iPhone 4 Apple Store processing - made for lines, or employee health?

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by jtara, Jun 26, 2010.


What was the rationale behind Apple's tortoise-like order processing?

  1. They wanted long lines to form

    1 vote(s)
  2. ATT couldn't handle the volume of account inquiries otherwise

    4 vote(s)
  3. It's part of the employee health/exercise program

    2 vote(s)
  4. Other

    0 vote(s)
  5. None of the above

    1 vote(s)
  1. jtara macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2009
    (Because we really need YET ANOTHER iPhone 4 preorder/walk-in horror story bitchfest post, that's why!)

    I posted this on another thread, but thought it deserved it's own. I don't think this particular aspect of the ordering process has been covered on it's own.

    Did Apple arrange things intentionally so that lines would form? Or are they just plain incompetent? I would hope it's the former. But I wish they'd use their brilliance to make my life easier, rather than creating publicity for themselves.

    I think Apple has intentionally built time-wasting into the ordering process in order to create lines. That's the only rational explanation I can think of for what I witnessed on Thursday.

    Now, this was my first time standing in line for an Apple product. (I've always been able to pre-order before.) So, this may be old news for old pros.

    I'd be interested in hearing if other stores followed the same procedures.

    I arrived at San Diego Fashion Valley around 11:00. (I'd read here that mid-morning is a good time to go. Yes, I was a little late for "mid morning".)

    Both lines were LONG. I reasoned that it would be better to come back at 7 or 8, an hour or two before the mall closing at 9, but didn't want to take the chance, and waited in line for 4 hours. (Before you make fun of me saying "why was it so important to stand in line for 4 hours" - I'm a developer. I NEED the phone. The alternative was perhaps a weeks-long delay.) Indeed, when I left, the reserved line was MUCH shorter - probably down to a 1-2 hour wait. Probably would have been 15 minutes near closing time.

    The main reason seems to have been limited personnel processing orders. Honestly, there were more Apple employees outside tending the line and passing our ice cream, etc. than there were inside processing orders. I think there probably were only 2 to 5 employees handling iPhone orders. The rest of the store was filled with smiling, chatting employees answering the usual questions. You could have walked in and bought a Mac in 10 minutes, no problem. (Indeed, I saw someone walk out with an iMac, and thought he was crazy. But, no, he wasn't as he probably zipped in and out.)

    There were two lines in the mall, left for reservations, right for walk-ins. They had those ropes set-up so that the lines zig-zagged back and forth. The walk-in line got so long that they started taking groups of people and putting them in separate roped-off areas in other parts of the mall.

    Now, this was perhaps 100 feet from the store. They would take maybe 10 people from the head of the reservation line, and they would follow-the-leader the 100 feet to the store, like in elementary school. But there was no "caboose" employee, and anybody could have easily slipped into the line. Of course, that would have been sure to start a fight! (Not really, the San Diego crowd was pretty mellow.)

    There were two little lines set-up at the front of the store itself.

    An employee would come to the door, fetch the next person in line, walk across the store and invite the customer to sit down in a seating area.

    (My experience was a bit comical, as I was put in the child seating area. I sat down on a very low ball-shaped chair-thing, without realizing that it actually did have a flat bottom to keep it from rolling around. The last person had left it sitting on the round part. When the employee said "please take a seat" I said "OK, I'll try..." The employee then pointed-out that the chair had a bottom, and it would be easier to sit on if the bottom were sitting on the floor. Note to self: get one of those exercise balls and practice sitting on it, to avoid this embarrassment in the future.)

    Then they'd ask which phone you wanted, went into the back of the store and got it, then got your particulars and credit card, and processed the card on an iPhone or iPad (some had one, some had the other), and collected your signature on the iPad/iPhone. (Pretty cool, but the scrawliest signature I have ever made...) Since I wanted a paper receipt, he had to go back into the back again to get it. (But, somehow, I never did get the receipt...) Then they marched you over to an activation station.

    Now, all nice and friendly and personalized. And completely ridiculous. Really, a few minutes in a kiddie chair was no consolation for 4 hours in line). I would have gladly stood at a counter to cut my wait time in half!

    They could have easily cut out all the walking around (maybe it's part of the employee health program) and cut the time in half or more. Set up a counter near the front of the store, keep the iPhones under the counter, do the activation at the counter, wow, maybe even have a printer there for receipts. Hell, with the improved efficiency, they could have put half the people tending the lines outside onto order processing, and cut the wait time by half again. Or really go over the edge, post "no Macs for your today!" signs, and cut it in half again! Wow, 4 hour wait cut to 1/2 hour!

    On the other hand, ATT might not have been able to handle the account inquires. And the news media might not have had so much to show that day.

    (P.S. I screwed-up on the poll. If you think they were just plain stupid, select "Other". Of course, we'll never know how many true others, and how many think they were stupid. Sorry.)
  2. chembox macrumors 6502a

    Feb 17, 2010
    You think you had it bad, I stood in line for 13 hours (arrived an hour before opening), as a walk-in. All the pre-order customers would be allowed to skip in front of all the walk-ins, no matter what time they came in. It slowed down the process drastically until the existing pre-order customer queue merged with the walk-in's and then had to stand in the back of the line.
  3. abijnk macrumors 68040


    Oct 15, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    17 hours here. And guess what? I don't think anyone was out to get me and I'm certainly not going to boohoo about it like the OP. Noe one was forced to stand in line. You could have left if you didn't want to be there that bad.
  4. /dev/toaster macrumors 68020


    Feb 23, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    The same employees that were with me at 6:30am were there that night at 9:30pm.

    Um, they deserve the slow pace. They need to handle an incredible number of customers in a single day.

    Not to mention, Apple handles customers different. I wasn't rushed out of the store, I was able to take my time and put my bumper on. Made sure activation worked, checked some of the features of the device to confirm they worked, etc. The guy was in no rush to get me out the door, and I really appreciate that. This is my 4th iPhone so I know what I am doing in and out. But what if this was my first iPhone, they were happy to show you around the features.

    Customers aren't cattle and Apple store employees are not slaves.

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