By Michael Wyszomierski
With major assistance from Kris Buquet
I departed Baltimore at 7:35 PM on December 10th, and arrived at 4829 Bethesda Avenue, Apple Retail Store no. 112 (but the 100th opened) sometime between 8:30 and 8:45 PM. I parked right in front of the store. I was first in line.
There were several contractors inside the store, doing something with the front door, but they left sometime before 9, after several minutes of trying to figure out which lights to leave on at night, and putting on a bit of a light show in the process.
Kris and his son Shea showed up, tripling the number of people in line. We sent a few shots of our campsite via Kris's iSight to Gary Allen from ifo Apple Store.
The store manager stopped by and asked us if we intended to camp out all night. She said she is going to be famous because she opened the first store in Tyson's Corner, and now gets to open the 100th store. She said that she would see us in the morning, but before she left, Kris asked who was going to be at the store (maybe a Steve or two?) tomorrow. She hesitated a bit, and then said, "I don't know, you tell me. I'll be here."
As usual, people asked us why we were waiting, and assumed they were giving away free iPods or computers, or having a huge sale. They also thought we were crazy, and one guy just walked past saying, "This is really sad, guys. This is really sad." It was also interesting that many would walk past and refer to it as an "iPod store," not an "Apple store," although some were pleasantly surprised to see an Apple Store. I talked to a few of them, and several didn't even know that Apple made iPods! My favorite questions were, "Are you Mac users?" and, "Are you Apple fans?"
A small crowd of passersby had formed, asking why we were there and checking out the store. Around the same time, an alarm inside the store went off. We waited for the police to respond, but they didn't. A Mac Specialist from MacUpgrades came by to check out the line, and helped flag down a police officer, hoping that he would be able to call someone about the alarm. The officer said that he didn't know who to call, and also thought that we were crazy camping out for a t-shirt.
We thought of who to contact at Apple, and the only 24 hour number we could think of was the Apple Store, so Kris called them. After being put on hold for a few minutes while they "contacted someone," they claimed that they had notified someone of the problem. We were skeptical.
One woman, Rebecca, asked us why we were camping out, and she wouldn't believe it that we were only there for a t-shirt. She assumed that we had an ulterior motive for being the first people in line. She even called her brother to ask what was going on. Some people just don't understand. Many people don't understand. Most people don't understand.
Another woman stopped by with her daughter, and said that her husband had arranged Apple to get this location. She claimed she would be home in fifteen minutes and let him know about the alarm.
Cameron's Seafood Restaurant, upon learning that we would be spending the night, provided the three die-hard Apple fans with a free seafood dinner. It was good food—fish, shrimp, and fries—so stop by if you're ever in Bethesda.
One of the funniest moments was during dinner when a woman saw that we were spending the night, and offered to let us stay in her apartment. Her own words: "It's clean and nice and I'm not freaky." I can't remember if this was the same woman who offered to buy me a t-shirt so I could go home and sleep.
The employees of Tara Thai (located across the street from the Apple store) worked until about 2 AM on their window display of Christmas lights. They put a lot of effort into it. Nothing wrong with getting in the spirit.
A couple arrived, and upon finding not much of a line, went home to get movies and then returned about 30 minutes later.
1:00 AM - 3 AM
Kris found the junction box where the Christmas tree lights were plugged in along the street, and plugged in his 12" PowerBook with an extension cord he bought at the 24-hour Giant down the street. We were soon joined by three girls who had passed by earlier, promising to meet us on their way home. One was loud and anything but sober, another was, in Kris's words, "cleverly drunk," and in search of a lighter, and the third seemed sober and watched Empire Records on Kris's Powerbook. They (well, mostly the loud one) wanted to wait in line, after convincing themselves that doing so would result in a free iPod. They actually stayed for a while, and Shea woke up to join the fun. Fortunately, someone else (can't remember your name—email me) showed up and I was able to talk to him while the others dealt with our inebriated guests. He was wearing a suit, which led the girls to believe that he was the owner of the store. We figured it was easiest to play along with their assumption. The drunkards finally left, and I must admit they were mildly entertaining. Mr. Suit, who was not dressed for a campout, stayed for quite a while, and even came back to the store after they had opened.
