I Went to an Apple Store at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday to Find Out Who Buys Apple Products at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday

Among the more than 500 Apple Stores worldwide, there’s one that never sleeps. Who buys Apple products in the late hours of the night? Here's the answer.

New York’s Fifth Avenue Apple Store
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All 529 Apple Stores worldwide have opening and closing hours. All except one. I’m talking about the most famous and iconic store on New York’s Fifth Avenue at the southeast end of Central Park. It's an establishment shaped like glass cube that never closes. That's right, it's open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

With this visit, I wanted to uncover some of the unknowns of the place for our readers. Specifically, I wanted to find out who the hell decides to buy something at an Apple Store on a Tuesday at three in the morning. After all, it’s one thing to sell staples, like those found at a 24-hour pharmacy, or even a hot dog to satisfy your hunger in the late hours of the night, but quite another to go out and buy an Apple device.

An Apple Watch marking the wee hours in front of an Apple Store

Despite what you might think, an Apple Store in the city that never sleeps does have staples, at least in first world countries.

Lots of Chargers and a Yellow HomePod Mini

I approached the iconic cube just before 3:00 a.m. on an unremarkable Tuesday in June. There were very few people in sight, even though there was a typical Manhattan fast-food cart right outside the door. This cart sold pretzels and hot dogs, so I went headed over, thinking that eating a hot dog sounded like a good idea at that hour.

Access from the cube to the store, entirely subterranean The access to the Apple Store that never sleeps, which is entirely underground.

My initial head count of the entire visible area of the Apple Store was as follows: There were two security guards at the first entrance, two more in the store itself, 16 customers, 12 employees, and one person from the cleaning staff. That’s 16 customers for 17 employees, including salespeople, cleaners, and security guards. And that’s just in the store's public area: I couldn’t find out if there were more employees in the restricted area.

I went on to glance at the swarm of customers between the iPads: Surprisingly, these were people waiting for a repair. One was explaining the problem they had with their MacBook Pro to the store staff. Meanwhile, another was looking at a dead iPhone with the expression of a civil servant who just got news that they wouldn't get a raise.

Customers inside of an Apple Store in the wee hours People waiting for a technician to repair their device.

After asking a few customers what had brought them there at that time of the night—including one who barely spoke English and another who hostile to receiving questions from a stranger without an employee t-shirt—I met a woman in her 40s who looked much more innocent. She was asking a worker with a blue shirt and an Apple logo on his chest which HomePod mini was better, the yellow or the orange. (I imagine that she might be the kind of person who believes that your car will go a little faster if you paint it red).

Admiring the patience of the employee, who was unable to give her a satisfactory answer, I noticed a customer arriving with a huge yellow Samsonite suitecase and a hiking backpack full of carabiners—a contraption that's comparable to the HomePod mini, as people tend to buy much more of them than they need. I found a clue in this tourist curious about the small accessories section.

An Apple Store at wee hours

Then, claiming that it was my first visit to an Apple Store, I asked a very friendly employee why it was open at this hour while pulling down the sleeve of my jacket to hide my Apple Watch Series 7 and slipping my iPhone 13 Pro Max into my pocket.

He kindly replied with a discreet glance at the Samsonite traveler, who was possibly German, to give me my first clue: tourists. As explained by the employee, there are tourists who arrive fresh from the airport that stop by the Apple Store before going to their hotel to replace a charger, a cable, or the headphones they left at home. In another case, they might need a charging adapter when they realize the plugs are different in some parts of the world. (Special mention to the Apple Watch charging cable, the undisrupted king of being forgotten at home). As such, it's the Apple Store to the rescue.

Likewise, there are the people whose iPhones have broken down, like the guy I saw who still seated. He couldn't wait to get his phone repaired, so he went to the Apple Store at three in the morning. People even come from other cities, not just New York. And just as users come to fix their iPhones, they also come to repair their Macs, a product so critical to the professional environment that's it’s not possible to spend time without it. That’s why this Apple Store offers repairs any day at any time.

The CUD Visitors of NYC's Apple Store

The time I chose to visit the store (from 2:50 to 3:45 a.m.) was based on pure inertia and intuition. However, it ended up being useful because the store staff told me that there just so happens to be less activity between two and six o’clock in the morning. Before 2:00 a.m. is still a reasonable time for those coming after dinner or work to look around or do some leisure shopping. And after 6:00 a.m., regular life in Manhattan begins.

While I was there, a group that was larger than what it originally appeared popped in as well. It was made up of tourists who prefer to see the city at night and sleep during the day. “Some people do it because they prefer to come in when there's less hassle, with fewer customers, and have a calmer experience. Others choose to see New York at night for photography purposes, so they organize their visits in the early morning hours, whether it’s an architectural tour or coming to this Apple Store. And maybe they come at four in the morning, but it’s normal for them."

Apple Watch straps for Pride Month Apple Watch straps for Pride Month on sale at the store that never sleeps.

There are even people who come to buy devices and then resell them. “There are people who visit the U.S. and use the opportunity to buy electronics for their relatives because they find them too expensive or difficult to get in their home countries. They come to pick up five or six iPhones or two or three Macs, and they usually prefer to visit the store when there are fewer customers.”

As a humble insider, I would love to tell you more exotic stories with crazy characters about what happens at an Apple Store in the late hours of the morning. But once your curiosity is satiated, there isn’t much substance left.

I could "add color" to this story by telling you that I lifted the spirits of the room by playing a song from the Eurovision contestant Chanel at maximum volume on four pairs of HomePod mini stereo speakers (to help the lady decide which one sounded better, the yellow or the orange) and that I went upstairs to the street cart selling pretzels and came back with a mango juice to continue the party as a newly-minted DJ, but unfortunately, none of that happened. An Apple Store in the early hours is similar to McDonald’s sundae for dessert: It serves its purpose, but nothing more.

Without much more to add, I left the store to return to the hotel where I was staying. I already what happens in an Apple Store in the forbidden hours of the night. In fact, I've organized its customers into a virtuous triangle I call "CUD": the clueless, unlucky, and disoriented. In other words, the people who forgot their chargers, broke their devices, or like to take weekday night walks.

Image | Xataka On

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