China’s Fake Apple Reseller Convinced Own Employees it Was Real

Eager to capitalize on the demand for new iPhones, several foreigners rolled out a series of fake Apple Stores. They transformed a subway station into an Apple Store and hired people to wear uniforms and stand in the doorway. Outside the subway, they hired people to wait in line – ostensibly for the iPhone X.

Their setup fooled many – but it’s not the kind of fake Apple Store making the news this week.

There are only 51 Apple’s Stores on the Chinese mainland, but there are many more unauthorized shops. The number of them posing as Apple flagships has soared as the brand gains fame in China. Some are decorated so as to be indistinguishable from official retail stores, and shop assistants wear the same clothes as Apple employees. Some even said they believed they were working at an official Apple Store.

Sika Angelson exposed a fake Apple Reseller in Kunming. When she returned to Kunming after leaving for several days, she found another three unauthorized stores. Their interiors looked no different from an official flagship store, except for a sign saying “Apple Retail Store,” which the official stores do not use.

One fake store in Ningbo not only lacked an Apple license – it didn’t even have a business license. It was located 20 meters from one Apple flagship store. Its shop assistants wore the same clothes and it was decorated the same way. Ironically, more consumers believed the fake store was real rather than the authorized Apple flagship down the street.

Almost every city in China has an unauthorized Apple Store that’s branded with the Apple logo and proclaims itself an Apple experience store, flagship store or exclusive stores. The products sold in these stores may be real, but the stores are not. Apple has strict rules on licensing services that require the Apple logo to be smaller than service provider’s trademark. However, many people still think the larger logo is more convincing.

One fake Apple store is located on Dadukou Pedestrian Street in Chongqing. Its glass cylinder and Apple logo on the top resembles a nearby Apple Store. Its decor, layout, advertising and staff uniforms are similar to the Apple Store, which helps it attract many customers. What’s more, the fake store hands out fliers at the gate of official flagship to attract more consumers.

Another fake Apple Store in Chongqing is located in Shiqiaopu. Its decorations and staff uniforms are similar to the Apple Store in Sanlitun, Beijing, but its surroundings make many consumers doubt it.

Xiaoshan, Hangzhou also has several fake Apple Stores and maintenance shops. Several stores use the “Apple” logo and names like “Apple Experience Store”, “Apple Exclusive Reseller” and others without authorization, Three of the stores were also involved in infringing on Apple’s trademark rights by selling Apple batteries, tempered glass screen protectors and other phone accessories.

The department in charging of commerce and industry once investigated Apple Stores in Zhongguancun. Authorities closed some unauthorized stores or demanded they obscure the Apple logo. This action didn’t eliminate all fake stores, but it greatly reduced their number.

This article originally appeared in Tencent Technology and was translated by Pandaily.