SAN FRANCISCO — Charlie Hufnagel isn't sure whether he wants an iPhone 5 when it goes on sale Friday, but that didn't stop him from being first in line at the Apple store near Union Square. In fact, he's been there since Monday morning — after all, he's being paid for it.
Huge crowds and guaranteed media coverage have spawned a subculture of enterprising opportunists piggybacking off Apple hype. With the company set to release its highly anticipated iPhone 5, dozens of people are already gathered outside high-profile stores around the country.
Many are not there to buy the smartphone; they're hawking brands, blogs and products or looking to score easy cash. All they have to do is wait in line.
In San Francisco, Hufnagel responded to a post on TaskRabbit, a website where users can outsource household tasks and errands, and agreed to wait in line at an Apple store for five days for $1,500. Once word got to TaskRabbit, employees dropped off a bunch of company apparel and signs that read: “#SkipTheLine with TaskRabbit.” Hufnagel — who set up a green REI tent, yoga mat and folding chair in front of the store — also made his own sign promoting his Twitter handle.
“The hours are weird, but I get to meet a lot of interesting people,” said Hufnagel, 24, an unemployed San Francisco resident. “I do feel a little like a zoo animal.”
And what kind of person would be willing to shell out hundreds of dollars to avoid waiting in line? “It seemed like an older guy who didn't want the attention and publicity but wanted to be one of the first people to get his hands on a new iPhone,” Hufnagel said. “A guy with a lot of money.”