I would not classify myself an an Apple product whore, but there I was Friday afternoon standing in line in negative double-digit temps in an attempt to get an iPad 2. In between weighing the pros and cons of a luddite existence and wondering how long until frostbite sets in, I had a lot of time to question my life and my choices. One thing I've solidly decided is to never, ever, do this again. Ever.
I prepped myself by researching where and when the fabled device would go on sale. Best Buy, who appeared to have a deal set up with Apple, promoted a 5:00 p.m. launch with a limit of two iPads per customer. This is what I required, as the entire purpose of the purchase was so that I can videochat with my parents in Winnipeg who seem to miss wee Monty more than they do me (Facetime offers the fun of seeing him on a daily basis without the new dog smell). However, I predicted that every Tom, Dick and Steve Jobs-wannabe would be at the big blue boxstore, so I decided to scope out Neural Net, a small authorized Apple retailer located in a mall surrounded by retirement homes. Thinking it was too depressing a place for people to willingly wait for hours on end at (not to mention that old person smell), I made my way over.
To my surprise, a queue of about 10 individuals had already formed. I'm not sure how long their wait had been, but one woman had two kids (and a stack of colouring books) in tow. To drain out the noise and offer a distraction from all the senior citizens who stopped to stare at our collective madness, I turned on my iPod and started listening to Adele's latest album. A Neural Net staff member came around to pass out chocolates and keep everyone abreast of how sales would be organized; it was then that I was informed of a limit of 1 iPad per customer. Thanking her for the sugar rush, I dashed over to Best Buy.
As mentioned, I've never attended a hyped-up product launch like this before and didn't know what to expect. However, I was a little surprised that Best Buy made their customers wait OUTSIDE in temperatures that felt like -15 degrees celsius. I was well-layered, as every Canadian should be at all times, but my toes were frozen within 20 minutes — I can't imagine what the dude at the front of the line (who was there since 7:00 a.m.) felt like. Also, if I were the manager of this particular store, I would have gotten hot chocolate and donuts for everyone braving the elements. The line-up of twenty hardy souls equalled guaranteed sales by enthusiastic clientele...a little would have went a long way in terms of changing a simple sales transaction into a genuine consumer experience (and no, the New Years-esque countdown to 5:00 did NOT equate a genuine consumer experience).
After an hour-and-a-half in the cold, tickets were handed out depending on what type of iPad you wanted. My wishlist consisted of one black and one white 32GB, wifi. I was informed that there would be only one per customer; I reminded the employee that the Best Buy website advertised a limit of two. The iPad nazi then informed me that no, I get one. NEXT. My level of irritation started to rise; the only good thing to come of this was that they now allowed everyone to wait inside the store. Good thing, because I could no longer feel my feet.
I really had no other purpose to be there, but I had 30 minutes to kill. I checked out the television sets and the graveyard otherwise known as the CD section. The other people I met in line stood near the doorway, texting and trying to contain their excitement. Employees strutted up and down the aisles like proud egomaniacal peacocks; I imagined they felt like rock stars...but roadies would be a better comparison. They were, after all, that much closer to the object of our fandom than we could hope to be, but not really that special in and of themselves.
I observed people just walking in off the street getting tickets. The afternoon was, for the most part, a complete waste of time however I was assured that I would get a white iPad. I'm not sure what scraps these people were feasting on. But wait...where were they going? I followed them to the back of the store where a loooooonnnnnnngggggg line snaked through stereos and into television displays. I wanted to scream. Why didn't any of the Best Buy employees tell me - and the other people who've been there for hours - that there was another line to get in? Was it incompetence? Amusement? After being the 20th person in line, I was now about the 80th (not to mention suffering frostbite...probably). Another person who braved the cold complained, but it was all for nought. Best Buy knew they had our money. And they were laughing. Another 45 minutes later, I was done. It was the longest I've ever spent in a Best Buy...unfortunately for them, it will be the last time I step foot in one.
But there was still the issue of getting the second iPad. I made my way back to Neural Net chanting psalms along the way and lo-and-behold the line was gone. A friendly employee greeted me at the door and inquired what model I wanted, promptly acquiring it from the backroom. I was in-and-out within 5 minutes. No hassles. No freeze-dried limbs.
Now if only Apple had mentioned that these things don't work straight out of the box, I may have had time to enjoy it last night.