apology from Tesco. It’s disgraceful.”

The events began last Christmas when Marsh purchased the gift for his daughters, although it is unclear why it has taken until now for the matter to become public. It is also unclear why Tesco has apparently not apologised to him directly, although the company did do so in a statement this week, saying: “We were very disappointed to learn that the product we sold to Mr Marsh had been tampered with. We would of course never knowingly have sold it to Mr Marsh and we apologise sincerely for the problems this has caused him.” 

Source: The Telegraph | image via The Telegraph/SWNS

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Here is my theory, he bought an iPad and then saw a Surface Pro. Knew he had purchased an inferior product and dumped it 200 miles away. Then reported for a refund. The iPad was returned and he got a refund and got the product he wanted.

Kunal Nanda said,
Here is my theory, he bought an iPad and then saw a Surface Pro. Knew he had purchased an inferior product and dumped it 200 miles away. Then reported for a refund. The iPad was returned and he got a refund and got the product he wanted.
or he could have just returned it for a complete refund...

The cream sofa.
The interesting rug/flooring combo
The pouty teenage daughter sporting SWAG shirt.

Obviously iPad.

This is one of the creepiest family photos I've seen in a while.

I'd add:

Mom's leather pants, oversized belt buckle, (shoes?), and diabolical grimace.
Dad & daughter's vacant stare, and lean hard to center.

Wasn't mom in the Austin Powers movies?

thomastmc said,
This is one of the creepiest family photos I've seen in a while.

I'd add:

Mom's leather pants, oversized belt buckle, (shoes?), and diabolical grimace.
Dad & daughter's vacant stare, and lean hard to center.

Wasn't mom in the Austin Powers movies?


All of us have pretty creepy family photos. However, they look typical of Team BritPad Family 2013; I see similar parents jogging, or cycling, with fixed Hitler-Youth grimaces, up and down Clapham Road every day; on their way to serve Mammon..
Toodle ,pip!

BavonWW said,

I see similar parents jogging, or cycling, with fixed Hitler-Youth grimaces, up and down Clapham Road every day; on their way to serve Mammon..

It's technically possible, Walmart had an issue with iPod touches years ago when they came in cardboard and you couldn't see in, having just weights in the box... but it was the employees doing it

Tescos are scum.

Years ago, I bought a PAYG mobile from Tescos as I worked just around the corner from their Wisbech store (2min walk). It was one of those phones that had a shell for it. Their policy is to break the seal on the phones and hold the contents in a cupboard then bring it out and put it in the box and hand it to you.

I got to my office, opened the box and the shell, charger, manuals were there, but no actual phone or battery. I went straight back there (within 15mins of purchasing it). The store manager called me a theif and said I had stolen it and would not receive a replacement or refund. I had been to that store every day for 4 years (at the time, I would buy 4-5 DVDs a week from there) - and was treated like crap.

I had to complain to their head office, who after a lot of fighting with gave me a refund. The manager was given a disciplinary for how he handled it too.

It was a good year before I went back there again.

LOVE sad photo! Always gotta have one of those!

Reminds me of the song .. "Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play."

Tesco is the worst shop ever;
all their products expire tomorrow. Everything I buy I have to throw away as I cant consume them so fast
they are always involved in food scandals like horsemeat for beef and now pain killers found in ice cream cones
they are expensive and prices are based on SKU not the product; a small bottle of coca cola costs more than a 2 litre one
their quality is low
popular 3rd party brand products are not stocked up
I would rather pay 30-40p more at M&S or Waitrose instead of at these chavs

This is quite obvious

1. Thief purchases iPad from Tescos
2. Travels into the future to work out who will be next to purchase an ipad from the same store. They follow them back home so they know their address. They then go through the bins to find all their personal details
3. Registers the stolen ipad in the future customers name using info from step 2
4. Fills the box with clay and finds a company able to re-seal the box
5. Thief returns ipad (box of clay) back to store for a refund
6. The next customer purchases what they think is a sealed ipad

They must be innocent because they're pulling that News International "Innocent Victims" face. 400miles on a Lambretta... shudder!

Come on Harry Hill, you can do better than this! Box full of sausages, forex?

"the missing iPad was finally located, over 200 miles away, in Wales"
So who had got it? Have THEY been arrested? How was it located? What's the rest of the story?

I can only guess that the serial on the box was given to Apple and Apple provided the name. I guess the person who stole this item is at the warehouse who did their homework by looking at the order and registering it in the rightful owners name.

