China’s fake Apple stores

The signs look real, the products look real and the staff all think that they work for Steve Jobs – but five Apple stores in the city of Kunming, southern China are fake.

A fascinating discovery by 27-year-old American blogger, BirdAbroad, after a few months away, her neighbourhood changed pretty fast, with three Starbucks, an H&M and, seemingly, three Apple stores popping up while she was away.

Grey slate floors, steel staircases, wood benches and staff in branded blue t-shirts. Everything appears routinely Apple. But look more closely and some of the branding is a little off (Apple doesn’t write ‘Apple Stoer under its logo) and the staff badges didn’t have individual names. The fake Apple store in China is so convincing that even its staff are fooled and appeared to think they were working for the real Apple. An astonishing piece of extreme bootlegging.

Although Kunming, the capital city of southwestern Yunnan Province is typical of China’s rapid development it is a relatively remote city and the intrepid blogger was suspicious. She looked up Apple’s official China site and lo – Apple has only four stores in China, two of which are in Beijing and two in Shanghai.

“Being the curious types that we are, we struck up some conversation with these salespeople who, hand to God, all genuinely think they work for Apple,” she wrote.

Chinese industrial and commercial authorities in Kunming started an inspection on all the city’s electronics stores. The inspection includes business licenses, authorised permits of brand use, and the purchase channel of each store.

Since the story broke several fake or at least seriously questionable Apple stores from Croatia to Colombia, Burma to Venezuela, Slovenia to Spain, and in a dozen locations in China. You also must appreciate the hilarity of the fake Hard Rock Cafe in Ho Chi Minh City and the fake Hooters in Cancun.

I don’t think for a minute that Apple will let this one go.