One year on Black Friday, Mike Bramble waited in line for a ticket at Walmart for the chance to buy a cheap TV.
At some point that night, he realized there was probably somebody else in the Philadelphia metro area who wanted that ticket more than he did.
He put an ad on Craigslist and within five minutes, his phone was ringing off the hook. He sold his ticket, essentially a spot in line, for around $75.
That’s how Bramble, a 40-year-old auto mechanic, got paid to wait in line for the first time.
Why People Pay to Avoid Waiting in Line
“Believe it or not, it’s very easy,” Bramble says. He realized he could make some extra income this way, since his family is big on Black Friday shopping but he doesn’t need a jumbo TV or a new printer every single year.
From his point of view, if people are getting something they really want and they’re getting a great deal, they’re willing to fork over some extra cash so they don’t have to deal with the hassle. If you’ve ever shopped Black Friday — as in, stayed up all night camped outside of Best Buy — you know that it can be cold. And dark. And uncomfortable.
And sometimes, people waiting in line aren’t very nice.
“It’s nuts how crazy it gets,” Bramble says. “That’s what people are trying to avoid. Nobody wants to wait in line like that.”
Bramble is part of a growing group of entrepreneurs who have figured out that people hate waiting in line so much they’re willing to pay someone else to do it. Some people go the informal route, posting an ad or two on Craigslist when it makes sense, and others have created full-fledged businesses out of the idea. The sky’s the limit on this innovative, money-making idea.
Waiting for Cronuts, Broadway tickets and iPhones
Robert Samuel has waited in line for just about everything you can imagine in New York City — iPhones, brunch, Broadway tickets and Cronuts (those ridiculously popular pastries that blend croissants and doughnuts), to name a few.
Samuel says his business is driven by a form of social anxiety called FOMO — the fear of missing out. People don’t want to miss out on the newest pastry or technology, he says, but they’ve also got work, kids and other obligations that prevent them from waiting in long lines. Plus, some people just don’t like waiting in line.
“It’s all everyday people,” he says. “Sometimes I get a customer who can’t get out of work on time to wait for a movie premiere, or somebody on the Upper East Side who really wants a new Xbox but doesn’t want to stand in the cold for seven hours before it goes on sale. It’s a whole medley.”
Enter his business, SOLD. That stands for Same Ole Line Dudes, which Samuel started after he lost his job in 2012. In his first-ever line-waiting gig, he made $325 waiting for 19 hours for an iPhone 5.
He charges $25 for the first hour and $10 for each additional half hour. He even has special Cronut pricing — $60 to $65 gets you a pair of delicious pastries delivered. He drums up business by posting pictures of long lines on his Twitter account, showing people the inconvenience they could avoid by hiring his company.
Wait in Line, Score Cash
You can try the more informal, Craigslist route — find something that people are willing to wait in line for, go stand in said line and offer your service online to the highest bidder.
Or, consider becoming a Tasker. TaskRabbit will vet you and help you offer your line-waiting services to the masses online, with their stamp of approval to show that you’re trustworthy.
The company launched its “Skip the Line” campaign in 2013 with the release of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5. Users set their own rates, but the company suggested a price of around $14 per hour for waiting in line — you could rack up some serious change at that rate, depending on how much time you have.
Some Taskers have made up $1,500 waiting in line because other people are just that into new iPhones. We can think of a number of reasons why people would pay you to wait in line on TaskRabbit, including getting reservations at a hip new restaurant, getting into a sample sale for designer clothing or scoring first dibs on a wedding venue.
“Any time that Apple launches a new product, we see an influx of tasks on TaskRabbit,” said TaskRabbit spokesman Johnny Brackett. “Apple has a lot of true enthusiasts who can’t wait to get those phones, and there’s an obvious opportunity for us to help them out.”
Your Turn: Have you ever made money while waiting in line? Would you try it as a side business?
Sarah Kuta is an education reporter in Boulder, Colo., with a penchant for weekend thrifting, furniture refurbishment and good deals. Find her on Twitter: @sarahkuta.