In Line for Profits

October 4th, 2013 by Andrea Bennett

A businessman’s plan to plant homeless people in line to buy iPhones goes wrong.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

By now, you have likely read about the chaos that ensued when Apple released its new iPhones. Around the world, people set up camp overnight, awaiting the first morning sales. “But nowhere,” wrote the Los Angeles Times, “did the sale of Apple’s latest product degenerate the way it did in Los Angeles.”

According to many reports, a businessman scheming to buy and resell the new iPhones at a profit recruited about 100 homeless people to wait in line overnight at the Pasadena Apple Store. He promised them $40, plus cigarettes and fast food to wait in line for the maximum two vouchers for the iPhone 5s and 5c.

According to a USA Today story, the deal started to go bad when the would-be reseller started bragging to other people in line about the offer. When they heard about his scheme, store personnel stopped selling the iPhone models to the “stand-ins.”

Ultimately, the angry crowd turned against the man, who was escorted away by police officers, reportedly for his own safety, but not before he’d told news crews that he wasn’t doing anything illegal, since he was paying full price for the phones.

Unfortunately for the homeless people he hired, many were left stranded and even without payment – even for a couple of people who had managed to actually get the iPhone for the man. (According to the LA Times, he was too busy being stuffed into a patrol car to pay them.)

As Lt. Jason Clawson of the LAPD related to the LA Times, there was nothing illegal about hiring people to stand in line for the man. Legal or not, say the deal had gone as planned: Would it still have been unethical for the man to hire homeless people to gather more than the maximum number of new phones for him? Or would dozens of homeless people have profited from doing service not unlike hiring day laborers? Weigh in.