Angry customers threw eggs at Apple’s flagship Beijing store today after its opening for the Chinese launch of the iPhone 4S was cancelled due to concerns over the size of the crowd.
Apple reacted to the scuffle by postponing iPhone 4S sales in its mainland China stores to protect the safety of customers and employees. It said the phone will still be sold online and through its local carrier.
Customers including migrant workers hired by touts in teams of 20 to 30 to buy iPhones for resale at a mark-up to Chinese gadget fans waited overnight in freezing weather at the Apple store in Beijing’s eastern Sanlitun district.
The crowd grew angry after the store failed to open on schedule at 7am. Some threw eggs and shouted at employees through the windows.
A person with a megaphone announced the sale was cancelled. Police ordered the crowd to leave and sealed off the area with yellow tape. Employees posted a sign saying the iPhone 4S was out of stock.
“We were unable to open our store at Sanlitun due to the large crowd and, to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, iPhone will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being,” said Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu.
Other Apple stores in China opened today and Ms Wu said the iPhone 4S quickly sold out.
She said the phone will still be sold in China through Apple’s online store, its local carrier China Unicom and retailers which are authorised resellers.
Ms Wu declined to comment on what Apple might know about touts buying iPhones for resale.
China is Apple’s fastest-growing market and “an area of enormous opportunity”, chief executive Tim Cook said in October. He said quarterly sales were up nearly four times over a year earlier and accounted for one-sixth of Apple’s global sales.
Apple’s iPhones are hugely popular in China and stores are mobbed for the release of new products.
iPhones are manufactured in China by an Apple contractor but new models are released in other countries first. That has helped to fuel a thriving “grey market” in China for phones smuggled in from Hong Kong and other markets.
Last May, the Sanlitun store was closed for several hours after a scuffle between an employee and a customer during the release of the iPhone 4, the previous model in the series.
If you are located in the good old USA…..there is no need to throw eggs….just go online and have it delivered to your home. Buy it from Walmart and save some money….