Yesterday, one of Apple's Beijing locations lifted the two-per-customer iPhone 4 limit. The result: chaos, confusion, and the temporary shutdown of the store. Sounds like the scalpers did pretty well for themselves, though.
The trouble started not long after the doors opened at 7am, according to MIC Gadget. Customers who had been waiting in line for three hours for a chance to buy a new iPhone were blocked from entering, as they watched industrious scalpers tote 20-30 boxes out at a time. Those same scalpers then attempted to pawn off their iPhone 4 stash to the waiting crowd, with a $70-per-device markup.
It gets worse: a fight broke out between customers and scalpers, which attracted the police, who then cleared the store of both customers and employees. Bedlam!
It's unclear why this store lifted the sales limit while others, it seems, did not. But for those wondering why all those line squatters didn't just order online, there's a perfectly good explanation:
Since the Chinese citizens do not wish to sign a two-year contract when buying an iPhone 4 (they have their own phone numbers already), the local Apple retail store is the only place for them to get one. There are only 4 Apple stores in China now, two at Beijing and two at Shanghai. For Chinese citizens who are from other provinces of China, they need to travel to Beijing or Shanghai to purchase a contract-free iPhone 4... You may ask why they do not order it from the Apple online store, well, there's no online purchasing on China's Apple site. They could try the Hong Kong Apple online store, but they want their iPhones to have warranty in China, not Hong Kong.
To help remedy the problem, it was just announced today that an ID is required on all iPhone 4 purchases at all four Apple Store locations in China, with a strict limit of one per customer. The phone will be activated at the time of purchase by an Apple employe.
So, what a mess! Let's take a moment to harken back to the happier times of the store's opening back in 2008:
Scalpers: ruining it for the rest of us since forever.