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iPhone 4 Launch Day at Crabtree Valley Mall (Raleigh)

Guest post by: carleemallard

Although the mall apparently had been open all night for people to start lining up at the Apple store’s front doors, I arrived at Crabtree bright and early at 5:00am, thinking that the mall wouldn’t open until 5:30am. To my surprise, we found two separate lines forming, one for those with iPhones reserved and another for those without a reservation. There were only about 50 people in the reservation line by the time we arrived at 5am, but unfortunately we found ourselves behind at least 150 others without reservations.

The lines already forming on either side of the Apple store at 5:00am

As early as it was, people were generally in good spirits and playing nice. Some were still sleeping from the overnight camp while others took the time to catch up on their laptops or iPads even though the reception and WiFi service was pretty slow. One person even brought his guitar and played it in the beach chair he brought. Everyone slowly started making friends with their neighbors in line knowing that they may be in it for the long haul.

Around 6:15am a few Apple employees brought out 10 dozen or so Dunkin Donuts to feed the early morning crowd. A good sign of things to come!

Anticipation grew as 7:00am neared. A few minutes before 7am, employees took down the black curtain that prevented us from getting a sneak peak into the preparation for all the madness that was about to ensue and the crowd cheered for the first time.

You can see how fast the donuts went!

Immediately after the curtain fell (at 7:00am on the dot), 20 or so Apple employees came rushing out of the service door, running, screaming, and high-fiving everyone in line. We were all surprised, but it seemed like a great way to get the started!

Minutes later the doors finally opened at Apple and they started letting in about 10 people from the reservation line for every 1 person in the regular line. Needless to say, the reservation line moved pretty quickly for the first few hours while us in the regular line sat in the same place (only moving perhaps a foot an hour) for those first few hours.

The beginning of the non-reservation line...not moving

But around 11am we at the middle/back of the non-reservation line started heering loud mysterious cheers from the front of our line. Ended up they were just cheering every time someone from our line got to enter the Apple store, approximately every 10-15 minutes. It was pretty motivating, to say the least. After being there for 6+ hours I think Apple realized they needed to keep us customers still in line motivated as well. They started going down the line handing out packs of pretzels and Ritz crackers, bottles of water, and then all sorts of candy just as if it were Halloween.

Apple employees handing out snacks

Not only that, but just around lunch time, Subway staff came around passing out mini ham & turkey subs! Lunch? Really? Amazing. Then more candy. Then more water. Followed by Lindt chocolate passing out those little chocolates to anyone who wanted some. In the late afternoon Bare Essentials even passed out free makeup samples to all the girls. This line wasn’t actually half bad, huh?

Subway ladies passing out free lunch!

The line was moving about 5 minutes per person in line. I calculated I wouldn’t get into the store until 4:00pm at the earliest, but I stayed optimistic that perhaps it would start moving more quickly. By 3:00 I could start feeling the finish line as there were only 40-50 people ahead of me to go. We stayed energized by our new friends that we had just gotten to know over the past 10 hours. It was as if we’d known these people for months. We were never bored, but still eager to get through the line and back to our lives.

Here we could see the end of the line ahead...

But then something amazing happened. A young man approached us in line asking how long we’d been waiting here in line (this was typical as all the regular mall-goers had been asking all day what we were

Robin Patterson (a.k.a. God for the day) of Best Buy mobile

waiting in line for). When we told him since 5am, he told us that he worked over at Best Buy mobile and had a reservation for one of the 16GB iPhones cancel and he was offering it to me. Pure luck? An act of God? Either way, I left my place in line and followed “God” to his Best Buy mobile store and promptly paid for, activated, accessorized, and left the store with my new iPhone 4 in hand.

Upon leaving the mall I walked past my new friends who were still waiting in line and showed off my new gear.

They probably waited in line for another hour. Sorry Apple, you treated me really really well for those 11 hours, but in the end Best Buy mobile man saved the day!

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