We found out that Kris had been banned from the 24-hour Kinkos we were using as a restroom. The employee claimed that the bathroom was "for customers only," but still threatened to call the police even when Kris offered to pay for copies. The Giant became the new location of our facilities.
The Montgomery Mall manager arrived and took some photos of the store with a nice Canon camera, lens, and flash unit. He asked us to move out of the shot for all of the pictures. When we informed him that the alarm had been going off since 9:30, he simply said, "Oh, yeah, I guess that's the alarm in the back," and then left.
With six people in line, an off-duty officer from the Montgomery County Police Department arrived. He had been been hired to do security detail for the store from 7 to 3. He couldn't do anything about the alarm either. It had started to rain by this point.
7:00 - 7:45 AM
Five more people got in line.
The first employees arrived, and turned off the alarm, which turned out to be one of the ones that goes off if a display product is pulled from one of those adhesive cables. We had been exposed to it for 10 and a half hours straight, and we didn't miss it. The same alarm was activated about ten times during the time I was inside the store. I don't want to advertise it on the Internet, but I now know the location of the kill switch for the alarm. The employees were wearing the red "give" holiday shirts.
When they first opened the door, the left door was misaligned, and wasn't able to open more than halfway without hitting the metal grate. When closed, there was a large gap between the doors at the bottom, and the doors actually overlapped at the top.
The employees called the contractors (based in Boston) who were there last night. They arrived to look at the door, and were less than friendly to those of us waiting in line. I suppose they're not trained for dealing with actual humans. The one guy especially wasn't too happy about me filming their mistake with the door.
The staff started entering via the back entrance, and at one point the cop estimated there was a 1:2 salesperson to customer ratio. There were yellow Post-its on each of the self-checkout machines, and flowers on the counter. An iPod was swapped with a different unit, and an employee performed a hard reset of the Airport Base Station. Two PowerBooks were brought to the Genius Bar, as well as an iMac G4 which was later removed. The electrical outlets for the hanging spinning signs were installed, but there were no signs.
The boxes of t-shirts were brought to the front of the store, and at this point there were still only about 20 people in line. By 9:00, the line had doubled in size.
Someone showed up with a printout of the store website advertising a 9 AM opening, obviously a typo (which had been corrected over 24 hours ago.) After waiting in line for only 15 minutes, he banged on the broken door and complained to one of the employees, who referred him to one of the opening team members. The unhappy customer wanted to know why they wouldn't open the store early because the website at one point said 9, and there were people standing in the rain. He also wanted to know why Apple wouldn't give out the shirts early because people "got out of bed" for a 9 AM opening. Now I like to sleep in, but I know that 9 AM isn't exactly early for the average American. The crowd at the front of the line, who had been waiting much longer than this idiot, tried to calm him down told him that is was a small mistake, and everyone else knew it was a 10:00 opening. We told him that it was his choice to stand in line. He then became confrontational with Kris before making a few more snaps at the employee and storming off like a 2 year old throwing a tantrum. It was rather humorous, and I got it on video. He was instantly disliked by most of the crowd. An Apple employee later came out and gave the guy a t-shirt to shut him up. Apple should be like Best Buy and start firing the bad customers.
As the line got longer, the president of MacUpgrades showed up to distribute fliers for the "Win Little" Apple Reseller promotion. He showed a positive attitude towards the store (although I wonder what he really thought) and said that he still offers a level of service that Apple cannot, such as house calls. He did note that he is at a disadvantage because the Apple Store can get the high-demand products before him.
The last hour went quickly, and the line grew to at least 100 before they opened the doors, on time.
