Made In China: Knock-Off Apple Stores

Steve Jobs might want to have a look at this.

Made In China: Knock-Off Apple Stores
Images courtesy of BirdAbroad

It’s no secret that China has the ability to produce some damn-near identical knock-offs of nearly every product from clothing to jewelry. I hate to bring up Canal Street, but on my first visit to New York City, I came home with what appeared to be a finely-crafted golden pocket watch on a chain, fit for an English gentleman flashing the time on his buggy ride into Central London. What I actually purchased was a seven dollar (haggled from $15) non-functioning conversation piece that was a small Coke away from a Happy Meal. Stamped on the back: Made In China.

We’re all desensitized to the gross amount of manufactured goods that surround us with the same markings; it’s just an accepted fact. But China’s latest knock-off is straight from the ol’ US of A–if you don’t count the products they sell…or the ones they claim to sell, either.

A 27 year-old blogger and international public health employee stumbled upon not one, but three copycat Apple stores in Kunming, China, where everything from the spiraled staircases to the wooden display tables are mimicked nearly identically. Apple products line the walls while shiny, new iPads await trial runs and smudgy fingerprints.

You would swear you were shopping in a certified Apple store–until you look at the employee’s cumbersome name tag a little closer and realize it simply reads “Staff.” Pristine white Apple logos litter the interior, but it’s the one on the outside that’s labelled “Apple Stoer” [sic] that seems a bit odd. Typically, there’s no need for a reminder that you–lo and behold!–are standing inside of an Apple store; the logo’s presence in itself tends to do the trick.

When you realize that these intricacies are meant to replicate an environment–and product–the owners aren’t legally certified to sell, the stores start looking less like Canal Street knock-offs and more like corrupt, underground organizations.

Made In China: Knock-Off Apple Stores
Remember these iPod Shuffle-era silhouette ads?

For example, the impatient young woman trying to sell you a “Tiffany” necklace in New York won’t claim to be a Tiffany representative. Hell, if she did, I’d respect the commitment and extra effort towards a potential sale. But even so, she wouldn’t hold a legitimate belief to belong to the Tiffany’s corporation.

According to BirdAbroad’s blog post, the employees at said knock-off store “hand to God, all genuinely think they work for Apple.” When she began to take pictures of the store’s interior, plain clothes security officers and store employees told her pictures weren’t allowed “because their boss told them so.” Clearly, some fell-off-the-truck replica dealer went the extra mile to protect his investment in ripping off an entire store’s concept–“the best ripoff store we had ever seen (and we see them every day)” said the blogger.

Upon checking Apple’s presence in Kunming, China, MSNBC reports that Apple does have a certified reseller located there–it’s just nowhere near this one.

Whether the products inside are genuine Apple products or not–which wouldn’t surprise me, seeing as the factories that produce them are half-a-world closer to this store than the tourist trap on 5th Avenue–a sneaky fake chain-store owner hiding out in a Chinese high rise might have to answer to Lord Jobs’ legal team very soon.

Who knew that for all the business we trade with China, our greatest export could be Apple stores?