Despite being the first person in Japan to purchase the latest iPhone on more than one occasion, Mr. Sato was shunned by his phone company this time around.
Since 2013, Mr. Sato has been lining up for new iPhones from his longtime service provider Docomo.
Having met Ken Watanabe, Maki Horikita, and former Docomo president Kaoru Kato twice, he was honored for his constant support and enthusiasm for both Apple tech and Docomo service.
▼ 2013, iPhone5S
▼ 2014, iPhone6 Plus
Actually 2015 was a bit of a bust, but wires got crossed on our end. This time though, something wasn’t quite right with Docomo.
Line ups in general have been on the decline in recent years, so Mr. Sato only had to camp out three days in advance at his usual spot first in line in front of the Docomo shop in Marunouchi. It was hard going for a while with inclement weather and little sleep, but he’d done this dance before and knew how to cope.
The first bit of bad news came when Mr. Sato learned he would not be participating in the ceremony as he had done before even though he was first in line.
It kind of sucked that he couldn’t rub elbows with celebs on stage like he had done before, but oh well. At least he would get the prestige and media attention of being the first and maybe a quick photo op.
However, on the evening just before the release ceremony a staff member from the shop came out and broke some bad news to our reporter. Mr. Sato had previously reserved an iPhone7 Plus but never received updates on its stock at the Docomo shop, upon asking a staff member they replied, “We checked, but there is no scheduled date when it will be in stock.”
He contacted RocketNews24 to report that he was abandoning the mission but they discouraged him from giving up saying “it’s a chance for a miracle” and “if anyone can do it, you can.” However, there was something about their tone that seemed to suggest if Mr. Sato came back empty handed, he shouldn’t come back at all.
And so, without being able to participate in the ceremony, and with a slim chance of even getting an iPhone on that day, Mr. Sato was determined to make lemonade out of this huge pile of lemons and got his gear ready.
Covering his body in yellow tights…
…and painting his face yellow he prepared to make this an iPhone release to remember.
He was actually quite surprised that he could apply make-up so well in such a sleep-deprived state. He was also surprised that he was already beginning to draw television cameras.
All that was left was to put on some yellow painted cat ears, and he was finished.
He was…a Pikachu.
And like the infamous rodent his body coursed with the electricity of a loyal Docomo customer. Mr. Sato would not walk away today, he was going to electrify this ceremony with a thunderbolt attack charged by all of the passion swirling inside him.
The passion of having waited for the iPhone5s, the iPhone6, the iPhone6s, the SE, and now the iPhone7
The passion of having the same phone number for the last 25 years
The passion of being a dedicated Docomo user for the past 20 years despite the clear financial benefits of changing companies
In fact, to call Mr. Sato a Docomo “user” doesn’t do him justice. He is a Docomo “supporter.”
But for this iPhone release Docomo was clearly struggling. And rather than wait for them to please him, Mr. Sato was going to pull them through and help turn this around into the greatest iPhone release they ever had!!!
Then the doors opened…
We were prohibited from recording inside the Docomo shop, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. For some odd reason Docomo put up a partition between Mr. Sato and the release ceremony. We say only Mr. Sato because he and two other RocketNews24 members were the only ones on the customer side of the shop. It was as if the wall was set up just for him.
Here is a diagram of the shop layout done in watercolor paint to help you visualize what was going on.
As you can kind of see there was a monitor to watch the ceremony on, and Mr. Sato could even see it with his own eyes simply by jumping a peeking over the relatively low temporary wall. It was as if they didn’t mind him watching it, but they just didn’t want him to consider himself a part of it.
▼ “This partition is in front of the stage”
▼ “Because you could see if you jumped, we jumped.”
▼ A video reenactment of the jumping
Mr. Sato was in a daze and could not stop asking himself why Docomo seemed to be going to such great lengths to alienate him. However, he still had to collect himself and attempt to buy a iPhone7 Plus.
When he exited the shop, the look on Mr. Sato’s face gave us a pretty good idea of how that went.
“Wanted to help liven this stupid Docomo event!!!”
When he calmed down we interviewed Mr. Sato who confirmed that he did not buy an iPhone7 that morning.
▼ The interview is in Japanese, but Mr. Sato’s sadness transcends language.
There was nothing left for him but to pack up and go home, were he would seriously reevaluate his relationship with Docomo from here on out.
He bore no ill will from Apple as the Softbank and au releases seemed very inclusive of their customers. Mr. Sato had noticed that only Docomo had been steadily transitioning their releases from a welcoming atmosphere to a mood that seemed to scream “stop lining up!”
▼ In 2013, Docomo president Kato personally handed out cakes and water to those in line. However, as of June of this year, Kaoru Kato was no longer president and CEO of Docomo.
This utter lack of consideration to customer satisfaction and personal burn to Mr. Sato may very well mark the end of an era either for him and Docomo, or for lining up for iPhones in general.
Mr. Sato hasn’t seemed to have turned his back on the telecom company completely, but they will have to seriously reconsider how they treat him. Because he is not a happy Pikachu at the moment…