Not sure why he is blaming Tesco though. It's the police that made the arrest on suspicion.

Based on the very vague description of events, that's most probably because Tesco said a lot more than 'Some guy found clay in this ipad box', they probably went a lot further than that and implied the guy is a fraud, hence why he was chucked into the cell right away.

It was never activated in his name, they were lying to try and trip him up into admitting it. They're not going to then admit that they were lying.

Perhaps not entirely far fetched.

Suppose a corrupt employee had replaced the iPad with clay well in advance and kept this bogus box aside for the right moment. Just because the box is sealed with shrink wrap doesn't mean it hasn't been opened already. Larger retailers can rewrap opened/returned boxes to sell again later on. Doesn't take tremendous skill to put something back in shrink wrap and pop another price label back on (or re-use the old one).

Not sure how invoicing works in the UK but if the employee who fetched the bogus box also processed the final sale then a quick look at the credit card for the name (assuming the sale was processed in that fashion) or the store card details if Tesco has one of those and then this could well be possible.

Agreed. I mean, at best... the guy got a refund. And still no iPad.

A lot of effort just to get... well, nothing!

It was registered in his name... means either:

a. he is in on the scam and whoever got the original ipad decided to register it in his name to try and cover their asses

b. its an employee from Tesco that sold the original, and then waited to it was sold to find out his name, and then registered it after that.

One reason I only buy my Apple products directly from Apple. Apple would have never let this situation get out of hand. These kinds of things happen from shady employees at 3rd party retailers.

JHBrown said,
One reason I only buy my Apple products directly from Apple. Apple would have never let this situation get out of hand. These kinds of things happen from shady employees at 3rd party retailers.

Haha tell that to the guy the Apple had arrested for finding a prototype iPhone in a bar.

mrp04 said,

Haha tell that to the guy the Apple had arrested for finding a prototype iPhone in a bar.

Not even close to the same scenario.

Yeah because Apple are such a nice company and never have any shady employees /s

A guys iPod exploded once and Apple wouldn't give him a replacement unless he signed papers that would stop him talking about it. They also did something similar when people had Mac malware, and before that they wouldn't give assistance to these people or confirm that it was malware (they didn't want the sheep knowing Macs could get infected). This is just some of many many things.

It sounds like the police were as much at fault as the retailer. Had they done any amount of investigating before arresting him, they would have still found out the same information. Instead, they chose to take Tesco's word for it. You don't just arrest someone without due diligence. Anyone can be wrong, anyone can jump to conclusions. Even the police or a giant retailer, apparently.

Geezy said,
You don't just arrest someone without due diligence.

Actually, the police can arrest someone ON SUSPICION of committing an offence. There was enough of a suspicion about it so they arrested him. Simple.

JHBrown said,
Guess what you get when you buy a Surface?
An infinitely more useful tablet computer (and especially more so than three lumps of clay).

Mulsivaas said,
An infinitely more useful tablet computer (and especially more so than three lumps of clay).

At least three lumps of clay don't shatter when dropped

Vinylchan said,

At least three lumps of clay don't shatter when dropped

No, but they become completely misshapen when they splat on the floor.

As for the Surface, you build a skateboard out of one...

Moral of the story: Don't buy Apple products form retailers, get them from Apple Inc. <sniped>

Edited by Daniel F., Nov 18 2013, 9:19am :

SaT.161 said,
Moral of the story: Don't buy Apple products form retailers, get them from Apple Inc. or even better don't Buy Apple products at all and get something useful (like Surface or Lumia 2520)

What if there was clay again in place of your shiny surface? The amount of hate people spew on Apple is ridiculous.

Exactly! I'm no Apple fanboy, but to suggest their products aren't any good is a hell of a stretch. There are literally millions of people who love them.

He should sue them since he is innocent.

Also, don't these things come in sealed packages?How can someone open the package ,remove the ipad and then seal with protection membrane or whatever is used making it look like it was never opened.

0nyX said,
He should sue them since he is innocent.

The culture of litigation, isn't as entrenched and profilgate outside the US as it is, inside.

He should sue them since he is innocent.

Right then, armchair lawyer... Sue him for what?

They reported the facts to the police who chose to follow this up as fraud. Are Tesco not to liaise with the police forces of potential fraud. Please tell me what case you feel he would have against them and moreover what law you feel they broke?

Libel or slander? Not a chance. They suspected this to be a fraudulent case and so they forwarded it to the authorities to look into. As is the correct action.

MDboyz said,
Sound like inside job. Whoever sold him the iPad, and then used his information to activate it.

