If you’d told me this story I wouldn’t have believed it. But on Thursday night, walking from a screening of “Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain” to dinner at Todd English’s Food Hall in the Plaza Hotel, we were gobsmacked. More than a thousand people are lined up, with sleeping bags, for the 8am release of the new iPhone 6. The line goes from Madison Avenue and 59th St. to Fifth Avenue in front of the tony Cipriani restaurant, then jumps onto the plaza in front of FAO Schwarz, next to Apple.
Along the 59th St. queue, it is mostly Asians. There are some Europeans, and no Americans from what we could tell. In some cases there were whole families. No one could adequately explain what the heck they were doing sleeping outside on a Manhattan street. The iPhone 6 is not very different than the iPhone 5. It’s certainly not different enough to do this.
We surmised that most of the people were buying more than one iPhone, with the expectation of selling a few for big bucks. Especially overseas. One young man from Belgium could not say why he wanted the 6, since he already had the 5. “I just want it,” he said.
We found the front of the line on Fifth Avenue, near the sidewalk, in front of the toy store. The first two people were a young American couple who’d been living out there since August 19th. That’s right– a month. They were very perky. They said they were raising money and awareness for a charity, that they would each buy two phones and then sell them, for cash, to the highest bidders there on the street.
“I’ve already been offered six thousand dollars,” the girl said.
The couple bought the first two spots off a bunch of young guys from Staten Island, who now occupied spots three- through- about seven. They’d been hired on the spot to promote a tech company that makes chargers for phones. All the guys were now sporting hoodies with the company’s name. They said they expected to make several thousand dollars from selling the phones they buy on Friday morning.
So what about, you know, grooming, etc? Apple has been letting them use their bathroom “24-7,” said the charity girl. And they’ve taken a room at a local Y, where they’ve been taking turns. I must say, for people who’ve been sleeping outside for a month they were clean and well kept. The girl had an old MacBook laptop she was using to send out messages (I don’t know how she kept it charged or on the web).
“We’re not doing it for the phones,” she explained. “We’re doing it to get attention.” Well, they got it.
I did ask, by the way: the new iPhone still has no apps for flying, time travel, or cloaks of invisibility. It just makes and gets calls, emails, and texts. It’s just like the Samsung Galaxy s3 I have in my pocket.