Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Scalp the iPhone 4S in China? No phone for you, says Apple. (+video)

Apple shut the doors of its flagship Beijing store Friday as scuffles broke out among people - many of them scalpers - waiting to buy the just-released iPhone 4S. 

By Staff Writer / January 13, 2012

Chinese people wait outside an Apple Store to buy the iPhone 4S model in Beijing on Friday. An angry crowd shouted and threw eggs at Apple's Beijing flagship store after it failed to open on schedule Friday to sell the popular smartphones.

Andy Wong/AP

Enlarge

Beijing

Apple’s long-awaited release of its iPhone 4S in China turned into an abortive slugfest at dawn on Friday, as an army of scalpers erupted in fury at the company’s decision not to open its flagship store in Beijing.

Skip to next paragraph

Thousands of customers had queued overnight for the latest must-have Apple phone, but most of them were working for black-market traders who planned to re-sell the phones outside the store for a hefty markup.

Scuffles broke out between rival gangs of scalpers as opening time approached, and all semblance of order outside the Apple store broke down. Employees kept the shop in the up-market Sanlitun neighborhood closed, and posted a notice saying no iPhones would be sold there for the time being.

Angry scalpers, angry workers

Furious scalpers began throwing eggs at the store and shoving police and security men, while furious students, migrant workers, and others who had been promised 100 RMB ($16) to wait in line all night surrounded scalping gang leaders who refused to pay them because they had not bought any goods.

Across town, at the only other Apple store in Beijing, employees dealt with the crush of customers by opening at 6 a.m. and closing two hours later, saying they had sold out of the iPhone 4S.

“The iPhone will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being,” Apple said in a statement.

The new model phone is, however, still available for purchase online from Apple or from China Unicom, the cellphone company with which Apple has partnered in China.

That doesn’t help the scalpers, who have besieged Apple stores in China at previous product launches. Carrying colored balloons to identify themselves, they had organized crowds of agents – each wearing a symbol such as a white glove on one hand, or a piece of string around the coat sleeve, depending on which group they were working for – to stand outside the Sanlitun store from early on Thursday evening.

One reporter counted seven different scalping gangs operating in the queue.

Even at normal times, black marketeers are a common sight outside Apple stores in China, selling either items their agents have bought in the stores, or items smuggled into the mainland from Hong Kong, or outright fakes.

Get daily or weekly updates from CSMonitor.com delivered to your inbox. Sign up today.

Permissions

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!