I'm not sure how this 'tesco' works, but if its anything like a real Walmart, this is just impossible. The things are sealed. I just cannot figure out how someone could have taken this ipad, activated it using the name that the thief would know who would pick it up and get screwed. Telepathy? ....cmon

If this 'Mr. Marsh' did it on purpose, what was the point? Just to make a really confusing story and get more bad publicity for this 'Tesco' store?

I would say 'Foxconn workers gone wild', but somehow this story just still doesn't make sense. I hope we can find out more information about this. Something is missing or someone is lying. Package being sealed means it came from the manufacturer that way (99% of the time). This is just weird...

theslam08 said,

I'm not sure how this 'tesco' works, but if its anything like a real Walmart, this is just impossible. The things are sealed. I just cannot figure out how someone could have taken this ipad, activated it using the name that the thief would know who would pick it up and get screwed. Telepathy? ....cmon

If this 'Mr. Marsh' did it on purpose, what was the point? Just to make a really confusing story and get more bad publicity for this 'Tesco' store?

I would say 'Foxconn workers gone wild', but somehow this story just still doesn't make sense. I hope we can find out more information about this. Something is missing or someone is lying. Package being sealed means it came from the manufacturer that way (99% of the time). This is just weird...

As a Tesco employee, I can confirm its the same case. We get sent out scam attempts to stores when something like this happens (same scenario, clay in a box) so its understandable they reported him.

The only innocent way this could of happened is that the Kent store had been scammed and returned the item to stock and resold to him as a mistake.

However, as its already been pointed out, how did it get registered in his name? That's where my theory falls apart.

Obviously something is very wrong here but all the facts haven't been reported. When was the iPad registered? Did the guy who registered it just happen to have the same last name? Its all too vague to my liking

Can it be that the ipad was unsealed at the store to check whether it's working (we do that in Hong Kong), and they replaced it with a dud when the guy wasn't looking?

This happens once in a while. i.e. customer sees the goods, and when he turns around and pay at the cashier or whatever, the salesperson swaps it with something else.

theslam08 said,

I'm not sure how this 'tesco' works, but if its anything like a real Walmart, this is just impossible. The things are sealed. I just cannot figure out how someone could have taken this ipad, activated it using the name that the thief would know who would pick it up and get screwed. Telepathy? ....cmon

If this 'Mr. Marsh' did it on purpose, what was the point? Just to make a really confusing story and get more bad publicity for this 'Tesco' store?

I would say 'Foxconn workers gone wild', but somehow this story just still doesn't make sense. I hope we can find out more information about this. Something is missing or someone is lying. Package being sealed means it came from the manufacturer that way (99% of the time). This is just weird...

You are aware you can get the plastic and jut reseal it...right? It not hard...right?

TechieXP said,
You are aware you can get the plastic and jut reseal it...right? It not hard...right?

DId you even read the story? Or even my comment? Fully? Nope.

It was activated...using this guys name. Does that come with this plastic wrap? I didnt think so. Please tell how this magic can be 'made', enlighten us master.

The retail guy took the iPad out of the box. Put clay in there and re-wrap with plastic. Later the man asked to buy the iPad. He hand over that iPad to the customer. Get the customer info from credit card ... etc ... Later activate it using the same info.

theslam08 said,

DId you even read the story? Or even my comment? Fully? Nope.

It was activated...using this guys name. Does that come with this plastic wrap? I didnt think so. Please tell how this magic can be 'made', enlighten us master.

I'VE FOUND HIM!!!! the only man in existence to have ever recieved an apology from Tesco......
Where's my reward..

But seriously, I'm actually impressed as someone who also was accused for training my son to steal. No other supermarket ever made that claim.
(He's autistic and I always took whatever item back and apologised for him.)

That is truly awful of them. I don't know how long ago it was that this happened, but what I did after the store manager clearly wasn't going to help me was go straight to the CEO.

http://www.ceoemail.com/ is a great resource and the CEO's email for Tesco is philip.clarke@uk.tesco.com - fire him off an email stating how disgusted you are at their behaviour and his team will treat it as a priority. Nothing puts the ****s up a store manager like a phone call from the CEO's office.

I did that, the store manager at the time mysteriously went on training, the new store manager phoned me up, offered a sincere apology and said "The security guard in question, he's, well I can't tell you what's happened, but he's been dealt with if you get me". Never seen that security guard again (In fairness, there's a lot more to this story than just mistaken identity or whatever).