My Snapchat Spectacles quest: Lessons from six hours in line

CNET's Alfred Ng succeeded in buying the video-recording glasses at an NYC pop-up store Monday. But he could have used an extra pair of socks.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
4 min read
Enlarge Image

Would-be customers lined up outside hoping to get in, despite security guards warning them that no more people would be allowed in today.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The massive line wrapped around the block across the street from Central Park, near 59th Street and Fifth Avenue.

It's a common sight for that area, considering Apple 's flagship Manhattan store is right there. But the queue of hyped-up millennials -- and a few dads getting gifts -- wasn't for the latest iPhone . (That was on September 16.)

The line Monday morning stretching to 60th Street was for Snapchat's Spectacles, a $130 pair of video-recording glasses that sends 10-second clips to your phone from your face, as if your eyes are the camera. They've been the most talked-about pair of shades in the tech world as Snap Inc. continues to drop vending machines by surprise in secret locations.

This is the first time the Spectacles machine has been on the East Coast, with the previous pop-up vending machines sprinkled for 24-hour periods across California and in Oklahoma.

Unlike its predecessors, New York's Spectacles vending machine is here to stay...at least until New Year's Eve. But I wasn't going to wait till then. I saw the pop-up shop around 7:30 a.m. Eastern when I got reception on the Q train on the Manhattan Bridge, and headed straight for Central Park.

Enlarge Image

If you're looking for the purchase location in New York you can't miss it-- this giant banner across from Apple's flagship store will stand out.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While the vending machines in other locations were pretty hidden, you couldn't miss this one. Snapchat 's eye logo was plastered across the top of the Midtown building, bigger than most billboards. I hopped in line about 8 a.m. thinking I was going to get a pair by noon at the latest.

I was wrong.

Learn from my wait

Here are some quick tips for making your Spectacles-buying experience in Manhattan smoother than mine:

Bundle up!: If I had known I'd be standing in line for Spectacles today, I'd have worn two pairs of snow pants and a ski mask just to stay warm. Winter has arrived, and it shows no mercy, even to eager Spectacles buyers. The machine is there until New Year's Eve, so maybe the weather will be warmer in the next month (thanks, global warming), but for this next week anyway, the forecast is chilly in NYC.

If you need to go, do it now: This is a long, long wait -- more than two hours just to get in the door, and then another two hours just to get to the machine. It took me 6 hours, or until about 2 p.m. This tip has two interpretations. The regular schedule is 4 to 10 p.m. on weekdays, and 6 a.m. to noon on weekends. You should get there ASAP, as a large numbers of people were cut off when the store closed at 1 p.m. on Monday. But also, there are no restrooms on the inside. Just consider that if you've had anything to drink or eat before getting in line.

Be prepared for payment woes: The Spectacles vending machine was troublesome for a handful of people -- myself included -- because some banking companies assumed you were a victim of fraud due to issues with the machine. Many had to step out of the line, call up their bank and request to take off the rejections, causing delays. Credit cards seemed to run smoothly, while debit cards had a few hiccups. If you don't have more than one card on hand to use, get ready to have your bank on the phone.

Snapchat Spectacles on sale in NYC

See all photos

My fellow line-waiters

I started off killing time by tweetstorming and playing games. Then, when both my phones died, I talked to some other saps suffering with me. Christi Reid had been in line for five hours to snag a pair for her boyfriend, who was stuck out on Long Island.

"I actually woke up to 'Go down and get it if you can!' and I rolled out of bed," the 24-year-old software engineer said. While she's getting two pairs for her beau, Reid is hoping to use them to record herself skateboarding.

Others had more entrepreneurial ideas in mind. Bryan Herrera, a college student from Queens, had been stalking the Spectacles website hourly to see when they would pop up in NYC. He hit the jackpot at 1 a.m. when he saw the location while others were asleep. Herrera said he set his alarm for 6 a.m., but it never went off and he rushed out the door at 7 a.m. instead.

"I came today since it's going to be open every day, I have to sell it today since the price is going to drop after," the 19-year-old said.

By the time he was in line inside, he already had a guaranteed customer -- a man on the outside willing to buy a pair for $400 from him, more than three times the retail price. Herrera was also getting a pair for himself, plus another one from a friend also in line.

Herrera is planning on going to music festivals with his Spectacles and not having to pull his phone out for every moment.

Enlarge Image

This vending machine serves one person at a time.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For Lenny Lantigua, the Spectacles shop was a serendipitous moment. He had been across the street at the Apple Store, waiting for a friend to show up, when he got a text message saying the Spectacles shop was across the street.

Lantigua, 23, booked it over, waited three hours and was able to buy two pairs, one in black and one in teal, after suffering the same payment issues I did.

"I've heard a lot of good reviews, so hopefully it's worth the wait," he said.

The moment he stepped out, Snapchat had shut its store for the day. A desperate man tried buying it off Lantigua outside the door. Some people just can't wait a day.