The shirt off your back

Matthew JC. Powell
27 June, 2008
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You’ve probably read by now that some people who went to the Apple Store Sydney opening last week have begun selling their commemorative t-shirts on eBay and similar sites. This, in a sort of mixed-up way, makes sense to me. It means, after all, that what they were lining up for for so long actually has monetary value to them. What makes less sense to me is the fact that people are buying them — at least at these prices.

As I type this, there are a number of such auctions going, with prices around $US50 — around $52 to you and me. Add in shipping to the USA (where most of the bidders appear to be) and you’re paying upwards of $70. For a shirt. You can get a pretty nice shirt for $70.

I’m not saying the Apple Store Sydney shirts aren’t nice. 100 percent combed cotton, extra large, very comfy. They’re made in LA according to the tag, so by the time they’re shipped back to American buyers these will be very well-travelled shirts indeed.

But $70 worth? And that, let me tell you, is on the low side. Reports on the web have suggested selling prices in excess of $150 for some of these. Plus shipping. And for that you’d probably get insurance.

And all this, for a shirt that commemorates an event that, had the buyer actually attended, would have been free.

Some of these buyers, I’m sure, are American Apple fans who’ve been to dozens of Apple Store openings in their home country, and maybe they’ve even sprung for trips to London or Tokyo for those openings. Australia is an expensive place to get to what with being so very far away, so maybe these buyers see a couple of hundred bucks as a fair price for pretending they made the trip. An Apple Store shirt from some exotic locale is cheap for a couple of hundred bucks, isn’t it?

Which isn’t very fair to the people who actually did make the trip. There were Brits and Yanks in the queue who had trekked around the world to be at this opening, and now when they wear their shirts people will think “what a silly person who paid so much for a shirt commemorating an event they didn’t attend” rather than the far more complimentary “what a wise person who prudently spent their thousands of dollars travelling to the other side of the world to go to the opening of a shop”.

Although, as I wrote last week, it wasn’t “just” a shop, and these are not “just” shirts. People feel a visceral, almost spiritual connection to Apple and the Mac community — something that other companies can only envy. How much do you think the t-shirts from the Telstra Store openings will fetch on eBay? Oh, there weren’t any such shirts? Of course not.

Nonetheless, I can’t help feeling that there’s something not quite right about purchasing a symbol of your attendance at an event you did not in fact attend. It’s not in the same league as buying someone else’s war medals, but it’s the same sport.

What do you think? Were you at the Apple Store Sydney opening? Did you get a shirt? What are you going to do with it?

And if you didn’t get one, what would you pay?

(Note: mine is NOT for sale.)

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