Thanks to people who’ve made comments about this mess over the past few days. Apologies for negativity. I seem to have confused everyone with this, so:
Why I’m having difficulty buying a laptop from any one of the billion online retailers: either they explicitly state that they don’t take international credit cards at all; they don’t allow the entry of any but US billing details (although Kelly Martin points out that they may not actually check details of international cards); or I can’t set up all the things I will need to pass the credit checks they will run for such a large transaction. The standard list of things I would need to be able to do would be something like: provide them with a number for my credit card issuer; answer the home phone listed by my credit card issuer (which is in Australia and would be answered by a confused German PhD student these days); and ship the package either to my home in Australia or to an "authorised shipping address".
It’s also possible that my bank or Visa would try to contact me independently to confirm a transaction of such uncharacteristic size.
I could set this stuff up, but I can’t do it quickly enough when I’m leaving the US after a week and staying in two cities during that time.
Why I’m having difficulty buying a laptop in person: because I’m staying in cities I’m totally unfamiliar with (and in the case of Boston, I’m mainly seeing people who have only lived here for a short time); I don’t have a car here, or lifts; the US doesn’t seem to have a reliable Yellow Pages equivalent; I don’t have reliable access to phones; and most physical stores don’t have webpages (Australian computer stores seem better at this, actually). Hence, I have difficulty finding out what they have in stock without somehow getting myself to their store.
In the end, since the last paragraph is shorter than the one about credit checks, I will undoubtedly end up buying one in person. It’s just surprising that it’s been so hard to actually find the union of a laptop I want and a retailer who can sell it to me.
I have a couple of things to get out of the way (buying a laptop to work on, finishing some work that I promised to my former employers in Australia about a week ago). After that, my plans for the rest of the holiday involve doing writing in the mornings.
At this stage, that will primarily be Twisted documentation, although given my track record, doing that will cause other projects to spawn spontaneously.