I am one of the thousands of crazy idiots who got up at the crack of dawn to be first in line to get a BlackBerry Storm on the day of its US release on November 21. This is a brief (and light-hearted) description of what the process was like–in case you ever feel crazy enough to try this for yourself.
If you are a BlackBerry fanatic, you know how frustrating it is hearing of the promised release date of an ultra-cool new model of BlackBerry only to have your hopes dashed when that promised date is slipped again…and again…and again.
Why does this happen? Rumors include stories of product defects, software glitches, battery problems…but you never really know for sure (unless you’re one of the insiders who are sworn not to tell).
Advice: Until a release date is officially announced to be firm, don’t take any other predictions seriously. It will only add to your anxiety or disappointment.
I visited my favorite BlackBerry store which, in my case, is a Verizon Wireless corporate store located in Macon, Georgia, to get the latest word on the release date. Yes, I knew what was being said on the web, but most of it appeared to be only speculation. A popular approach to blogging today is to simply steal some other site’s news or opinion and re-post it as your own (occasionally with links back to the original story, as if that resolves the copyright violation). I hope you have noticed that on newBBie.com, I try extra hard to be original, or at least different.
My local Verizon sales reps and store managers were very gracious and understanding and passed on whatever they knew or were allowed to tell. They were also taking the pulse of their local customer base to prepare for the onslaught of fanatics when the release date became firm. They seemed to be genuinely concerned about the potential response the Storm could bring.
So, they warned me that (1) the number of first-day units they (and other stores) would receive would be very limited, and (2) there would be some (not sure how many) crazy customers prepared to camp out (literally) the night before. Great info to know!
They also informed me of options. They knew their store would be receiving only 21 (!) Storms on Day 1, and they knew they would be grabbed up as quickly as their staff could process the orders. Customers would be limited to one Storm only. An option for the less fanatical was to pre-order a phone and have it shipped with a promised delivery (in this case) of four days. Of course, I would not be taking option 2.
Oh–the Verizon store manager (I think his name is Charles), promised to be on-site at 5 AM with coffee and donuts for those who arrive early. How cool is that?!
Advice: Do prepare in advance. Your local store reps/managers can’t know for sure what’s going to happen, but they have the best information available. And, in my opinion, they sincerely want to help.
My plan was what the military might designate a pre-dawn horizontal insertion (I learned that kind of phrase during the last Gulf War; parachuting in would make it a vertical insertion–I would be taking a land route):
- Check the predicted weather conditions: It was going to be cold, at least by November-in-the-Deep-South standards, and possibly windy.
- Prepare equipment and supplies: I envisioned a line of people, jockeying for position at the VZW main entrance. It would be critical to hold my ground to keep my place in line. For hours, probably. So, I would need..
- A good folding chair.
- Sufficient warm clothes, gloves, etc. to withstand hours of cold and wind.
- Snacks: granola bars, maybe some fruit.
- Something to pass the time: a good book, a flashlight (with fresh batteries), and my reading glasses.
- Prepare for contingencies: What if I had an opportunity to sit in my car?
- My laptop, with fully-charged battery.
- Just in case, an AC inverter for my car cigarette lighter in case my laptop battery ran low.
- OK, this may be a stretch, but…what if a stunningly beautiful woman shows up to wait in line but didn’t prepare as masterfully as I had. No chair. No warm coat. No snacks. I need to take extra stuff just for her. Yeah, that could happen. Good thinking on my part.
Finally, The Mission Begins
Immediately, a problem arises. I had planned to take my teenage daughter and a host of her friends to the opening night of the Twilight movie. I phone the theatre in advance for showtimes, and all the recording reveals is that there is a midnight sneak preview–on the night before the Storm release.
So, I’m on the way to the Twilight movie midnight preview, thinking of how little sleep I’m going to get before arising the next morning to drive 35 miles (yes, 35 miles) to the Verizon store to wait in line for the Storm.
I get home from the movie (it was great, by the way–but the books are better) at about 2:45 AM. Tomorrow is a work day. And the release of the Storm. I set my BlackBerry alarm (yes, I really use my BB as an alarm clock) and try to sleep. I don’t sleep well at all.
I get up at some ungodly hour–I can’t remember exactly when–and shower, dress, eat a little breakfast, drink some coffee, and hit the road. A little later than I had hoped, but it was the best I could manage.
As I approach the Verizon store, I imagined a line of people already waiting at the door. I strain my eyes and…NO! I see what looks like a long line of people already lined up alone the building right up to the door. More people than the 21 Storms the manager said the store had been allocated. All my planning down the drain?
But as I got closer, it turned out to be just a line of shrubs planted along the side of the building. No people, just bushes. Phew!
And only one car in the entire parking lot–YES!
OK, this story is getting kinda long, so I’ll try to pick up the pace.
I park and walk over to the only other car in the lot and chat with the driver. Yes, he’s a fanatic, too. He just got there 10 minutes earlier.
And get this: the store manager comes out to welcome us, and gives us a colorful Storm card with a ticket number on it. The other guy gets ticket #1, and I get ticket #2. Since there are multiple reps at the sales counter, we’re both going to be first in line. So far, it looks like Verizon has really planned this day pretty well. And we got to wait in our cars and not stand in line. Excellent!
To finish up this long-winded story, here are some key happenings along the way:
- Way more people showed up than were able to actually get a Storm. 21 just wasn’t enough. Those of us who did our advance planning were rewarded.
- Overall, the service at this Verizon Wireless store was extraordinary.
- I was thrown off by some unexpected and disappointing changes by RIM:
- I had to purchase a car charger, even though I own several duplicates already, because RIM decided to use a different mini-USB connector on the Storm–different from that of the Pearl, Curve, etc. Fortunately, the sales rep knew that and advised me of that change.
- I had to purchase a case (sleeve) because the Storm does not come with one in the box. Since a BlackBerry is designed to be “aware” of the sleeve (for ringing behavior), I really depend on having a proper sleeve.
- Unlike my previous BlackBerry purchases, the technical reps were required to set up one email account on the phone themselves. Not sure why, but that slowed down things a lot. Other people in line were giving them wrong passwords, etc., and it was taking way too long.
- My tech rep accidentally locked the keyboard and was having trouble getting it unlocked. The screen says to press the lock button to unlock it. Well, the lock button-looking icon on the screen, when clicked, didn’t do anything at all. Turns out there are a couple of icons on the top side of the Storm that don’t even look like buttons. But when you press them, the case actually clicks. So, that’s how you unlock the screen, not using anything actually on the screen.
- It took me a little over an hour to get my Storm in my hands. I was very late to work.
If you read this far, you must be a special BlackBerry fan. If you were a first-day idiot like me, too, then I’m interested in how your experience compared to mine. If you are not an idiot, but plan on being one in the future, I hope this gives you a better idea of what your day might be like.