California man's plan to hire homeless for iPhones ends in brawl

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 4:53am

An overnight camp-out for the new iPhone turned chaotic when two men were arrested for fighting outside an Apple Store in California and a man's plan to hire homeless people to wait in line for the coveted devices backfired.

Tempers flared after a group of homeless people were recruited by an enterprising businessman to buy more of the coveted phones, but were then not paid for queuing up all night.

Dominoe Moody told the Los Angeles Times he was driven the 16 kilometres to Pasadena from Los Angeles with several vans of people to wait in line overnight.

"It didn't go right. I stood out here all night," Moody, 43, said, adding that he had no way to get back to Los Angeles. Most of those hired to wait in line were not paid by the man, he said, estimating that the man recruited up to 80 people, promising them each US$40, cigarettes and fast food.

When the doors to the store finally opened, the deal seemed to fall apart. According to various accounts, the businessman - who refused to identify himself - had arranged for the homeless people to be given vouchers enabling them to buy the phones.

"The phones are for me. I have a company that resells the phones for a profit. It's not against the law to buy them. I'm buying them at full retail price," he said, adding that he sold the devices overseas for more than US$1,000 each.

But he had not given his homeless hires money to actually buy the phones, so when they flooded the store, they found most of their vouchers useless. A mad scramble ensued.

The businessman managed to buy at least a handful of phones before the store ordered him to leave. He then declined to pay the homeless people whose vouchers were not used, witnesses and police said. An exhausted crowd erupted in anger.

Police said two people were arrested over fights in the iPhone line, but that they would not investigate because "it's not a police issue; it's a business issue".

Pasadena was not the only place where people in need were hired to stand in line for the new phones.

In Santa Monica, California, a man paid two unemployed people in cash and McDonald's hamburgers to wait in line overnight. And in London, an entrepreneur set up a massage table for the weary.

The demand has analysts predicting Apple will sell up to 7.75 million iPhones over the weekend, topping last year's debut-weekend record of five million.

The projections, along with limited supplies of gold iPhone 5S models, shows pent-up demand for Apple gadgets and also underscores how the company has maintained customer loyalty - even as sales and profit growth slowed and shares fell amid stiff competition with Samsung and others.

McClatchy Tribune, Associated Press, Bloomberg