Tag Archives: Fake Apple Stores

What to Do If Your Blog Goes Viral: 10 Tips

When my blog went viral because of the fake Apple store post, I was totally caught off guard and made a lot of mistakes. I know it’s all very exciting when this happens and people start contacting you from all over the world, but it pays in the long run to be hardheaded about this in advance. Below are a few pieces of friendly advice based on my experience, in case going viral ever happens to you.

Please add your own tips on this in the comments section!

  1. Recognize what’s coming. Have 1,000 people visited your blog in the past hour, when previously only 10 people came in a day? Is your content being rapidly Tweeted? Welcome to the land of the viral internet! Prepare to take action.
  2. Decide what you want out of this experience. Are you looking to become famous on the internet? A full-time blogger? The next Paris Hilton? Or are you looking to maintain your privacy and your regular life? This will inform how and where you allow your content to be distributed.
  3. Consider buying the domain name of your blog address (e.g. for myblog.wordpress.com, buy myblog.com).
  4. Consider putting up ads on your blog. You may find this tacky, but when you realize that your content is spreading all over the internet and lots of people are making money off of it, you may feel differently.
  5. Make sure you have a copyright notice prominently displayed. Decide on a policy of how your content can be used by different media outlets (e.g. blogs, print media, television). Be aware that US law does not recognize the “moral right of attribution” – that is, just because you ask to be publicly credited when you give permission for your content to be reproduced elsewhere, doesn’t mean the outlet has to credit you. You having given permission for use of your content is enough for them to run it.
  6. Consider watermarking all of your photos, or disabling the ability of others to download/right-click your content if you want to maintain strict control (this may or may not be easily done, depending on who is hosting your blog).
  7. Realize that your content may have considerable financial value – don’t just give it away to people who are going to be making money from it. (Remember: multibillion-dollar media conglomerates are not your friends.) In particular, demand in advance that you be remunerated for any use of your content in print or on TV. Technically, there’s no difference in terms of copyright violation online/on TV/in print if your content is used without your permission, but there’s something particularly galling about not being paid for your content to be used in print or on TV by someone else. May them pay up.
  8. If you give permission for your content to be reproduced, do so in a limited way – BE EXPLICIT. For example: “Yes, you have the right to use this one particular photo for this one particular article, and nowhere else. You may not archive my content for future use.”
  9. Do not ever give permission for your photos to be freely used by a major warehouse of photos like Agence France-Presse (AFP), Getty Images, or the Associated Press (AP). These places have tens of thousands of clients, who will be buying your photos from them, without any financial gain for you. Your photos will be reproduced by numerous outlets credited only AFP/Getty/AP, without crediting you. AFP/Getty/AP will claim that they have no control over this – while this may be true, it will not help ease your feeling that very bad things should happen to these people. Giving your photos to one of these agencies will mark the end of your control over your photos – BEWARE.
  10. Do not be impressed or intimidated by your unauthorized content showing up in prominent places – get on the phone or send them an email and make sure they remove your content or pay your for it – or both. The following outlets are among the numerous places that abused the content of this blog: NYTimes.com, CBS News, New York Post, The Independent (UK), Le Figaro (France), and USA Today. I AM NOT IMPRESSED.

Anyone got anything else to add?

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Kunming Fake Apple Stores Shut Down

The local authorities have reported their findings from the investigation they conducted into the fake Apple stores in Kunming, and a couple pieces of information have made it into the news.

The first is that they found five fake Apple stores in Kunming, not just three. I’m actually only surprised that it’s so few – the three that RP and I found were just the ones we happened to come across while walking home from dinner.

The second piece of information is that two of the five stores have been shut down – not for intellectual property rights violations, but because they didn’t have business licenses, the bare minimum necessary for a commercial retail operation.

What this means, of course, is that three of the five stores (coincidentally, the three that I put photos of on this blog) were issued valid business licenses by authorities who were, to give them serious benefit of the doubt, asleep at the wheel – and those stores continue to operate.

What this also means, I assume, is that by putting up that blog post, my husband and I are indirectly responsible for some number of people losing their jobs as employees of those stores. How do we feel about that? Terrible.

I want to explain again: when we photographed those stores and put up that blog post, it’s not because we found it shocking someone had ripped off Apple in China. I’ve been coming to China for almost eight years, and RP has been coming here for 10 years – we’re well aware of the prevalence of shanzhai goods and stores in this country. Even the street that the main fake Apple store is on has what we assume are numerous other ripoff stores – it has two shoddy Nike stores alone, and this is supposed to be the main upscale shopping street in the city.

We photographed these stores because they were such detailed and complete ripoffs that they almost rose to the level of artistry, if you look at them in the right frame of mind. And I put it on my blog because I thought that a few people outside my normal readership of, say, six people, might find it amusing too.

We’re not shills for Apple – we’re just appreciators of absurdity. And the idea that people might lose their jobs over a blog post seemed ridiculous. We hadn’t foreseen the fact that this story would sit perfectly at the intersection of Americans’ Applemania and Sinophobia and, as one article I read put it, “blow up the internet”.

This is not to say that I have no feelings about violations of IPR in China. I hold the prevailing Western opinion that a total disregard for IPR seriously hampers innovation. Given the extent to which IPR is ignored in a city like Kunming – and, I imagine, numerous other similar Chinese cities that you’ve never heard of, each containing millions of people – if I were a Chinese businesswoman, I would open a fake Apple store tomorrow. What’s the point of coming up with your own business idea if you can just lift an existing one wholesale that you know will be successful and won’t be shut down by the authorities?

