I have just returned from vacation where I was trying as much as possible to take a break from technology, tech news, and business in order to keep myself from blowing up like an old Dell battery. Small villages in Laos are surprisingly secluded, so I was largely successful at disconnecting, which is why you haven’t seen many posts from me on Twitter recently. However, technology news found its way to me through a channel I least expected: my not so tech savvy mom.
In early August, my mom informed me on the phone that the American public had gotten their feathers ruffled over some 22 fake Apple Stores in Kunming, China. My initial response was blasé as I’m used to fake/unauthorized stores and products of all kinds in China, and I didn’t really believe that an Apple Store could be copied effectively in China. However, since I was already on my way to Kunming, I decided to have a look for myself.
I didn’t even have to go looking for the stores as two of them were conveniently located just outside of my hotel in the main shopping district, Wangfujing. I found that each store was just as “BirdAbroad”, the Kunming expat who first broke the story, described them – a “beautiful rip-off”. Most people would not even question the authenticity of the store given its decor. From the beautifully designed advertisements to the employee uniforms to the prices of the products, virtually everything was identical to a true Apple store.
Fake Store #1 (Before):
Fake Apple Store #2 (Before):
After this day in Kunming, I went to hike Tiger Leaping Gorge (recommended!) in North Yunnan and then returned to Kunming 8 days later to catch my return flight to Beijing. I hadn’t planned to revisit the fake Apple stores, but after accidently finding another fake Apple store that had recently taken down and covered up their Apple logos, I decided to take another look at the original two.
Fake Apple Store #3:
The original two were completely the same with two major exceptions. First, their names had been changed and there was no Apple branding on the exterior. The larger of the two had been renamed “Smart Store” and the other was renamed to “[数码体验店]”, which means “Digital Experience Shop”. The other major difference was the employees no longer sported the identical Apple uniform.
数码体验店 (Fake Apple Store #1 – After):
Smart Store (Fake Apple Store #2 – After):
As reported by Reuters, it seemed that the government has responded to the media and the formal complaint by Apple, and has enforced IP law. Though in practicality, this just means that the store name and employee uniforms are different. Since the front walls are all glass (like most true Apple stores), those passing by will still easily see the Apple-like store design and the Apple wall advertisements, and unfortunately draw the misguided assumption that this is an authentic Apple store.
We’ll dedicate another post to the impact of the fake Apple store fiasco in the coming days, but for now, you can judge the impact for yourself. Here is a picture from the Starbucks just a few doors down from these fake Apple stores. While I was in there, I estimated some 24 iPhones, iPads and Macbooks out of the 50 or so people in the store. I asked two people where they got their iPhones and both had gotten them from real Apple stores in other countries.