updated 07:20 pm EDT, Thu July 21, 2011
May also get unwelcome attention from Apple
As a follow-up to our story yesterday about a U.S. expatriate blogger known as BirdAbroad who discovered several counterfeit Apple Stores in her southwest China city, the story has now received worldwide attention, garnering covering throughout the U.S. and Europe -- and bringing with it unwelcome attention from Apple and Chinese authorities to the fake stores, which may now find themselves in legal jeopardy, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The newspaper has since spoken to an employee (managers and owners of the stores are not returning enquiries) at one of the three fake stores. Unlike some employees at the other locations, the employee of the unnamed store reached by the Journal was well aware that his store was not a genuine Apple store, or even an authorized reseller. He said whether the store was authorized was less important to him than "what I sell every day are authentic Apple products, and that our customers don't come back to me to complain about the quality of the products."
Unauthorized stores such as the ones in Kunming get their stock of Apple products (not all of which are always genuine) most likely from units bought overseas and then smuggled into the country, along with a few locally-made knock-offs. Chinese migrants in the U.S. and other countries are known to be buying quantities of high-demand items like the iPad 2 and then shipping them back to China, ironically where they were manufactured in the first place.
The interviewed employee, like many encountered by the BirdAbroad blogger, takes great pride in Apple products and strives to emulate the professionalism and expertise level that legitimate Apple retail employees in the country have. Now that the Kunming counterfeit stores have received so much press attention, however, it's possible that the stores might even be shut down (despite China's normally high tolerance for "copycat" merchants and western knock-offs).
Apple has confirmed that the stores are not in any way authorized, but hasn't commented beyond that. It's possible that the Kunming owners could apply to become legitimate resellers, but this seems unlikely given Apple's low opinion of perceived copying of its intellectual property. So far, Apple has not taken any public steps to stem the practice, and may be investigating how widespread the problem is before acting.
The tech giant and its primary assembler, Hon Hai, recently reached an agreement to allow the retail arm of the Chinese firm to open up to 500 (authorized) Apple reseller stores across China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. [via The Wall Street Journal]