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Photogenic Young Women Keep Sending Robots to Buy Their New iPhones

Let's face it, those ladies with iPads on Segways are probably trolling us.

Brianna Lempesis in Palo Alto (left) and Lucy Kelly in Sydney.


Today at the Palo Alto Apple Store, one iPhone customer made headlines for sending a telepresence robot to wait in line for the newest phone. With TV cameras aimed at her smiling i-face and feathered blond hair, Brianna Lempesis queued up without having to muster the stamina to stand around among strangers for hours. 

Her high-tech workaround struck a nerve with Twitter users, some of whom griped about it—“She should be allowed to buy an image of her iPhone,” tweeted one—or even expressed hope that her robot would be destroyed

“I’m in line like everybody else, I just have a different body,” Lempesis told ABC News. “Some people have left chairs here and they're not really here, so I feel like I'm being really fair by being here and I'm committed to being here the entire time.” 

Could it be a coincidence that, hours earlier and 7,500 miles away in Sydney, another photogenic millennial did the same thing? Twenty-two-year-old Lucy Kelly sent an iPad on a Segway-style scooter to the Apple Store to stand in line, where this guy in a Tinder shirt made sure to snap selfies with her. Kelly chirped away, chatting with other linewaiters, and went about her day at home, at one point taking a nap and even making some Vegemite toast in the telepresence of her fellow Appleheads. If the whole thing sounds like a perfect commercial—the future is bright, frictionless, and full of spreadable yeast!—that’s because it was.

Kelly is a marketing communications manager for an Australian outfit called Atomic 212, and her boss bragged to Ad News that the stunt has been the fastest and largest viral social media campaign perhaps ever in Australia. (Hmm.) “At last count the campaign has been covered by more than 1200 global media outfits including national television news in the US, UK, Australia, China and many more,” crowed Atomic 212 CEO Jason Dooris.

Once Atomic 212's robot made the purchase, the Apple associate hung Kelly's bag on the bot's microphone, and she motored it through Sydney’s city center to a prearranged location, where colleagues picked up the package. 

As for Lempesis, who powered the Palo Alto robot, she was sitting far away, in San Diego. (What, they don’t have Apple Stores in San Diego?) Sending a robot to fetch a phone that’s more than 450 miles away somewhat defeats the purpose of the immediate gratification that inspires Appleheads to queue up a full 24 hours ahead of the start of sales. Couldn’t she have pre-ordered online? Or paid a real person to stand there for her, who’s presumably cheaper than a $16,000 piece of machinery? 

We can’t confirm that Lempesis’s robot stunt is part of a marketing campaign. But what are the odds that the robot pilots making the rounds in the news are both photogenic young women that most people would be all too happy to take remote selfie with? Let's just say that if you want to be among the first owners of the new iPhone, there are much, much easier ways.

According to NBC San Diego, Lempesis jumped through some extraordinary hoops to make the robot purchase make sense. She set up everything in advance with the store manager, arranging to pay by credit card. Then she planned, per NBC, to “lock herself (or her robot) in the store and fly up to the Bay Area on Monday to get her hands—her real ones—on her new purchase in the flesh.” What? If Lempesis had just ordered during the online presale, she’d probably already be playing Angry Birds on her new 6S.

From here, our robot future still looks like it's powered by established methods like air travel, phone calls, and good old person-to-person handoffs, so there's no need to give up on civilization and move to the wilderness just yet.


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