The Apple Store, the Mob and Twenty Burners Running iOS 4.1

IMG_0020 - Version 2

“What do you mean you didn’t get the money?… Where’s my damn money, then?… Fine, leave it under the door of the garage tomorrow morning.”

Apple Stores are inevitably a unique place, however, the Manhattan 5th Avenue store seems to be a mecca for strange. Its open access to the Internet, phones and restrooms leads it to be a haven for the transient. The drunk, the mentally ill, the homeless — all segments of the population converge late at night. One look through the call history of a random iPhone reveals a long list of Chinese phone numbers and names, the trail of cunning tourists thwarted by blocked international calling.

Stranger yet, and a bit more nefarious, at a recent visit was the behavior of a duo of street-tough men with serious dispositions hovering over a demo iPhone. Standing adjacent, childishly indulging in FaceTime-ing myself, it became clear that whoever the other parties to their outbound calls were, they had not delivered on money owed. Bookies or ‘collection agents,’ one could infer. The consequences of failure, the caller more than implied, would be severe. The call ended, stares were made in my direction and I backed away with my usual tact (read: moving five feet away and taking a picture).

It was interesting to watch them tag team the target device. One would wander around the Mac section, while the other would stay next to the phone until they traded off. With the busyness of the store, it was easy to see how this behavior would go undetected. The Apple store, after all, is one big bank of phones with free incoming/outbound calling and little oversight. A perfect place if you are more concerned with private retribution than public justice, or not as cleaver as you think.

Perhaps Apple’s security policies hadn’t occurred these newfound converts. Or the cameras. Or the phone bill.