As those of you who have kept up with my story for awhile know, I work in Telco (for those of you who haven’t – surprise!). While Telco has a tendency to get busy over Christmas (like all retail), we have a different time of year that brings out the crazy in all our customers, and people storming through the doors. For us, this happens every September, when Apple announce their latest iGadget and the world goes into meltdown.
There are two types of people who work in Telco – those who can’t stand iPhone launches, and those who live for them. I am in the latter category, which is lucky, as the iPhone 7 launch was my fifth one, although first in this job. I worked the 4s, 5, 5s and 6 launches, although unfortunately missed out on the 6s as I was between jobs at the time. You’d think the novelty would have worn off by now, but you’d be wrong. If anything, my excitement grows every year. Seriously, this is my Christmas. I count down to it. I love knowing all the nitty, gritty details about what the plan is for the day in advance. I love reading up on the new phone, ready to answer all the questions that will come flying at me that day. Previously, I’d spend hours designing posters advertising accessory packs, and drooling over which cases we could have in stock by launch day. iPhone launch is my thing.
This year promised to be my biggest launch yet – not necessarily for the turnout, but just that I work in the biggest Telco store in the country, a store where the media flock to on a frequent basis. I’ve never experienced something like that before, and it was so exciting knowing it was coming up.
Let’s step back though. Back several weeks. In fact, let’s go back a couple of months. This is the quietest time in the Telco year. The calm before the storm. Our store is right in the middle of two of the busiest roads in the country, so we are always pretty chaotic. The closer it got to September though, the more often I found myself looking around, expecting a customer to serve, and instead got nothing. It was a nice change, but I also knew it wouldn’t last. The one thing all Telco employees hate in this lead-up though is the customers who walk in, proclaiming they know all about the upcoming iPhone and when it will be released and what features it will have. They believe that because they have mastered how to type “new iPhone” into Google, that they suddenly know more than anyone in the shop, and refuse point blank to believe that anything they read could be a rumour, or made up. They don’t understand how secretive Apple are, and how very little Telco employees know – I can tell you we get told absolutely nothing. As far as I’m aware, even Apple employees themselves don’t get told anything. It’s all on a need-to-know basis with Apple, and as frontline staff, we definitely do not need to know. So sorry, Mr Customer, if I take what you’re telling me with a very large grain of salt.
The calm goes right through until Apple’s Keynote announcement, which for Aussies, happens at 3am. From then on, things start picking up again in store, if only for customers walking in, asking to see the phone, and getting frustrated and/or disappointed when we say “it isn’t out yet, it was just announced, come back in a week”. Still, the storm is well and truely brewing. The other reason people come in is for pre-orders, which I still find a fairly new concept, as Apple only allowed this for the last three launches. Prior to that, it was line up or risk missing out. I’m on the fence about pre-orders – on one hand it’s great as it means customers can get their new iToys quickly without having to take time off work, but on the other, it dampens the spirit of iPhone launch a little bit. I still remember iPhone 4s launch clear as day, with lines snaking around the shopping complex as people eagerly waited for the chance to grab their own device. The atmosphere is electric because the people in line knew they’d be the first in the world to get them, and rightly so, as they braved the elements camping out for it. Now, with pre-orders, people can arrange a phone delivered to their home or office on launch day, all with a couple of clicks. Not really the same vibe.
Anyway, launch day eve finally rolls around. In this massive store, an incredible amount of planning has gone into the day, right down to where each staff member is sitting and when they’re going on lunch. Nobody knows if there will be ten people or a thousand people waiting the next day. Hell, we don’t even know for sure what stock we’ll have. All we know is, the storm is about to bare down on us, and we need to be ready to ride it out, whether it’s gritting your teeth and fighting through it, or like me – grabbing a surfboard and enjoying the ride!
Safe to say I didn’t get much sleep the night before. I was rostered to start at 7am, but got there well before 6.30. I was buzzing with excitement, so much so I could barely contain myself. There had been people camping out, but only a handful. Still, that wasn’t much of an indication of how the day would go, as most of our customers work in the city and would no doubt come in closer to starting-time.
We all grabbed our laptops, food and caffeinated beverages, and listened to the managers give pep talks. We were given a run down of the plans (again) and told where we’d be sitting. We then headed downstairs, where they’d set up a red carpet, a DJ booth and bowls and bowls of candy for the customers. The media were already out in force, with at least 3 different major news carriers there, waiting to film the first customer collecting his iPhone. There were also famous footy players there to add to the hype. We all got into a group behind them, where photos were taken, and video was captured that landed on several news stations.
As with all launches, we aren’t allowed to sell any of the phones until 8am. God help you if you sell one before then! Apple have ways to track this and you don’t want to piss off one of the largest companies in the world.
As 8am crept closer, we met with all the customers in the line, and then the countdown began. I’m talking a literal countdown, like on NYE. Then the doors opened, the the first customer came through the doors, with the media swarming him, asking what it was like to camp out overnight and what it felt like to be one of the first people in the world to get an iPhone 7. We all got our own customers, and the day was off.
The media hung around for most of the morning, filming everything we were doing. We had managers walking around, trying to feed us sugar, and our barista was handing out coffees by the trayful. The music was pumping and all the customers seemed to enjoy the set up. Despite being very early in the morning for someone like me, I was loving every second of it.
By midday, my excitement levels had dropped off a little. There weren’t as many customers as we’d been hoping for (thanks mostly to our record number of pre-orders), and exhaustion had begun to set in. By the last hour of my (very long) shift, I was a walking zombie. I couldn’t even fain excitement any more. My legs hurt, my eyes were drooping and even my crush couldn’t lift my spirits much. I’ve never felt that exhausted that early on a launch day. Usually, I can work through from 7am to 10pm at night and still be buzzing. I think it came down to the fact that we wound up sitting around a lot instead of being constantly go-go-going, which gave me time to realize how wrecked I was.
Overall, it was a fun day, but I was extremely glad to be told I could leave half an hour early. The second I got home, I flicked on the TV and counted how many times I was on it – multiple times over three different stations. Once the news ended, I went straight to bed and slept like the dead.
And if you think that iPhone launch ending also brings the end to the storm, you are dead wrong. It has been, and will continue to be, absolutely crazy busy for the next several months. Some days this is great as it makes the shift fly by, and other times, it’s like walking straight into hell. You are constantly surrounded by masses of people, and when stock is out (which is 90% of the time right now), the only question on everyone’s lips is “when is it back in?”, which we never have an answer for.
Regardless of any of this, next September will leave me counting down until launch again. It’s addictive and electric and if there comes a day when I’m not in Telco, I’m going to sorely miss it.
How many of you have gotten the new iPhone?