There was a surprise for people who waited in line for hours to buy an iPhone at the AT&T store on Capitol Hill – you couldn’t get one unless you also bought a minimum of $50 worth of accessories.
People in line found out when it was loudly (and profanely) disclosed by a few of the first buyers when they emerged from the store after 6 p.m.
Everyone still seemed happy and excited about the new gadget, but the bundling and the slow checkout process toned things down a bit. I saw a few tense jaws as people waited for the bogged-down systems to approve their unexpectedly full shopping bags.
The clerks said you had to buy a case and a car charger. The cheapest case was $19.99 and the cheapest charger was $29.99.
I protested, and the clerk had a ready response. The case is “ultimately going to protect your phone” and “you’ll want a backup charger,” which sounds ominous.
She also confirmed that I can bring them back for a refund within 14 days, which is absolutely going to happen.
Was it really worth the extra bucks to dampen the mood? It seems to me that the surprise bundling will cost AT&T some good will with all these new customers.
Altogether it cost me $706.74 to get out of the store with an 8 gigabyte iPhone. Next I have to activate the phone and choose between AT&T service plans that range from $59.99 to $219.99 a month.
I joined the line at about 3 p.m. and was 19th. The first batch of people went in right at 6 p.m. (a security guard in a suit let people in a few at a time as spots opened up), but the purchasing was going slow and I didn’t get in until 7. The process sent you to an adviser/greeter doing demos while you waited for a salesperson to become available. That took another five minutes, and I finally got out of the store at 7:15.
The device feels a bit like one of those old lighter-fluid fueled chrome handwarmers. I’ll write more after I’ve fired it up.
For people wanting to buy one immediately, the Capitol Hill store had about 100 phones and when I left it sounded like it would all be taken by the people who had waited in line.
You can go to the stores until 10 tonight and through the weekend, but you’ll probably have to place an order and have the phone sent to your house. They’ll take about three days to arrive, according to the clerks.
It will be awhile before AT&T stores, or at least the one I visited, will have more iPhones to buy and carry out. There are more in the warehouses, but they are going to be sent first to the people placing orders for phones to be delivered. After those orders are fulfilled, the stores will get more stock, a clerk told me. Maybe next week, maybe later?
If you don’t have one by now, don’t be sad. You’ve got a little time to shop around and choose whether or not you buy the extras.