Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Why Wait?

About twelve years, before I started this blog, the three of us went into New York City to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. A friend told us his fool proof plan, the time this 6 foot 3 inch man starts standing, where he stands, where he parks his car. Seemed simple. We followed the plan. We stood in the wrong place (on the only side street the police kept open for traffic). We moved. We stood behind a man holding four spots with a double stroller. The wife showed up holding a cup of coffee, complaining about the drizzling rain as the parade was starting. Had she not shown up with the kids, we would have secured the precious front row. 

Ashley was about two or three years old. Old enough to be held, and fortunately she is a good sport, but she refuses to repeat that experience. 

It was windy. It was cold. It was raining. It was miserable.

The closest we have come to doing that again was a year and a half ago when we went to see the balloons being inflated, an equally miserable experience.

Fast forward to this weekend. While standing in the "Hamilton" cancellation line (yes, again) we met Robert, owner of LineDudes. Robert, or one of the members of his 30-person staff, will wait in line for you. For only $25 for the first hour, and $20 each hour after that (minumum $45), they wait so you can sight see all day, or sleep in and get a later start to your day. There is a $5 an hour surcharge for miserable weather, up to 10 hours ($50). Totally fair!

Robert is a gregarious salesman. I've met other LineDudes, but felt I struck gold when I met Robert. About 5 years ago Robert was laid off from AT&T. He made a post on CraigsList that he would stand on line for $100 when the latest iPhone came out. Someone took him up on the offer. Before he could buy the phone for his customer, the customer bought it on line. He still paid Robert. Robert was about to leave his coveted second place in line when the customer suggested he sell his spot. I got lost in the details, but that day he made $350 for waiting around. It is not hard to wait, but why do it? Robert admits he doesn't like waiting in line when it is for himself. His story has been shared in many places, including NPR.

Robert also knew of staffers in DC who are paid to wait around and let the senators and congressmen they work for know when a bill is about to come up to vote. Robert realized this has the potential of turning into a business. When "Hamilton" tickets became THE ticket in town, and people were willing to sleep on the street next to the theater for days, Robert's business really took off. The rules have changed. You cannot line up before 3 am (don't quote me on the time). The other big change is the person who wants the ticket *must* be in line 30 minutes before the show or else they end up buying two tickets -- one for themselves and one for the LineDude, still a bargain for orchestra seats (the seats that are released are House Reserved seats in the center orchestra -- amazing seats for $229). Robert and his team are up front about the rules. They are not their rules, but the theater's rules.

I started with my Thanksgiving Day tale. Robert's team will wait for anything --
Reggie, another LineDude, was cold
and tired waiting in line
including sitting out at 3:30 am on Thanksgiving morning to secure two prime parade spots. You show up at 30 minutes before the parade, with your cup of hot chocolate, and swap out with a LineDude. If you want four spots, you pay two LineDudes. For $95 for each two places, you don't have to spend half the night on the streets of NYC.

Robert told us they have stood in line for pre-K and nursing home registrations. They will wait for the latest iPhone, and ship it to the customer. Last week he waited in line at Barnes and Nobles when President Carter was in town for a book signing. His customer couldn't swap out at the last minute, so he met the President and bought his book. While in line he met Laura, a woman blogging about completing her father's "bucket list," which her brother found thirteen years after dad passed away. Robert seems like the type of person who is always good for a story. Always makes new friends. Someone you want to be around.

As for us, one of Robert's LineDudes came over and told him he got the "Dear Evan Hanson" tickets for his client. DEH is the second hottest ticket on Broadway, another one Ashley wants to see. Ashley and I walked over there and found they did not have a cancellation line, instead we were waived into the lobby to buy a cancellation ticket for $199 -- Orchestra row O. Ashley was in heaven! We popped by the "Hamilton" line around 7:30 and hung out until 8 pm. She would have gotten in moments before the curtain went up. Instead she had time to eat dinner and see a different show.

One more story about Robert, when I gave him my card he asked if we are related to a "Robert Pillsbury." Seems "Bob" was one of his favorite bosses. It wasn't the same Bob Pillsbury as Don's dad, but it still felt like a Small World moment.

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