Inside the store was fun and social as usual, and I talked to a lot of people. I even met Ken, the guy who goes around making videos at every Apple Store he can get to. He estimates that he has been to over 50 locations. Someone also let me know that he had talked to someone from Channel 9, and was interested in my footage. We transferred it to Final Cut Express on one of the iMacs, and the store provided us with a miniDV tape to make a copy of for the station. I got a chance to talk to many of the employees and several visitors to the store, with wide ranges of computer knowledge. I did my best to make switchers out of some people, and it was fun having to explain to some that yes, the display is the whole computer in the iMac. Excellent design. I did find an iPod photo with no photos, and an empty iPod mini hooked up to Bose headphones, but I alerted the staff and I'm sure they'll take care of it. I still wish Apple would get an iPod photo hooked up to a computer to show that interface.
I was tired, so headed out at about 1:45. Parking cost me however much I gave the meter (thanks to the fellow customers who gave me change), plus a $35 ticket for letting it run out when I was in the store. The cop assigned to the store told me not to feel bad about it; that's just the way they are in Bethesda, so I didn't let it ruin my day.
As for the t-shirts, they are the same style as usual, in the same type of box. Designed by Apple in California and hecho en México. I heard that gave away 500 in 43 minutes. They were definitely gone by the time I left.
By the way, this is me:
Wednesday, December 8, 2004
I'm starting to check the weather forecast for Bethesda. Looks like I might have a cold and rainy night ahead of me. If I'm close enough to the front of the line, I should be kept dry by the small section of the store right outside the doors.
Sunday, December 5, 2004
Apple now has a live page for the Bethesda Row store, announcing a grand opening of Saturday, December 11th from 10 AM to 9 PM. I will be there.
Monday, November 22, 2004
According to an article in USA Today, the Bethesda Row store will be the 100th retail store. Hopefully this will make the opening more special. Of course, my presence will also be a major factor in enhancing the event, as I will increase the degree of awesomeness.
Wednesday, November 3, 2004
I have convinced a fellow student to travel to the store with me to assist with the video shoot. He's a PC user and I can't afford to hire him, so what's his incentive? He can sell his shirt on eBay, possibly for hundreds of dollars. Plus, he can use this an excuse not to study for his exams, as this weekend occurs right in the middle of finals. I'll post a link on this page as soon as the auction begins, which will most likely the evening of December 12th. Of course, I will instruct him to keep the box unopened and in pristine condition. So, if you don't feel like traveling to Bethesda and standing out in the cold for hours, tune into this website on December 12th. My shirt will not be for sale.
Friday, October 29, 2004
With information from ifo Apple Store, I drove to Bethesda to investigate the future location of a mini Apple Store located on Bethesda Avenue. According to ifo Apple Store, construction began on October 11th, and the grand opening will be on December 12th. I'll be there at some point early in the morning, again armed with a video camera.
Bethesda Row is an upscale shopping area with hotels, stores, and a variety of restaurants. It appears safe and clean, and there is plenty of metered parking, including lots and garages.
The Apple Store is located next to Cameron's Seafood Restaurant and is close to a large Barnes & Noble corner store. I was there late at night, but it appears to be a likely high foot traffic area. The entire facade was covered by a wooden shell with a door on the left side. Don't worry, they have a permit.
If you want to visit, the address of the store is:
4829 Bethesda Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814
Below is a view from across the street, right outside yet another restaurant. I'll have to prepare for a lot of people staring at me during dinner while I'm waiting outside on December 11th. See where the red car is parked? I want to get that spot.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
I got a random IM from Suzanne, who had me on her buddy list and couldn't figure out why. After asking a few questions, we figured out that we had both been to the Bethesda Row opening. When she found out that I was first in line, she let me know that Channel 9 really did use my footage! Check out the article and the video. (Video requires Windows Media Player. I apologize.) Please let me know if the article or video link goes dead, and I'll try to find an updated link. Thanks to Scott Webber (the Mac collector in the video) for getting my stuff on the air.