The iPhone Line

The iPhone Line
The iPhone Line

Out of many possible locations near me, I picked the AT&T store in Silver Spring, MD to wait in line, hopefully to acquire an iPhone. I picked AT&T instead of Apple mainly due to Steve Jobs’ earlier comment about fewer people probably being at the AT&T stores. This one was closest to my work, but also out in the suburbs a bit, so I figured it would be less crowded (but no so far out that it was in spoiled-rich-teens land).

I got there about 4:30 local time, and there was a sizable amount of people there— I was guessing about 30, but according to some kids who walked by, counting us, I was #41. We had a pretty diverse selection of folks in line, including three brothers who run FreeWebs, close behind me. Everyone was chatting about iPhone features and rumors, and while a few people were misinformed (or just making bad assumptions), the talk was generally positive. The FreeWebs guys ran and got some lemonade from Trader Joe’s in the strip mall and shared it with the people near them in line. Thanks, guys!

Come 5:50pm, there was a big surge forward, but it was mostly people getting up from chairs and the line compressing. But we didn’t have to wait long— at exactly 6:00pm, they started letting people in, in batches of 10 at a time. The went pretty fast at first, until they filled up the line inside the store, and then they only let people in as people came out.

About 6:20, a representative came out and warned us that they “were really trying,” but they might only have enough phones for the people in the store at that moment. I was #8 outside the store at that point. By 6:31, I was #3 outside the store., and a few minutes later, was first in line outside, but that’s when things stalled for about 15 minutes. At some point in here, the AT&T rep came out again and, with a noticeably nervous voice, informed us that he wasn’t sure if we would be able to get phones, but that they would be happy to take our money and have them shipped to us ASAP.

I got a call from a friend of mine (who owns a local Mac reseller store) saying that he finally got one (even with all his connections at Apple, he had to wait with us commoners, and he had been #23 in line at the AT&T store in Gaithersburg, MD). He recommended if they were out (or even out of the 4 GB model— I wanted the 8 GB), that I should try the Apple store in Montgomery Mall. I told him I was just about to be let into the store— and was just then let in— and that I would stick it out for a few more minutes and see if they would have one left for me.

As more of us were let into the store, and we felt a bit of hope as we moved into the air conditioned store. Quickly, though, we found that the person at the head of the line was receiving the last phone, and the rest of us (I was #3), would be doing mail order. I thought about it for a minute, but then said “This is where I bail,” and made my way out and back to my car. It took forever to get out of the parking lot there, but then quickly made it to the Beltway and over to Rockville where Montgomery Mall was.

I ended up having to search a few minutes for a parking space, but then I ran in to the entrance nearest the Apple Store. When I turned the corner in the mall, I saw a bunch of people lined up against the railing on the upper level near the store, and I thought maybe people were still in line. But as I made my way to the entrance where a bunch of Apple employees were ganged up, I looked around in confusion. “Where’s the line?” I asked. “Well, it was here, but we worked through it already.” Wow! They were so efficient with their hand-held checkout scanners, they were already done.

I walked right to the front, and I was first in line behind about four people at the register. “How do you want to pay for it?” the guy up front asked me. “It? The… iPhone, right?” “Yeah.” “Credit.” I noticed a guy at the checkout, and we high-fived in recognition— he had been first in line when they gave the bad news at the Silver Spring store. Obviously we had the same idea (and he drove a lot faster). A few short seconds later, I was shuttled over to a register where I asked if they still had an 8 GB model. “Oh yeah, we sure do, ” and a short scuffle with the elecronic signature pad later, I was the proud owner of a shiny new iPhone.

Keep an eye on HowTube.com for podcast tips and tricks later this weekend!