I work in SoHo, just off Lafayette Street, and young kids regularly line up for product launches at the skate stores. When I see this happening, I wonder, who lines up and waits a day to SPEND money. I mean, what’s the sense of that? What’s the opportunity cost? This is conspicuous consumption at its worst. Is this how we form communities? Around products? What’s America coming to?
Right. And so, on Friday, July 11, iPhone 3g day, at 8:40 AM, excited, hungry, and eager I took my place at the back of the line outside the Short Hills Mall, and I was not alone–at least 500 others had the same idea. And then I was flooded with a new sensation: worry. What if I didn’t get one? (Yes, I admit it’s ridiculous, but if reason carried the day I never would have been in line in the first place.) Should I go to the AT&T store? My twitterpack urged me to stay put. Apple has deep stock. “New shipments are coming all day,” said Katie, the bubbly but tight-lipped, orange t-shirt wearing Apple Concierge working the line. And so, with my line mates, Randy (who got a phone call about every 3 minutes) and Ravi, I settled in for the long wait.
9:49 AM. The security guards, with backup from the Millburn police, usher us into the mall, where we see, the heavenly glow of the Apple logo against brushed metal, and a line that’s 4 rows deep and about 100 feet long. One of my fellow line-mates, Randy, earned his PhD in math or finance–he develops a model that predicts when we’ll arrive at the store’s entrance. Like any good model, it undergoes revisions to reflect change–like that AT&T’s activation servers are overwhelmed by demand. The line stops moving for 45 minutes and I lost my ability to tweet because my Blackberry battery dies. Fortunately, I was still able to rely upon a much older technology, speech to learn more about the people around me in line.
Ravi had a passion for yoga. Brandi had three kids and worked for the State of New Jersey cracking down on fraud, which apparently there’s quite a bit of. We nursed our free frozen, chocolate-mint lattes from Starbucks and passed the time. I felt like I was playing hooky, which probably added to the fun. We parted when Apple reps finally admitted to the store. I was surprised to learn that 2 of the store staff that I spoke with had been there since its opening 6 years ago–and they seemed happy to be there–I dare say, proud, that they helped create the store.
And though this was a product launch and Apple commodities like computers and music players what they really create are experiences. The line was absurd, but they had folks out there working it, water, free coffee, and there was a positive buzz that only got more intense as we neared the story. I think part of the reason that I’m so keen on Apple products is that my associations are overwhelmingly positive. I am consistently, pleasantly surprised and pleased by what they’ve built. They create technology that lets us be ourselves–that celebrates our humanity. And though they’ve gained in popularity, I still think most technology forces us to think like a machine. I am an Apple fan boy, have been for years, but no one does it better.
I got into the store at 2pm and am introduced to Tom, who gets me my first iPhone. I think I’m going to be out of there in 15 minutes, but that wasn’t the case. I hit some sort of snag when they tried to transfer my number. This gives me an excuse to spend more time in the store soaking up the vibe, and now I’m seated, in front of a 24″ iMac tweeting like a madman and emailing. There are worse places to wait. Henley’s negotiating with AT&T assuring me that it’s going to get done, but he’s got to leave at three, so he turns me over to Frances, who just started 2 weeks ago. While she waits on hold for AT&T I learn that she’s an art history major at Rutgers, that she was recruited to work in the store by her friend Johanna, (a former nursing, now Pharmacology major, also at Rutgers.) I also learn that the shirts are color-coded. Orange: Concierge–it’s their job to connect you with people who know the technology–so they learn the people, and Blue: the people who know the technology. At least 2 other folks help troubleshoot the problem. At one point I’m like, is this really worth it? I should leave, but the truth is that I was having a blast. I got to ask Johanna a few dozen questions about Leopard, and just enjoyed hanging out in the store. By the third phone activation, I had switch from black to white–thinking it might be good luck but Frances’ persistence is really what did it.
I never worked so hard to spend so much money, but it was a ton of fun. Special thanks to my twitter posse, debwaldman, snark12, psyker390, clemtastic, nybble73, robmaruzi and the gang at Apple Short Hills.
What’s your iPhone story? Holding out? Updating? Blackberry Curve Forever? And yes, almost 1 week later, I’d say it was worth the wait.