Originally Posted by SpamSandwich
My experience has been to take your chances at the store level. Pre-ordering usually just takes more time.
I'm not sure that we're talking about the same thing here. I did pre-order my current 3Gs from the online Apple Store, then picked it up at my local Apple Store on release day. But, that's not what I was talking about in this case. You may not be aware of the Apple Store app for the iPhone, but, that's the avenue that was recommended to me by the folks at my Apple Store. As for taking time, it only took a few seconds to go to the app, tap "reserve iPhone", then tap iPhone 4s, and the app takes me to my chosen local Apple Store where it lists the phone as available to be reserved, or "not avaialble to reserve". This is supposed to be an indicator of what is available to sell at each Apple Store location, and it allows you to switch locations to check out other Apple Stores in case they might have what you're looking for. It's all quite painless, and as I said, it only takes seconds to find out if the store has available stock or not. This is quite different from pre-ordering from the Mother Ship at Apple.
To be fair, I've not yet seen the "available to be reserved" response using the said app, so I might not have the wording correct. I have seen the "not available to reserve" every time I've tried the app over the last week or so. I now see that you need to hit the app right at 2100 hrs if you hope to get in on the next day's incoming stock. I have not yet been that timely, which could explain why I've not yet been successful.
According to what I was told by the folks at my Apple Store, if that app says that the model that I'm looking for is not available for reserve at that store, then there is no other stock at that store, so going there would be pointless.