Every year around this time, crazed iPhone users migrate to the front entrances of Apple stores across the country for days – and sometimes weeks – to be among the first to buy the newest version of the iPhone.
This year is likely to attract substantial lines, given that Apple has confirmed that pre-orders for the iPhone 6 surpassed the 4 million mark in 24 hours, the highest rate for any iPhone model to date. The high rates of pre-orders already have many expecting shipping delays, meaning the wait could be even longer for those who don’t get their hands on the device at retail shops. That makes it so much more important for those dying to get the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus to wait in line.
Once there, though, they might find that the line is filled with people who aren't really interested in the iPhone, some of whom don’t even use a smartphone at all. The pandemonium surrounding the iPhone release means two things: high demand for the product, and a large, active audience. Put those two ingredients together and you have a business opportunity.
It's probably no surprise that some of the people waiting in line for the iPhone are simply planning to resell them later. To restrict this kind of opportunism, Apple stores occasionally limit each customer waiting in line on iPhone release day to two vouchers, each of which allows them to buy one device. Some people have tried to find ways around this. It doesn’t always end well.
Last year, a man in southern California reportedly drove a van full of homeless people from downtown Los Angeles to wait in line at an Apple store in Pasadena, offering $20 in exchange for each device bought for him. Afterward, the man told the local CBS affiliate that he would sell each device to a buyer overseas for about $1,000. However, the employees at the Apple store caught onto the plan and somehow put a stop to it. Without the iPhones, the man refused to pay the people he had driven 10+ miles to wait in line, which led to physical altercations. Two people were arrested and police had to escort the man behind the scheme away from the store. The remaining homeless people who were driven to the Pasadena store were left stranded.
So, if you’re plotting to buy up as much of your local retail stores’ supply of iPhone 6 devices tomorrow (which I don’t recommend), try to be a little more conspicuous than that guy.
Simple buying and selling is no longer the only way to capitalize on this situation, however. The new trend is to get a sponsor to pay you for waiting in line outside of an Apple Store, as Newsweek reported earlier this month. Published on September 5th, four days before Apple even announced the new iPhones, the article introduces several people who were already waiting in line outside an Apple store in Manhattan under the sponsorship of several companies. These sponsors include a website that buys used electronics from consumers, a company behind a health app for iOS and Android, and a company that makes portable chargers for wireless devices.
That last company actually sent two employees from their Hong Kong office to wait in line for the device while working remotely. Those sponsored by the healthcare app actually paid the people in front of them $2,500 to switch spots, telling Newsweek "it's key for PR." If that kind of money was changing hands just to cut in line, the sponsorship doesn't sound too bad.
So, my advice – don’t wait in line for a new iPhone unless someone’s paying you to do it.