Some Camp Out for the iPhone, Others Just Want to Make a Buck

Joe Bird, left, waits in line outside the SoHo Apple store in New York with would-be iPhone buyers two days before the device's release. (By Mario Tama -- Getty Images)

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By Kim Hart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 28, 2007

In the hoopla surrounding tomorrow's iPhone launch, Matt Grimmer saw an irresistible business opportunity.

The plan: Charge a fee to create a diversion so unbearable that customers at the front of the line give up in despair, allowing people at the end of the line a better shot at getting a phone before they sell out.

According to a Craigslist.com ad, Grimmer says his company, Over Here, Jerks Inc., includes a dozen stuntmen, a few chinchillas, bearded-dragon lizards and a goat. A desperate would-be iPhone owner can pay $50 for three antics -- possibly the release of noxious fumes, piercing sounds or wild animals near the line -- whatever it takes to get customers to abandon their quest for the coveted phone.

"It's our multi-pronged approach to getting people out of line for our customers," said Grimmer, a 27-year-old cancer researcher from San Francisco who says he has already landed two clients. "We like to call it manufacturing happiness."

Apple, it seems, will not be the only one cashing in on the frenzy.

Craigslist, the online classified site, is brimming with offers from people willing to wait in line -- for up to three days, if necessary -- for commissions ranging from $125 to more than $1,000.

Jon May, 18, was the first in line at the Apple store in Walnut Creek, Calif., where he's been since 5 a.m. Wednesday. Along with his brother and two friends, he's pitched a tent under a tree, brought plenty of snacks and plans to watch DVDs on his laptop.

As of yesterday afternoon, three of the camped-out entrepreneurs received offers of $300 to wait in line until the phone goes on sale at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Apple and AT&T retail stores. May expects to pocket $2,000 for his efforts.

It's been a worthwhile venture thus far, he said from outside the store. "But it is getting pretty hot out here," he said in a telephone interview.

Others are using the opportunity to raise funds for a cause. David Clayman of Chicago is third in line in front of Apple's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York. His blog "The iPhone Adventure," http://iphoneadventure.blogspot.com, says he plans to buy two phones, if he can, and auction one for $5,000 to raise money for the Taproot Foundation, a charitable organization that serves other nonprofit groups.

To support his efforts, Taproot has asked New Yorkers to bring him food, preferably turnips, carrots, radishes or other roots.

But AT&T is trying to fend off iPhone-scalpers: It will allow each customer to purchase only one phone. Apple has not decided on its policy. Fortune-hunters include ones trying to profit by snagging, then selling, iPhone-related e-mail and Web site addresses that may be in demand. Craigslist users are auctioning off names such as i-fono.com. The domain of iPhoneProtector.com is offered at $5,600.

BetUS.com, an online gambling site based in Costa Rica, has invited people to place wagers on the iPhone . A few predictions: odds of 5 to 6 that Apple will sell 12 million iPhones in 2008, and 20 to 1 odds that someone will get trampled trying to get an iPhone.

Ross Pearson, an electrical engineer from Rockville, said he'll do anything to get his hands on an iPhone, even if it means paying his teenage neighbor $500 to stand in line all day at the Apple store in the Montgomery mall while he is at work Friday.

A self-described "gadget fiend," Pearson, 24, said his competitive personality is driving him to get the device at any cost.

"I just couldn't stand it if my boss walks in on Monday with one, and I'm stuck looking at it over his shoulder," he said. "I guess it's an ego thing."


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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