updated 02:10 pm EDT, Thu September 30, 2010
Police called in because of gray market dealers
Apple's flagship Beijing store was temporarily shut down on Wednesday in the wake of a change in sales policy, a report notes. Like most Apple Stores, the outlet normally restricts iPhone sales to two per person. When the limit was suddenly lifted, however, scalpers moved in, picking up as many as 20 to 30 iPhones which were then hocked to people standing outside.
This led to a fight with regular customers, who accused a gang of scalpers of cutting in line and preventing people from getting iPhones from Apple. The situation ultimately became so chaotic that security guards and the police were brought to bear; by 10AM, three hours after an early opening, the store was officially closed. Some of the scalpers remained in the area.
At least some of the scalpers are alleged to have been paid an average of 100 yuan by other gray-market vendors. The crush on the Beijing Apple Store is thought to be connected to demand for contract-free iPhones; since carrier China Unicom typically requires a two-year agreement, people from all over the country must travel to Apple outlets in Beijing and Shanghai in order to avoid being locked in. Scalpers can make a significant profit on resales, for example charging the equivalent of $822 on a phone that would normally cost $747.