My day started at 3:40am when, much to my wife’s continued sleeping satisfaction, I woke up 20 minutes BEFORE my alarm actually went off. I hopped in the shower, got dressed, grabbed a bagel and two cans of caffeine and I was out the door and on my way to pickup my first iPhone.
Destination: Apple Store, Pheasant Lane Mall – Nashua, NH
After calling the Apple store yesterday to do a bit of reconnaissance, I found out that they’d be opening one of two entrances to the mall to allow people access to the Apple store, with the odds on favorite being the doors by the Food Court. After about forty minutes of driving and only seeing a few other weary travelers on the road, I pulled into the Phesant Lane Mall shopping center and saw a bunch cars parked by the alternate entrance, but no one was standing by the doors. Mall employees perhaps? So I continued on to the Food Court entrance and saw more cars with people mulling about them, but once again, no real line was forming by the doors.
I parked and headed for the doors just as the rest of the crowd started doing the same. About 15 of the North East’s nerdiest bleary-eyed and ready for bear. At this point I was still a bit confused as to why no one was actually forming an organized line, just a spread out mass of people. Turns out the mall had some dumb rule about no lines, otherwise mall security would have to ask us all to leave. Now nearly 5am, more people started arriving, including my brother and a fellow co-worker. We started talking and I even ran into a guy I hadn’t seen since we went to high school together, so it was nice to talk and catch up. Everyone was being cordial and enjoying the camaraderie. As the minutes ticked away toward 7am you could feel the tension rising as more and more people started arriving and, without any organized line, started sneaking their way to the front and jockeying for position.
Now up to well over 100 people and just minutes before 7am, a lone security guard appeared. He looked like a young rookie, probably his first week on the job and nervous about what was about to go down. Some people at the front of the line started taking off their sandals in preparation for the race that was about to begin. Finally 7am hits and Barney Fife (in his infinite wisdom) decides to open THE smallest door available. Once that door opened, all hell broke loose and people started pushing, shoving and squeezing themselves through this portal to iPhoney goodness. Although this trip through the birth canal was not the only obstacle that our Apple-hungry nerd pack had to endure, for once you made it to the other side of the door, it was like the running of the bulls as the mass of people ran through the food court into the mall and down a few stores toward the Apple Store. Outfitted with just flimsy pair of slide sandals I soon found my running hampered by uncooperative footwear, so I kicked off the offending sandal, reached down and grabbed it mid-stride and took off as fast as I could with one sandal on, one off.
As the Apple store came into site I saw lots of unfamiliar faces and I was met with the sad realization that our adversaries at the other entrance to the mall may have in fact been let in at the same time or moments before us. Two lines, loads of cheery Apple employees and an ornery security guard were waiting for us. I made my way to the reservations line and found that I was actually 5th in line. In all the commotion I had lost track of my brother and co-worker, but soon discovered that they weren’t too far behind me in the line. Those poor people who didn’t reserve an iPhone, they had an even longer wait ahead of them as Apple wouldn’t be able to check them out for another 3 HOURS!
After a few moments to catch my breath, the bubbly Apple geek took my name and number and handed me off to my personal sales person, who insisted on showing me all the cool new features on one of the iPhone 4 demo units. I’m not sure if this was an attempt to upsell me on accessories or a delay tactic as things came online. Eventually we got to the good part and within minutes I had my new phone, fully activated and ready to go. When I asked my Apple salesperson how many phones they had, he said they got 600 reservations and a ratio of 5:1 of units available for purchase. Meaning that only 30 of the 200+ people in line would be leaving happy. The time from when I was let into the mall to walking out of the Apple store took about 20 minutes.
While overall the launch-day experience was a fun, memorable and adrenaline-pumping experience, I think next time I’ll be pre-ordering online and sleeping in. This really is one amazing device!