$1,500 to be first in line for an iPhone? ... Or a publicity stunt?

Errand site TaskRabbit assures me they have nothing up their sleeve


Let's be clear up front: I have nothing but my profoundly suspicious nature to support even raising the possibility that this iPhone-obsession story is anything other than it appears.

That and it seems nutty, even by Apple fanboy standards.

Nevertheless, the Los Angeles Times today posted a story about an unidentified Apple fanboy having reportedly paid $1,500 via errand website TaskRabbit to have someone else ensure that he would be first in line for an iPhone tomorrow. This would be accomplished by the hired hand camping out in front of an Apple store in San Francisco's Union Square for ... five days. He got there Monday. Tomorrow, before Apple swings open the doors, our camper and our job creator are supposed to have swapped places so that the latter can revel in his, um, lofty status ... and, oh, buy a new phone.

The hired hand doing the camping is a 24-year-old marketing/social-media guy named Charlie Hufnagel.

Did I mention that the fanboy is unidentified? Shy, too, as you'll learn.

From the LAT story:

For now (Hufnagel's) the only one in line. His companions are the endless stream of shoppers heading in and out of the Apple store and the construction workers digging up the streets right next to his green REI tent.

He also gets regular visits from TaskRabbit, which has given him a small budget for food deliveries through Deliver Now (mostly burritos from Chipotle) in exchange for wearing company swag and putting up signs promoting that you can hire a TaskRabbit to stand in line for your iPhone 5 on Friday morning.

Seems maybe five days was a few too many. And that TaskRabbit definitely recognizes a public-relations opportunity when someone else pays $1,500 to create one. Both Hufnagel's and TaskRabbit's Twitter accounts have been busily chronicling his adventure.

TaskRabbit also insists that there really is a customer, answering my direct inquiry/accusation this way:

"Charlie, the TaskRabbit who is first in line at the Apple store in SF, is actually running a task for one of our customers. A TaskPoster posted a task for Charlie to wait in line for 5 days to get the iPhone 5. Charlie has been at the store since Monday morning and the TaskPoster will meet him at the store tomorrow to actually purchase the new phone."

Swell, I replied; might you ask the customer if he would do me the favor of an interview? I mean everyone's going to want to know why someone would pay $1,500 just to be first in line.

"Apologies, Paul! But the customer has requested no interviews."

No surprise there, but I tried again, sending this email reply: "He does understand that he'll be approached and photographed when he shows up at the store, yes? Will he be speaking to reporters, or at least identifying himself, when he shows up to claim his spot tomorrow? If so, he might as well get started now, in my totally self-serving opinion."

There's been no reply to that one.

So will our mystery man show up tomorrow morning to take his $1,500 place in line? Will he talk to reporters and pose for that obligatory "I got mine first" photo?

We'll see. But don't count me among the surprised if he instead tosses Hufnagel a few extra bucks to buy him an iPhone 5 and get it to him in some more private manner.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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