Robert Samuel knows some people are willing to pay good money to have someone else do the waiting for them. In fact, he has turned line-waiting into a prospering business.
Samuel and his company, Same Ole Line Dudes, are professional line waiters -- literal stand-ins for other person who want the new iPhone 6, latest limited edition shoes, new video game console, whatever the hot ticket item is of the moment.
Today was the first day customers could purchase the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in stores, Samuel got an order to secure 22 iPhones for 11 impatient customers. Hours before Apple stores in New York City opened, he and the other 10 men he employed to secure the phones scouted out store locations across the city to see which would be best, sharing war stories and comparing wait times.
Samuel, 39, got in line at the Apple store on 14th Street in Manhattan around 6 p.m. on Wednesday and waited for the next 38 hours to secure the iPhones.
He charges $25 for the first hour of waiting, and $20 for each additional hour. The full rate for his 38-hour wait for the iPhone 6 was $765.
Most of the time, Samuel says he stands in line, but since he lives near the store, he brought an IKEA rocking car and his desk chair with him from home so he would be comfortable.
“You have to be patient, and you have to find ways in creative times to occupy your time,” he said. “You should always try to engage the people around you because the one thing you don’t want to do when you’re waiting in line is you don’t want to want the people behind you to be taken back when somebody switches up.”
“Switches up,” meaning sometimes Samuel will be paid to wait in line for someone else, until he gets close to the front, and the person who paid him wants to take over his spot so they get the glory of purchasing the item themselves.
He works full time as a security guard, but his line-sitting business has gotten steadier overtime since his first line-waiting job last year -- getting paid $100 to wait in line for the iPhone 5s after posting an ad on Craigslist offering his line-waiting services.
He has picked up more business over time, waiting in for Nike Air Jordan releases, women’s shoe sample sales, show tickets, even waiting in line for the famous cronut, the croissant-donut combination pastry, on a regular basis. Samuel said he gets requests four times a week to secure and deliver two $5 cronuts for other people and gets paid $60 each time to do it.
Sporting events too. Although he didn’t go to Brazil for the World Cup this summer, Samuel said he went to the Brazilian embassy to pick up someone’s visas and passports for them.
It’s clear that Samuel’s customers trust him, and he’s willing to negotiate cost if he can’t secure the item he was sent out to get.
“You’re paying for the service of us waiting,” he said. “I always make that clear, in the name of good customer service, I would offer to give the money back especially if they’re a loyal customer because I don’t want to stiff someone who decides to use us repeatedly… you want to keep a customer, you want to make them happy.”