I stood in line four times last week and each time I wondered why.  Four times.  Once in the morning when the line from Apple wrapped around the corner of Fashion Valley, past a jewelry store that no doubt appreciated the new IPhone roll-out, and all the way down to the entrance of Uno’s.  When I realized the line wasn’t moving I started asking questions of Apple employees in the light blue shirts.

“3… 3 ½ hours…”  That was optimistic.  By the end of the day and the end of the line the AT&T servers had crashed and consumers were left stranded all over the country.  All over the world!

I didn’t want to wait in line for three hours on a summer day so I left.  Later I heard the wait was more like seven hours but after you have waited in a line for three hours—on a summer day—you are invested. You can’t turn back.  So all those people waited.

I came back later in the week.  I figured I trick ‘em and show up 25 minutes before closing.  There were only five people in line this time.  But they had all been told that the line had been “capped” and they weren’t taking anyone else because they were averaging thirty minutes per transaction.  “Well I’m waiting in line anyway,” the first person in the five-person line said.  And the rest agreed.  So they stood in line and the Apple employees—true to their word—didn’t take in any more customers to purchase the new IPhone.  They finished the transactions with the customers in the store, turned off the lights and went home.  And there the five people stood. 

I didn’t wait in that line either.

Eventually I stood in the right line and got into the store and bought a new IPhone.  There were some glitches with AT&T so I had to come back still again to get it right.  This time, however,  I didn’t have to wait in line because the line was for people who hadn’t yet purchased a new IPhone. 

Anyway, I got a phone.  But then I started thinking.

Why would so many people stand in lines that wrap down the mall and all the way to the door at Uno’s for a cell phone?  Why did so many stand in line even through the rumors and misinformation and system failures?  And when they couldn’t get the phone they came for (“ATTENTION EVERYBODY…JUST SO YOU KNOW…WE ARE OUT OF THE BLACK…16Gs.  WE STILL HAVE 8Gs AND PLENTY OF WHITE MODELS…)  they came back the next day and stood in line some more.  Why? 

I was pissed at Apple.  The arrogance.  Why couldn’t they make this phone available at Target and Best Buy and thin out the lines?  The illusion of demand.  Why did they have to spend thirty minutes per customer just to activate the phone it in the store?  The first IPhones were activated at home. Who do they think they are?!!!

Then it occurred to me.  They are Apple.  And that is why so many people stood in line.

For Apple.  Not for Steve Jobs, or the kids in the light blue shirts.  Maybe not even as much for the product as for the BRAND!!!  The IPhone is Apple and it is therefore reliable, creative, intuitive, transportable, powerful.  Cool. 

It is worth the wait.  That is the power of a reliable brand.  That is loyalty.

I wondered… at Mueller Charter School… would our customers wait in lines that don’t move, rally back four times hoping to get in, visit morning or night, put up with glitches and system failures, forgive our mistakes and miscommunication, pay any price, and then proudly display the brand name on tee shirts and car windows? 

Would they say our brand was reliable, creative, intuitive, portable, powerful?  Would they say Mueller Charter School was cool?

They will indeed.  If our value to the community is more than just being cool. 

Loyalty comes from our relationships, from the struggle we make together to keep our children whole, from the quality of our service.  Loyalty is when parents perceive that– no matter what happens to their home or their job or their marriage–  the one thing they can count on… the one thing they MUST count on… is “El Milagro”. 

At Apple, they sell the most advanced consumer technology of the day for which loyal consumers will stand in line.  At El Milagro… we simply offer a future with your child’s name on it. 


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