How One Guy Turned Standing Around for Hours into a Full-Time Gig
We talked to a professional line sitter about 48-hour waits, bathroom breaks, and making a business out of boredom.
Armed with a lawn chair and a Netflix account, Robert Samuel will wait for just about anything. Want the latest iPhone? How about some psychedelic rainbow bagels? Maybe you're after an autograph, concert tickets, limited-edition Yeezy kicks, or a seat at a swanky bar. For $25 for the first hour and $10 for each additional 30 minutes, New York City's Same Ole Line Dudes has got you covered.
"Whatever it is, we'll do it."
Samuel means it. Lines aside, he'll even deliver cigarettes and ice to your party. If you don't live in New York and want that free Star Wars poster, Samuel will wait in line and ship it to you. Once he shows up, he'll snap a selfie and send it your way.
"You just have to have patience and you can't be bored easily," he says. "You also have to be punctual, and you have to be a people person."
The business was borne from despair. In early 2012, Samuel lost his job selling smartphones.
"I spent most of the year depressed, despondent, and looking for work," the 40-year-old New Yorker says. When the iPhone 5 launched that fall, Samuel had an idea. He posted an ad on Craigslist saying he'd be willing to queue for a hundred bucks. Someone bit. The rest is history.
"Later on that year, I decided to put a name to it and see if it could be something a little bit more legitimate—and Same Ole Line Dudes was born."
With lines snaking for hours, New York's cronut craze saw the waiting business boom in 2013. In February, Samuel ditched a security guard job to line sit full-time. He now runs a stable of 20 sitters. He mostly hires friends.
"They're people who have a lot of time on their hands," he says—students, seniors, stay-at-home moms, and war vets all linked by a need for extra cash.
When in line, Samuel passes the time shooting the shit with his neighbours. He figures he's clocked more than 50,000 hours in lines.
"If you're standing in line and you're not saying a word to anybody, it's going to drip and go very slowly," he says. Netflix and Pandora help too. "One of my guys, he reads a lot. He reads actual books!"
Layering up is important. And if it's raining, snowing, or below freezing, Same Ole Line Dudes charges a $5 an hour premium. The sitters don't mind—armed with stadium chairs, sleeping bags, or one-person tents, they are prepared for anything.
"When you're in line with people who are there for as many hours as you are, they know you're first, so you don't have to worry about losing your spot to go to the bathroom."
They'll even order food to their lines. And no one, Samuel adds, ever gets angry.
"That's the reason why we're talking to people," he says. "If we're nice and friendly and we're saying, 'Hi, you're going to get skipped by a family of four!' but we're doing it with a smile, we don't have any issues."
Competition comes from couriers, TaskRabbit, and randoms off Craigslist, but as the head of the only professional line-sitting company in New York City, Samuel is unfazed.
"It's 8.5 million people who live here and millions more who visit—we keep pretty busy," he says. "Who's the originator? Who did it first? And who's doing it the best? It's Same Ole Line Dudes."
Samuel's longest wait was 48 hours to nab a client an iPhone 6s. This year, one of his sitters put in a whopping 52 hours to get a kid a free spot at an exclusive New Jersey preschool.
"Pre-K goes for as much for $16,000, so to be able to pay $1,000 to register and be first in line for free pre-K? That was a super bargain." Yikes.
Broadway's Hamilton has also been a boon to business.
"The only way to see it without giving your first born to Ticketmaster or StubHub is to stand in the cancellation line," he says. Waits can last for more than a day.
"There was one freezing night when somebody came along and brought us a whole pizza pie, and somebody else brought us coffee because they thought we were homeless," he laughs. "They didn't realize we were standing in line waiting for a Broadway show!"
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