By Alex Biles, University of Michigan
Apple’s instantly recognizable logo is known for its trademark bite, but what about its stores?
Some crafty entrepreneurs in China have made biting Apple their trademark with the opening of what appear to be Apple stores, or in some special cases, “stoers.”
As reported in an excellent blog piece earlier today, a growing number of knockoff Apple stores, possibly selling knockoff Apple products, are appearing in China. And we’re not talking Beijing and Shanghai here. Our author of this blog piece’s hangout is none other than the burgeoning Chinese city of Kunming, which I had never heard of until today.
Complete with a classic Apple winding staircase and a clean setup resembling its legitimate counterparts, the store is staffed by employees rocking blue tees with the knockoff Apple logo.
Yet, some things were sketchy. The name tags had no names. They simply featured the Apple logo and a mysterious “staff” designation. It’s reported that the stairs were poorly made, and the walls, painted sloppily. Plus, BirdAbroad noted, Apple never writes “Apple Store” on its signs, preferring to keep things simple with the glowing image of its favorite fruit.
Then there’s a quick check of the Apple website’s store locator, which displays a pair of stores in both Beijing and Shanghai – and that’s it. Close, but no cigar, Kunming.
BirdAbroad also reports the cozy encounter that ensued when he attempted to photograph the spectacle:
Clearly, they had also been told that above all, they must protect the brand. As I took these photos I was quickly accosted by two salespeople inside, and three plain clothes security guys outside, putting their hands in my face and telling me to stop taking photographs – that it wasn’t allowed. And why wasn’t it allowed? Because their boss told them so.
As if that weren’t creepy enough, the employees of the “stoers” actually believe they are working for Apple. Somewhere, this greasy bastard of a “boss” is counting his yuan, while oblivious employees and customers fiddle with gadgets which may or may not have been produced in some outsourced Apple “factroy.”
For even more shits and giggles, BirdAbroad notes that a short walk around the block yielded the discovery of not one, but two more knockoff Apple stores.
The crazy libertarian streak in me thinks this is kind of awesome – an ironic middle finger to trademark and copyright protections for corporations. It’s the true epitome of the laissez-faire model that has granted the Chinese tremendous economic growth, lifting millions out of abject poverty.
However, I have to admit being a little freaked out by the deception going on between the employees and their “boss,” coupled with the possibility of customers unknowingly being sold knockoff products.
But, hey. At least there’s no knockoff Taco Bells in China. Right?