Apple is well known for creating so much hype in their products that people go ballistic. Apple fans even go to the extremes of falling in-line for 12 hours or more just so they could be one of the first to purchase a freshly released Apple product. But it looks like Apple’s plan in China backfired, as one of their stores was egged by Apple fans waiting in line for the iPhone 4S.
Hell On Apple Store
The iPhone 4S was launched in China and 21 other countries and anticipation for the product in China resulted to people lining up the night before in their official store in Beijing’s trendy Sanlitun district. All hell broke lose when an announcer with a bullhorn told shoppers, who waited in the freezing cold all night, that the iPhone 4S will not be sold today.
One shopper, Huang Xiantong who just wanted to buy the iPhone 4S for his girlfriend, recalled the incident, “I got in line around 11 p.m., and beyond the line the plaza was chock full with people. Around 5 a.m. the crowds in the plaza broke through and the line disappeared entirely. Everyone was fighting, several people were hurt. The police just started hitting people. They were just brawling.”
Apple tried to shed some light as to why the product was not sold, “The demand for iPhone 4S has been incredible and our stores in China have already sold out. Unfortunately we were unable to open our store at Sanlitun due to the large crowd and to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, the iPhone will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being.”
Scalpers, Resellers Take Advantage
There could also be another reason why chaos erupted in the Sanlitun district store: scalpers. Scalpers are those that hire people to fall in line and purchase the iPhone so that they can sell the hot items at a higher price to those who do not want to fall in line.
According to Xinhua, a government-run news agency, “At least 1,000 people who were hired by scalpers to stand in line and wait for the phone to go on sale were displeased with the decision to keep the store closed. A bag of broken eggs was found on the ground in front of the store and egg residue was seen on the store’s glass walls.”
Reports of scalpers were not isolated in the Sanlitun district, as Bloomberg reported that about 60 migrant workers were hired by scalpers to line up and purchase the iPhone in the Apple Store at Xidan district in Shanghai. The scalpers promised to pay the workers 120 yuan ($19) but the workers did not receive the payment since they weren’t able to purchase the said device. By 9 AM, the 2,000 units available in store were already sold out. The workers, who came by bus from a labor market in the suburbs and received only a 10-yuan food allowance, asked not to be identified for fear of being reprimanded for talking.
There’s Still Hope
Those who are still interested in buying the iPhone 4S can purchase the device online through China Unicom, which is selling the 16-gigabyte model for 5,880 yuan ($930), or consumers can opt for a 3-year commitment at 286 yuan a month, or a two-year plan costing 386 yuan a month. Or people can just go to other official Apple resellers in China to get their hands on the coveted Siri-powered device.