An American woman blogging from China has the Internet aflame after posting several photos of elaborate, yet "fake" Apple stores in a remote city in the Communist country's southwest province, replete with Macboks, iPhones, and iPads- which may or may not be the real thing. The fake Apple stores are so elaborately replicated that even staff working there have been fooled.
The stores, located in Kunming in China's Yunnan Province, not only have the Apple logo prominently displayed inside and outside the buildings, but the sales associates wear similar uniforms and name tags like those found on employees at actual Apple stores, according to photos posted on the "BirdAbroad" blog.
China, already notorious for being the source of knock-off Nikes, Louis Vuitton handbags and Microsoft products, has never been noted for being home to an entirely fake operation like what the American blogger and her husband came across.
The blogger was not able to verify whether the products in the store they visited were actual Apple products or knock-offs, although so-called HiPhones and Apads are already in circulation in China. The woman did speak with some of the employees and, to her amazement, they "all genuinely think they work for Apple."
Apple, which has four legitimate stores in Beijing and Shanghai, just released its third quarter profit report and in it touts record sales for the three-month period ending June 25, 2011. The company reported sales of $28.57 billion and a net profit of $7.31 billion for the third quarter, according to Macworld.com, and touted China for providing a great margin of that number.
"China was very key to our results," Apple COO Tim Cook said in a talk with analysts Tuesday, according to transcripts of the meeting widely available online. He added, "So this has been a substantial opportunity for Apple, and I firmly believe that we're just scratching the surface right now. I think there is an incredible opportunity for Apple there."
Apple has been using Chinese factories to assemble its gadgets for years, according to the Wall Street Journal, but has only been recently that the company has set its sights on China's growing consumer population.
Apple told MSNBC that it does not have a self-standing retail outlet in Kunming, but it does have a reseller. However, that reseller is nowhere near the "fake" shop mentioned in the blog, the report notes.
The elaborate spin-off Apple store discovered in Kunming is obviously a slap in the face to Apple, Inc., who could be losing untold numbers in revenue if the products being sold in these illegitimate shops actually belong to them.
The blogger and her husband stumbled across the stores during a stroll. To their amazement, they came across two more imitation Apple stores in the same area.
The main store featured in the post which is brightly lit with white walls and has a winding staircase in the center of the store. The photos show wooden tables decked out with what appears to be the latest Apple products. There is also apparently a genius bar. The post failed to mention exactly how smooth, if at all, it happens to run.
The July 20 blog post exposing the fake Apple store is aptly titled "Are you listening Steve Jobs?"
The issue now is exactly how Apple and the Chinese government will move to shutdown these fake operations, and if any action on their parts will actually stop local counterfeiters from continuing what they apparently do so well, especially when they seem to have the advantage-China produces half of the world's manufactured goods.