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China's Latest Trend: Fake Apple Stores

One blogger found three knockoff locations in her town
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China has long been known for its booming counterfeit industry, where it’s easy to find everything from fake designer handbags to cheap copies of DVDs. But one blogger is reporting on a new surge in knockoffs of a much grander scale: Apple stores.

In a post Wednesday, the blogger BirdAbroad reported having stumbled upon an Apple store near her home in Kunming, China. “It looked like an Apple store,” she writes. “It had the classic Apple store winding staircase and weird upstairs sitting area. The employees were even wearing those blue T-shirts with the chunky Apple name tags around their necks.”

Both she and her husband were skeptical as to whether the store was real, or just “the best ripoff we had ever seen”—Kunming is, apparently, not a likely location for an Apple store (BirdAbroad describes it as “the end of the Earth”). When they returned five days later, the store was gone. At first, BirdAbroad attributed its disappearance to China’s rapid commercial turnover rate, but as it turns out, it was because the store was a fake, albeit a “brilliant” one.

“Some things were just not right,” she writes. “The stairs were poorly made. The walls hadn’t been painted properly.” The sign said “Apple Store,” whereas real Apple retail signs only have the Apple logo on them. The salespeople’s name tags didn’t actually have names on them—they just said “Staff”—although the staff all genuinely believed that they worked for Apple, said BirdAbroad. And then there’s the fact that Apple’s own website only lists stores in Beijing and Shanghai.

Pretending that she and her husband were Apple salespeople visiting from the U.S., BirdAbroad struck up a conversation with the staff, and was allowed to snap some photos (which the employees and “plainclothes security guys outside” had forbidden). And upon leaving the store, she found two more rip-off stores around the corner.

In another post today, BirdAbroad asked her readers to send in photos of other fake Apple stores they had encountered. It’ll be interesting to see just how many rip-offs have popped up.