You don't need to squander away your time on bogus auction sites or fall for social networking scams to nab the ultimately elusive free or nearly free iPads.

Macy's (NYSE: M) Bloomingdale's is offering Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) wildly popular tablet as a buying incentive next weekend, but there's a catch. You have to spend at least $1,500 on high-end designer clothing to snag a $500 iPad for free.

Bloomingdale's is offering the deal only at the Y.E.S. Contemporary Sportswear department of its New York City store on 59th Avenue -- ironically enough just a brisk walk from Apple's flagship location on Fifth Avenue.

No rational person would spend $1,500 for a $500 tablet, but what if you have a well-to-do daughter with a knack for $200 designer denim and shirts? Folks are already blowing a ton of money at Bloomingdale's, so why not get an iPad out of it?

The ad over the weekend indicated that supplies will be "definitely limited" so they may very well run out on Friday morning. However, it's still a compelling promotion if Macy's can score chunky enough margins to make it work. It's also a major score for Apple itself.

One of Apple's greatest strengths is that it's a master at keeping retail prices in check. By limiting the number of distributors, Apple can stick to its lofty price points. The iPad is $499 at the Apple store near you. It's also $499 at your local Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), despite the discount department store giant's knack of typically offering "rollback" pricing relative to its full-priced rivals.

There was a bit of head-scratching buzz when T.J. Maxx (NYSE: TJX) was caught selling the iPad at $399 two weeks ago, but that appears to have been little more than a promotional stunt. Only a few stores stocked a limited number of the marked-down iPads.

Apple may not be thrilled at seeing its hot gadget offered as a door prize for high-end shoppers, but it does ultimately validate the company and its tech toys. I don't think this promo would have worked if it was with Nook or Kindle e-readers.

The Apple brand sells -- even when it's being given away.

What do you think of Apple's iPad? Do you own one or will you be getting one for the holidays? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is starting to see more Apple products creep into his home lately. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.