Well, so much for that.
I figured that, five days after the smash launch of the iPhone 4S, I’d finally be able to get one without waiting in the absurdly long lines that Apple zealots seem to revel in waiting in. (Yes, I could have ordered one, but I didn’t.)
And inasmuch as I had to be in midtown at the crack of dawn for a CNN hit, I figured today was the day.
I’d get to the Apple store by 7:30, before the crowds, and I’d finally upgrade.
And, joy, when I popped down the glass staircase under the enshrouded glass cube, the place was empty. So empty that no one was even checking out the iPhones.And there were no Apple folk around the tables, either.
So I figured this would be the first time in history that I actually had to ask for help at an Apple store.
So I popped up to the counter and said, “Hi, I’d like a 4S!”
And the girl looked at me like I was the idiot I was.
“You have to wait in the line upstairs,” she said.
Line upstairs? When came in, I didn’t see any line upstairs.
“Yes, the line upstairs.”
Well, that was a bummer. But I figured that, at this hour, the line couldn’t be more than a few crazy folks. But as I headed back up the staircase, I asked one of the cheery greeters where the line was.
“Oh, it’s over there,” he said, pointing. “More than 100 people!”
And so it was.
And the thing I noticed immediately was the homogeneity of the folks in the line.
They were all of Asian descent. And they weren’t speaking any English, at least not that I heard.
It then began to rain and I fled back downstairs into the cube, so I didn’t get to confirm my theory, but here it is: I’m going to guess that the folks in line were mostly Chinese. And I’m going to guess that they were loading up on iPhones to send to China.
(But why? Don’t they have Apple stores in China now? Are iPhones still much cheaper here? Perhaps one of our kind readers can explain…)
UPDATE: Our readers and a former Apple employee remind me that the iPhone 4S hasn’t gone on sale in China or Hong Kong yet, so this makes sense. The former Apple employee, who worked in an Apple store, also notes that this happens every time Apple releases a hot new product. The folks who wait in line, the Apple store employee says, are organised by “ringleaders,” and Apple employees refer to the teams as “resellers.” They pay cash. They buy the products, which are then mailed to China and elsewhere. Apple has run through several policies to deal with this practice, but for now they’re tolerating it.
Anyway, in case you’re wondering why the Apple cube is enshrouded with plywood, it’s because the company has decided that 90 pieces of glass is too many and it’s replacing them with 15 pieces.
You know…that simplicity thing.