Waiting In Line for iPhone 5, Some Are Just Doing Their Jobs

Photograph by Victor J. Blue

Those wanting the new iPhone are turning to TaskRabbit to hire someone to stand in line for them.

Among the thousands of people expected to wait for hours outside of Apple’s stores tomorrow for the new iPhone, 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 in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area for the iPhone 5. These arrangements were made on the website TaskRabbit, where a user can find someone to complete odd jobs such as assembling Ikea furniture or, in this case, waiting in long lines.

Sara Clarke, 31, plans to arrive at the Apple Store in New York’s SoHo district around 6 a.m. tomorrow. She’ll wait for at least four hours before meeting up with her employer for the day, who will trade places with her when she reaches the front of the line. For this job, the man paid $55, of which TaskRabbit took 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 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,” Clarke said. “I’ve done other waiting-in-line things. I think it’s going to end up being, like, my specialty.”

During the summer, Clarke answered the call on TaskRabbit to wait in line for tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. The free public performances have been held in New York since 1954 and are a big draw. 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 70s. Still, 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 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, Craigslist has dozens of posts in major U.S. cities from people seeking or offering line-waiting services. The demand for such services also exists in China, where people who were paid to wait in line for the iPad 2 earned $3 an hour, NPR reported last year.

While TaskRabbit’s iPhone 5 promotion only includes seven Apple stores, the smartphone will also be sold at Walmart and mobile operator retail shops.

Robin Raszka, a New Yorker who designs iPhone apps, 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 that are 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.”


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