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Apple IPhone 5 Store Lines Include Hundreds Getting Paid to Wait

Among the thousands of people expected to wait for hours outside of Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s stores today for the new iPhone, at least a couple hundred of them will be paid just to stand there.

In what may be the biggest consumer electronics debut in history, more than 200 people are expected to hold places in line for strangers at stores around New York and the San Francisco bay area for the iPhone 5, Bloomberg.com reported on its Tech Blog. These arrangements were made on the website TaskRabbit Inc., where a user can find workers to do odd jobs such as assembling Ikea furniture or waiting in long lines.

The job broker is capitalizing on the popularity of the iPhone 5, which goes on sale globally today. Apple said earlier this week that advance sales of the smartphone topped 2 million units in one day -- double the record set by the previous device -- after it started accepting orders a week ago.

“I wanted a way to do sort of casual, quick work to make a little extra cash for the move that wouldn’t require extra commitment, that wouldn’t be an actual job to go to every day,” said Sara Clarke, who was hired to wait at the Apple Store in New York’s SoHo district from around 6 a.m.

Clarke, 31, said yesterday she’ll wait for at least four hours before meeting up with her employer, who will trade places with her when she reaches the front of the line. Her employer is paying $55 and TaskRabbit will take an 18 percent service fee. That leaves $45.10 for Clarke, an aspiring filmmaker living in Brooklyn who is saving up to move to Los Angeles next month.

“I’ve done other waiting-in-line things. I think it’s going to end up being, like, my specialty,” she said.

Fine Weather

During the summer, Clarke answered the call on TaskRabbit to wait for tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. This is her first time standing in line for an Apple product.

“I am a professional line waiter,” Clarke said. “One time, it poured, and the guy tipped me.”

Clarke shouldn’t have to worry about rain tomorrow. The forecast for New York is partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the higher 70s degrees Fahrenheit (more than 21 degrees Celsius). The high volume of listings on TaskRabbit for iPhone line holders indicates that not everyone is willing to stand around outside, even in pleasant weather. The 230 requests for people to stand in line as of Thursday afternoon far exceed the 80 that were posted for the release of the latest iPad in March, according to TaskRabbit.

In addition to TaskRabbit, the listings website Craigslist has dozens of posts in major U.S. cities from people seeking or offering line-waiting services.

Long Waits

In Sydney, the first 11 places in line were taken up by companies using the sale to promote their own businesses. Some of them were there since Sept. 18, and were paid as much as A$200 ($209) a day to stand and advertise. Apple employees in blue T-shirts applauded as the first shoppers entered the store.

While TaskRabbit’s iPhone 5 promotion, which was set up with a fixed price to facilitate the transaction, only includes seven Apple stores, the smartphone will also be sold at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and mobile operator retail shops.

Robin Raszka, a New Yorker who designs iPhone applications, hired someone on TaskRabbit to show up at midnight at the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, the one enclosed by a glass cube. He needs multiple versions of the new iPhone in order to test his apps, and he’s not particularly fond of standing in line overnight.

That’s perfectly fine for folks like Clarke, who doesn’t mind the task as long as she’s prepared. She usually scopes out local delis willing to deliver to her while she’s waiting in line. Another one of her pro tips: “I probably will get coffee on the way. That’s a good thing to do.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Milian in San Francisco at mmilian@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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