Saturday, March 29, 2014

What it's like to wait in lines for a living



New Yorkers will wait on line for just about anything—pastries, Supreme tee shirts, designer collaborations, iPads—but given the chance, a few would prefer to pay someone else to do it for them. Enter the world of professional line sitting—a gig that's now so legitimate there are Yelp reviews, Twitter accounts, and business cards for the services.

One group in particular is everywhere: Same Ole Line Dudes, or SOLD Inc, which Chelsea resident Robert Samuel started almost unknowingly at the iPhone 5 launch. ...


Who are your customers? Are they people who are really obsessed, or are they really rich?

It's a mix. I have two or three uber rich clients. One that lives in Palm Beach and another that lives on Park Avenue. One wants Cronuts a lot [for] whenever friends come to visit from out of town. The other end of the spectrum is people who don't have time and want to get a head start on the line. ...

What's the longest time you've ever waited?

19 hours for the iPhone. That was how the whole idea of line sitting came about. I was an employee at AT&T, and I lost my job. I wanted to supplement my income because I used to sell iPhones, and this time I wasn't going to be able to sell them and make a big commission check. I live a few blocks from the Apple store on 14th Street, so I said, "Let me wait in line for somebody else and make them happy."

The guy that hired me cancelled and said he wasn't going to use me—he was just going to get it online but that he was still going to pay me. He paid me $100 and I resold the spot and made another $100, and then I called my friends and told them to come on down, because I just made $200 standing in one spot on a weekday afternoon.

They came down and took up spaces, but after a while they got tired and went upstairs to my house and hung out, and I ended up selling one of their spots. I also sold milk crates for $5 a piece that I had in my house. At this point, the line was getting long and people didn't want to stand, and some people didn't want to sit on cardboard on the floor, so my milk crates came in handy at $5 a pop. That's $325. ...

Do you charge by the hour, or is it a flat rate?

It's per hour. It's $25 for the first hour and $10 for each additional half hour. ...

Do people ever get mad when the person who paid you to wait shows up and switches with you?

That hasn't happened, and that's been one of my biggest fears. ...

I always tell people that if you want us to wait in line for you, it has to be an even ratio. That's what keeps it calm. If you want to come with a girlfriend that's fine, just tell me how many people are coming. If it's four, then we'll reserve four waiters. ...

How many people do you have working for you?

I have fifteen people that are interested and about seven that actually respond to my texts for jobs. ...

What do you do when you have to go to the bathroom?

There's a loyalty between people standing in line—an unspoken code, so to speak. In my experience of doing this, which is a little over a year and half, it's never been a problem. No one's going to say, "You move your feet you lose your space." I just say, I'm going to the bathroom, and find the nearest Starbucks and offer to get them a coffee or something.