iFraud: Apple stores being faked in China

Sales assistants are in blue T-shirts with company’s logo,signs advertise iPad2,but gadgets are counterfeit

Written by Associated Press | Beijing | Published:July 22, 2011 12:10 am

At first,it looks like a sleek Apple store. Sales assistants in blue T-shirts with the company’s logo talk to customers. Signs advertising the iPad 2 hang from the white walls. Outside,the famous logo sits next to the words “Apple Store.” And that’s the clue it’s fake.

China,long known for producing counterfeit consumer gadgets,software and brand name clothing,has reached a new piracy milestone — fake Apple stores.

An American who lives in Kunming in southern Yunnan province said Thursday that she and her husband stumbled on three shops masquerading as bonafide Apple stores in the city a few days ago. She took photos and posted them on her BirdAbroad blog.

The three stores are not among the authorised resellers listed on Apple Inc’s website. The maker of the iPhone and other hit gadgets has four company stores in China — two in Beijing and two in Shanghai — and many official resellers. Apple’s Beijing office did not comment.

The proliferation of the fake stores underlines the slow progress that China’s government is making in countering a culture of a rampant piracy and widespread production of bogus goods that is a major irritant in relations with trading partners.

The 27-year-old blogger said the set-up of the stores was so convincing that the employees seemed to believe they worked for Apple.

“It looked like an Apple store. It had the classic Apple store winding staircase and weird upstairs sitting area. The employees were even wearing blue T-shirts with chunky Apple name tags around their necks,” she wrote. “But some things were just not right: the stairs were poorly made. The walls hadn’t been painted properly. Apple never writes ‘Apple Store’ on its signs — it just puts up the glowing,iconic fruit.”

A worker at the fake Apple store on Zhengyi Road in Kunming,which most of the photos of the BirdAbroad blog show,said they are an “Apple store”,then hung up.

The manager of an authorised reseller in Kunming,who gave only his surname,Zhang,said most customers have no idea the stores are fake.

Some of the staff in the stores “can’t even operate computers properly or tell you all the functions of the mobile phone,” he said.

“There are more and more of these fake stores in Kunming…Some of their products were not imported through legal means. And they cost more.”