This week, the New York Times tells the story of Robert Samuel, a 39-year-old security guard who also earns money as a professional line sitter:
Two weeks ago, he waited in line for 38 hours at the Apple Store in the meatpacking district for the iPhone 6. He has risen at the crack of dawn for “Macbeth” tickets at the Park Avenue Armory, elbowed through sample sales for $750 Christian Louboutin heels, and bought enough Cronuts to feed a small army.
Why did Samuel decide to sell his time so that other people could better use theirs? Like many entreprenurial stories, he decided to become his own boss after losing a job—ironically enough, he was fired for being late one too many times. Now he’s up early, getting his place in line at 4 a.m. so that someone else can sleep.
If you’d like to become a professional line sitter, you can either use Craigslist, as Samuel does, or pick up line sitting jobs on gig economy sites like TaskRabbit. You can also think about the type of world in which we live, a world in which artificial product scarcity inflates customer expectation and creates high-profile “launch events” which provide opportunity for professional line-sitters to earn money in exchange for being a human marker. A world in which a man with a full-time job spends another 38 hours at his second job, except he has to do all 38 of those hours consecutively.
Samuel told the NYT that he charges “$25 for the first hour and $10 for each additional half-hour” (which seems to suggest that he finds his time less valuable as the hours stretch on) and that he accepts Chase QuickPay along with PayPal and Venmo.
Well, now we know who uses Venmo.
Those of you who know me know that there are a handful of brands I love so much that I shill them perpetually on my favorite social media channels: Fireball whiskey, the Gorilla Workout, Amtrak, and of course Jimmy John’s, home of the best sandwich in the entire world, the Number 6 With Pep.
I order Jimmy John’s more than I care to admit; at $8 for the sandwich and the freaky fast delivery, it’s an extremely justifiable expense, plus there’s a long stupid Proustian thing about how the sandwiches remind me of adult independence and happiness that I just don’t want to get into right now. (To make a long story short: some of my most formative moments occurred in the company of a Jimmy John’s sandwich, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that keeps happening.)
Which is why I regret to inform you that two Jimmy John’s employees have filed a lawsuit against Jimmy John’s, to wit:
When I was a kid, my father would devise a cheap lunch that consisted of taking me to Costco to snack on some free samples, and then we’d split the $1.50 hot dog and soda combo in the food court (it’s still $1.50 today—an amazing deal after taking inflation into account). This was done more out of necessity than frugality, though I was unaware of it at the time. I was more fixated on that fact that stores gave all those samples away for free.
The Atlantic writes that this is a tactic that actually boosts sales, builds loyalty, and occasionally gets people to buy things they wouldn’t have picked up at the store in the first place:
Ariely adds that free samples can make forgotten cravings become more salient. “What samples do is they give you a particular desire for something,” he says. “If I gave you a tiny bit of chocolate, all of a sudden it would remind you about the exact taste of chocolate and would increase your craving.”
But maybe the most interesting part of this story has less to do with the premise of the Atlantic article, which is to examine the psychology behind free samples; it’s about the labor behind free samples and you’d miss it if you didn’t read until the very end:
Here’s another “Would You Rather:” would you rather not have a job, or spend around 100 days in a NASA bed rest facility watching your muscles decay?
NASA has re-opened its application process for individuals interested in becoming subjects in the CFT 70 Countermeasure and Functional Testing in Head-Down Tilt Bed Rest study. To quote NASA: “Head down bed rest is a good way to mimic a person traveling in space without gravity.”
And sure, we’re all going to try a little head down bed rest this evening to see if it really feels like floating through space, but only a handful of us are going to apply to spend “70 days lying in bed, with your body slightly tilted downward.”