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Apple store employee denies Farsi speakers iPad, iPhone sale

updated 10:40 pm EDT, Wed June 20, 2012

Cited US trade restrictions, backed by management

Two Apple store employees in Georgia have been accused of racially profiling Farsi-speaking shoppers, and refusing to sell them trade-embargoed iPads and iPhones. In two separate incidents, American customers of Iranian descent have been quoted Apple's export compliance policy and denied purchase based on perceived nationality. Apple has not officially commented on the matter, other than a telephone customer relations representative suggesting that one customer buy the iPad online rather than at retail.

Sahar Sabet reported that when she was trying to purchase an iPad and iPhone and was discussing the matter with her uncle in Farsi, she and her uncle were approached by a clerk who asked them what language they were speaking and where they were from. The Apple store clerk then refused to sell the pair the technology after Sabet, an American citizen, told him that they were speaking Farsi and originally from Iran.

A Georgia television news crew sent a reporter to the store in question after hearing Sabet's story and obtained video seen below of the same employee who prevented the sale repeating the policy, as well as comments from the store manager supporting the employee and his decision to bar the sale. After the report was initially made public, Zack Jafarzadeh told the station that he was present with his friend trying to buy an iPhone and recounted that "we never talked about him going back to Iran or anything like that. He was just speaking full-fledged Farsi and the representative came back and denied our sale."

Apple does have a published export compliance policy, which mirrors US trade guidance. The policy says that the US "holds complete embargoes against Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. The exportation, reexportation, sale or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a US person wherever located, of any Apple goods, software, technology (including technical data), or services to any of these countries is strictly prohibited without prior authorization by the US Government. This prohibition also applies to any Apple owned subsidiary or any subsidiary employee worldwide."

MacNN contacted the State Department for comment and was told that Apple's governmental policy-derived corporate export document is aimed at state-sponsored purchases, and should not be construed as prohibiting individual purchases such as presented in Georgia, especially to US citizens, regardless of ethnicity. It is illegal for US citizens to enter Iraq or other proscribed countries with certain restricted electronic devices like iPads and the iPhone, however. Furthermore, the spokesman added that there is a large amount of information on international trade available including sanctions, sanction enforcement and violation reporting at the US Government export informational webpage.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Zanziboy

    Joined: Dec 1969



    These t-shirted hourlys have no right to discriminate for individual sales even under the export ban. Any Korean-American might be from North Korea originally. But you can't tell someone's nationality by looking at them or hearing what languages they speak. Will the Georgians stop selling to African-Americans because they might be from Sudan or Hispanics as they might be from Cuba? Pure racism.

  1. gooser

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    iran is not the only country in the world where the people speak farsi.

  1. facebook_Kevin

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jun 2012


    Why am I not surprised?

    I'm not surprised this happened in Georgia. The south learned to racially profile people 200 years ago.

  1. milkmage

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Tim Cook is from Alabama

    I suspect Apple PR is looking for these 2 Iranians (or Farsi speakers at least) and will be sending them iPads and iPhones. Oh, and I hear they're looking for 2 new employees for an Apple store somewhere in Georgia.

    Mr. Jafarzadeh and Ms. Shabet - if you're reading this, I sincerely apologize for my fellow "Americans" and encourage you to GET THE h*** OUT OF GEORGIA.

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969



    ...neither MacNN nor the TV station called Apple HQ to get their official word on this? This sounds like a local manager misinterpreting corporate export policy. He will be educated, the problem will be fixed.

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Bigots as anti-bigots

    Note some of the postings. Absence any real evidence, they've already judged and condemned both these employees and the entire state of Georgia. Bigots, in our present age, often mask themselves as anti-bigots. I grew up with that sort of thing. Several of my ancestors were killed by Klan or proto-Klan groups. I find this behavior even more disgusting when it masks itself and takes on airs.

    I can fully understand how this trouble developed. I had some Iranian roommates for several months. They were frustrating, difficult people to deal with. No didn't mean no, for instance. If they wanted to do something, they couldn't understand that I might not. My "no" only meant that I needed to be pressured more. That's a result of a culture where business is never done in good faith. The selling party starts with a grossly inflated price and the buyer with a ridiculously low one.

    I suspect there's more to this story than what we've heard thus far.

  1. JuanGuapo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    If it looks like Racism.
    If it smells like Racism.
    If it tastes like Racism.

    Please refer to our company export policy.

  1. facebook_Ben

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jun 2012


    Where's the update?

    I just want the end of the story where it's confirmed that these idiotic bigots, including the store manager, were fired.

  1. mkral

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Way to stay classy

    I like how the Facebook commenters jump right to the stereotypes. MSNBC just had a story about this incident and it's not nearly as clear cut as 'these guys are racist', nor was it confined to GA. Some thing happened to an Iranian customer at an Apple store in CA. Should we also say we aren't surprised that this happened out there?

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