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Diary of a somebody - life in iPhone 4 land

The story of a sales monkey at a phone shop

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Our correspondent works at a phone store somewhere in the UK. We can't tell you which, because if we do he'll probably lose his job. What we can tell you is that it's one of the ones without any iPhones...

June 23rd 08:00 Arrived in work to wait on the delivery. The new iPhone is due out tomorrow so it should hopefully be chock full of them. There does seem to be significantly more excitement about this launch than the 3GS. Maybe it's because it's on more networks, maybe it's because of the revolutionary new features like a flash. Who knows? Tomorrow should be a good sales day.

08:20 Just opened up the delivery. I contains exactly no iPhone 4's. Hmm, they must be coming in on their own delivery later.

08:49 Logged onto the employee communication system. Apparently the iPhone 4 comes out tomorrow and it is a massive opportunity to blah blah blah. Also there is a football match on today so it is important that we remember that customers are our first priority and yadda yadda yadda...

08:57 People are queuing outside my shop. I open early to let them in. "Can we reserve an iPhone 4?" No, it will be first come first served, sorry. "Can we give you a deposit for one?" No, we have been told we are not allowed to prioritise any customers. Sorry. "We'll give you £50 each to hold them for us." Thanks but no thanks, I don't fancy job hunting in this economy. I take their details and agree to call them once I know what stock levels will be like.

10:20 Still no sign of the iPhone 4. Just had a communication from the company that they want us to open an hour early on launch day. An hour less in bed. Super.

11:27 Just had a special non-scheduled delivery of iPhone 4... posters. There is a lot of chatter on email that the company has very limited stock so we might only get a couple each. Great, it's going to be the 3G launch all over again.

13:39 So far today I have had 19 people asking about the iPhone 4. That is more contracts than most sales people sell in a week. To give Apple their due they are VERY good at getting the hype levels up.

14:17 Due to demand direct sales have been given a head start on selling out the iPhone 4 and will be contacting certain customers today. Uh what?! Is the company actively trying to ensure stores have insufficient stock to meet demand?

16:28 Just had a customer calling me an incompetent idiot because I couldn't guarantee him an iPhone 4 for tomorrow. He brags about how successful he is and about how he always gets what he wants And then spends about five minutes berating me for my refusal to promise things I may not be able to deliver. I consider calling him a yuppie oxygen thief who is lucky to be able afford an iPhone as the poor wraiths who make it never will be able to buy one on their salaries of $90. I don't. He continues telling me how this is no way to run a business and that I'll never go anywhere. I consider telling him to get a grip and stop acting like a petulant, spoiled toddler as it is, ultimately, just a phone. I don't. I smile and apologise for the inconvenience. He calls me an idiot again and storms out. What is it about Apple products that makes otherwise rational human beings behave like complete maniacs?

17:05 Just had final confirmation from the company, out of the 20 odd stores in the region only three are getting any stock. The biggest store of these is only getting 13. Tomorrow is going to be a bloodbath. Time to phone lots of people and disappoint them.

18:17 I lock up the shop and walk to the train station. On my way I pass the Apple store. Already people are outside with chairs and sleeping bags. My heart sinks.

June 24th 6:00 My alarm is beeping. I look at my watch and wonder why my alarm is set so early. I remember. It's iPhone 4 non-launch day. I get ready and leave for the shop.

07:30 I pass the Apple store, there must be at least a few hundred people queuing outside now. I walk the short distance to my shop and find six people waiting. I break the bad news about the stock situation. One looks like he is going to cry. Upon logging onto the company communications system there is a patronising message telling me there is almost no stock of the iPhone 4 and suggesting I might want to try and sell other phones instead. Thanks for that, marketing geniuses at head office.

08:00 I open the shop early as ordered. Immediately I am pounced on by someone who was waiting outside. He tells me the nearby O2 store only got nine iPhone 4's delivered. I tell him that is nine more than us. He runs off muttering that he is going to try another national retailer. I wish him luck.

09:17 So far today I have had to turn away almost as much business as we do in an entire month. Part of me wonders if this scarcity of product isn't cynically engineered to maximise hype. No other phone manufacturer has these stock issues at launch every single time they launch a product.

There is a new communication from head office. The iPhone 4 is only available on upgrade till an unspecified time in the future. Oh, and employees are banned from buying one on pain of dismissal.

09:27 A new missive from head office, O2's upgrade line is swamped and is close to falling over. I get a call from a former colleague in another phone retailer. Apparently they got no stock either - at least it's not just us.

11:30 Far from being one of the biggest sales days of the year this is turning out to be one of the quietest. This "launch" is either clusterfuck of epic proportions or an equally epic marketing coup. I can't quite work out which.

"iPhone 4. This changes everything. Again." The only thing I see changing is my choice of job. ®

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