With a newly-rich middle class keen to splash its cash on the zippiest, shiniest gadgets around, you’d think China would be Apple’s dream market. But don’t underestimate the power of demand: one of the biggest problems it’s had with new launches are ‘scalpers’: gangs of immigrant workers, paid to grab as many of the phones as possible, then stand outside the store once the new gadget is sold out and flog their acquisitions at an inflated price. Apparently this time, the scalpers were more organised than usual, sporting coloured armbands to show who they were working for and led by someone carrying a balloon of the corresponding colour. We know. Scary, isn’t it?
On this occasion, their presence was apparently enough to cause fights among the 1,000 or so people waiting in the plaza outside the store. Apple has thus – not altogether unreasonably – put its foot down and said that it won’t be selling the phones (which are at the top of millions of Chinese New Year gift wishlists) in any of its stores in Beijing or Shanghai for the foreseeable future. That caused further outbursts among the crowd, who attacked police and swore. Some apparently even had to be stretchered out.
Luckily for the angry mob, once it’s calmed down, it’ll still be able to buy the phones online and in shops – just not at Apple stores. Let’s hope Siri, the 4S’ ‘digital PA’, has a few good suggestions for 'anger management' - failing that, a cure for 'Apple fever'.
- Image credit:Flickr/Liz Phung