By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Despite hazardous roads and subfreezing temperatures, customers weren’t deterred Thursday morning from getting their hands on the iPhone 4 through Verizon Wireless for the first time.
North Mississippi district manager Lori Singleton said she and store employees arrived at the North Gloster Street location about 5 a.m. to find several customers waiting for the store’s scheduled 7 a.m. opening.
“There were five or six already here, but we went ahead and let them inside,” she said.
“But we didn’t have anybody pitching a tent or building a bonfire,” she added with a laugh.
By mid-morning, when much of the snow and ice melted, customer traffic had picked up, she said.
“It’s been successful so far,” she said. “We’ve been really pleased with the response.”
Singleton’s district includes stores in Forrest City, Ark., in addition to Mississippi stores in Southaven, Columbus, Starkville and soon, Oxford.
Across the country, customers were snapping up phones at Verizon stores, Best Buy stores and selected Walmarts.
ATamp&T has had exclusive rights to offer wireless service for the Apple iPhone until this year. Verizon customers were able to pre-order the iPhone 4 last week, but Thursday was the first day customers could buy them at a Verizon store.
The initial turnout may not have been quite what some distributors had expected, and a Verizon spokeswoman said a combination of online pre-orders and the weather may have affected early sales.
“This was the first day the phone was available in stores but the third day that customers could actually buy them. So when you do that and you add the frigid temperatures, yes, the lines aren’t where we expected them to be,” spokeswoman Brenda Raney said.
“But we’re more interested that the customers who walked out were satisfied and we’re very happy with that,” Raney said, adding: “Lines are not our goal.”
Existing Verizon customers were allowed to pre-order their iPhones for delivery before the Thursday deadline, and the company said it experienced record sales on the day it began accepting orders online.
Singleton said customers had been asking for several weeks about the iPhone and were eagerly anticipating Thursday’s rollout.
The 16-GB model of the iPhone 4 is sold for $199.99, with the 32-GB costing $100 more.
Singleton said the cheaper model had been the biggest seller.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.