I stood for seven hours while waiting in line for the iPhone 7 on Friday.
Now, I’m very familiar with the iPhone launch day lines. Judge me as you will, but since 2011, I’ve stood in line for hours to get a new iPhone — partly because I think it’s a little crazy and fun on a personal level, and partly because I want to write and report on the newest iPhones for my job. (It’s mostly the former, to be honest.)
I’ve stood in line at AT&T stores, Verizon stores, and plenty of different Apple stores around New York City. But this experience at Apple’s newest store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was by far the worst.
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I woke up early and got in line around 6:15 a.m. The line wasn't very long at all! There were maybe 30 people in front of me. In past years, that meant I'd probably wait around an hour to get in and out of the store with the new phone.
At 8 a.m., the doors opened. Ten people from our line walked into the store, but Apple employees created a new, second line next to ours. This was for pre-order customers, employees told us.
At 8:30 a.m., our line hadn't budged. The other line, however, was completely empty. That's because anyone who entered that line was immediately ushered inside the store.
At 9 a.m., our line had still not moved. Dozens of people were getting out of Ubers and cabs and essentially walking straight into the store, while many more in the 'walk-in' line were forced to wait outside, across the street, in the hot sun.
At 9:15 a.m., I asked a passing Apple employee what was going on. She explained that technically, Apple stores don't open until 10 a.m., so our line was frozen until then -- but the store will still let in pre-order customers. Also, she said not all Apple store employees have arrived for the day yet. I ask to speak to a manager.
The Apple store manager came over and explained that 'this is how it's been for the last two years,' and 'I'm making sure we get people in from each line.' Over the next hour, I didn't see a single person from our line enter the store, while dozens of people from the pre-order line waited just a few minutes before entering.
At 10:30 a.m., I called over the manager again and told him our line still hadn't moved in over an hour. His response: 'We're guaranteeing you a phone, not guaranteeing you a time.'
Every 20-30 minutes, our line moved forward about five feet. By 11:30, I could finally see the front door of the store -- but there was another longer line inside.
At 11:45, I finally walked into the store and got in that line. At 12:45, I left the store with my new iPhone 7.
Many people will likely tell you that this is what you should expect if you plan on waiting in line for a new iPhone on launch day. But I can tell you, based on my past experiences at carriers and other Apple stores, this is absolutely not how it's supposed to go.
Walk-in customers aren't supposed to be waiting for six-plus hours on their feet, in the hot sun, without moving at all; watching a group of 'priority' customers walk in with no wait at all is just adding insult to injury.
And even if there is a second priority line for pre-order customers, that shouldn't completely halt the walk-in line -- there should be some sort of balance. None of that happened, and nearly everyone in line around me complained for hours about what a 'brutal,' 'disgraceful,' 'bulls--t' experience it was.
For a company like Apple, which places so much emphasis on customer satisfaction, a negative experience like this on the company's biggest day of the year is unacceptable, especially since the situation was completely avoidable. Even if one person per line were let through at a time, the pre-order customers still would have been seen sooner than the walk-in customers -- by proxy of standing in a much shorter line -- and walk-in customers could still be seen. People may have eventually gotten their phones, but Friday's launch, at least at Apple's Williamsburg store, was a total mess. And it's something that needs to be fixed for the future.
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