Why I bought my iPhone 3G at the Apple Store
I'm a recent convert to the light (I came from the Dark Side in August 2006 ), and have really enjoyed the buying experience of the Apple Store. Both last year and this year I waited in long lines to purchase my two iPhones (although my 1st gen iPhone is now effectively an (my wife's) iPod touch), and the Apple Store employees have made the wait a bit more bearable than it could have been. Last Friday, they brought out Cokes and Mountain Dews (albeit warm), locally-canned fruit juices, fresh fruit, various candies, and even popcorn!
That's not the best thing that happened, however. We reached a point where the AT&T servers crashed hard and Apple finally made the best decision possible. Since the AT&T activation office had closed, Apple gave us two choices - 1. we could either wait in line and hope that everything went through successfully, or 2. we could put our name and desired iPhone on a list to be picked up the next morning. The Apple Store employees would then find a matching iPhone and affix a Post-It note with our name on it. We only had to return the next day between 8AM and 5PM to pick it up. We were apparently to be put in a second line, separated from the people who just showed up on Saturday morning.
I chose the latter and showed up the next morning around 7:30, not knowing if my "line" was long or not, only to be told that I could simply walk straightaway into the store. My line was actually in the store, and only consisted of three people! I was literally in and out within 40 minutes, and was able to both make and receive phone calls (I was told that it may take up to 6 hours to begin receiving calls) only a short time later.
In my opinion, the Apple Store really goes out of their way to take care of their customers. None of the steps taken above needed to be taken, and with other stores/products may not be taken. The Apple Store employees even took the time to keep us constantly informed of the current activation status, then stayed behind to chat with us. It was a rather enjoyable time. I was also able to get a real good, up close and personal, look at both the black and white iPhone 3G models as all of the Apple Store employees were using them.