I think it is a fair criticism that social injustice is being propagated by a system in which the workers who actually produce Apple’s products in China are unable to afford to purchase them. (Not that the Chinese people complaining on this blog about the price of Apple products are factory workers – let’s get real. You’re not labor activists, you just want Apple products as much as anyone, anywhere.) Indeed, an Apple product in China is likely to be more expensive than purchasing one in the US, or even Hong Kong. The reason for that, however, is because the Chinese government slaps a massive import tax on these and other such products, making it even less likely that people will be willing to buy the real thing and support enforcing IPR laws.

Shutting down these couple Apple stores in Kunming doesn’t represent a move to enforce IPR laws in China – they were shut down in a little show-trial move on the basis of having been so shady as to not even have business licenses. But if such stores were to be shut down en masse on that basis, despite the loss of retail jobs, I admit that I would support it. I think that supporting such a move represents the hope that China could be a thrilling country of innovators on a scale that the world has never before seen – and it certainly represents a blow to the insulting insinuation that shanzhai crap is China’s major cultural contribution to the planet.

If France can enforce smoking bans in bars, China can enforce IPR laws. Agreed?

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Over to You Guys: Fakery Around China and the World

Congratulations to you all on your excellent sleuthing!

Over the past couple of days you’ve sent pictures and written in about fake (or at least seriously questionable) Apple stores from Croatia to Colombia, Burma to Venezuela, Slovenia to Spain, and in a dozen locations right here in China. (I also appreciate the hilarity of the fake Hard Rock Cafe in Ho Chi Minh City and the fake Hooters in Cancun, but let’s stay focused here.)

The most elegant and accomplished ripoff documented was a fake Apple store in Xi’an, China, sent in by numerous readers. Here it is:

Xi'an, China. July 2011. Courtesy of Bruce Burkhalter.

Xi'an, China. May 2011. Courtesy of Anonymous.

Xi'an, China. May, 2011. Courtesy of Anonymous.

Xi'an, China. May, 2011. Courtesy of Anonymous.

Xi'an, China. May 2011. Courtesy of Anonymous.

Honorable Mention goes to the following examples of shanzhai – obviously they’re not fooling anyone, but they won me over with their randomness and charm.

Mandalay, Burma. January 2011. Courtesy of Gregg Butensky.

Zagreb, Croatia. Courtesy of Ruadhán ÒNeill.

Flushing, New York, USA. Couresy of Greg Autry.

If anything totally outrageous happens on the “Apple Stoer” front (or if Steve Jobs ever emails me back), I’ll be sure to let you guys know. In the mean time, I’m probably going to get back to my regularly scheduled blogging, which, it may shock you to hear, does not generally deal with a certain Cupertino, CA-based electronics giant. Hope you’ll stay with me.

Thanks for coming along on this wild ride! It’s been a blast.

Video courtesy of Next Media Animation.

ETA: The reader who sent in the picture from Zagreb was under the impression that the Apple store depicted was a fake. Several readers have now written in saying that it is, in fact, an authorized reseller. I still like the photo, so perhaps the store in Zagreb will forgive me for keeping it up and consider it a bit of free advertising.

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Breaking News: Investigation Launched into Fake Apple Stores

This just in from Chinese official news outlet Xinhua:

Kunming launches inspection on fake ‘Apple Stores’

Industrial and commercial authorities in Kunming, capital city of southwestern Yunnan Province, on Friday started an inspection on all the city’s electronics stores.

The inspection is carried out after three stores, self-named “Apple Stores” yet never authorized by the Apple Inc., were exposed via the Internet.

The inspection includes business licenses, authorized permits of brand use, and the purchase channel of each store, said a worker with the city’s industrial and commercial department.

The inspection result will be announced to the public soon, the worker said.

The three alleged fake “Apple Stores” were discovered by a traveling blogger named BirdAbroad, who posted photos and challenged the stores’ legitimate status and rights to use Apple’s logo.

This kind of thing never happens!

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Fake Apple Store: Update with Video

As we head towards 1,000,000 views in less than 72 hours over here on BirdAbroad, I think it’s time to take stock and give an update on China’s favorite ripoff Apple store.

As many of you know, this story has struck a nerve in the Western world, and has spread virally…well, basically everywhere. Reuters is claiming that the story has been been picked up by nearly 1,000 media outlets – and I can tell you that I have personally been contacted by every major news source in the US and Europe, included the AP, AFP, CNN, BBC, ABC, NBC, and other similarly acronymed outfits.

The Chinese news media is also catching on, with several hundred stories have been published locally and around the country. This seems like a good moment to introduce you all to an excellent and relevant word in Chinese: shanzhai (pronounced SHAN-JAI). It means fake, ripoff, counterfeit. As in:

“Woah, these Adidas are on sale for five dollars!!”

“Dude, save your money. Totally shanzhai.”

An increasing number of Chinese people have contacted me, variously lamenting the enormous prevalence of shanzhai goods in China, but plenty of others have chastised me for even bothering to talk about this on the internet – shanzhai is unstoppable in China, they say, and point out that they don’t really care if the Apple store is shanzhai or not. Some have even said that Apple deserves to have shanzhai stores, since their products are absurdly expensive, despite being made right here in China.

I’ve also been called upon to publicly apologize to the city and people of Kunming for…I don’t even know what. Presumably for besmirching their good name.

As for the main store that I photographed in my original post: an employee of the store has confirmed that it is unauthorized. An Apple spokeswoman has also confirmed that it is unauthorized (before they stopped responding to media inquiries entirely, or so it seems).

The Toronto Star reported that they had reached the manager of the fake Apple store, who said that while the store is indeed unauthorized, the wares they sell are real. Reuters has reported that angry customers of the Kunming “Apple Store” have come knocking, demanding receipts for their previous purchases of Apple products.

An unnamed “senior U.S. trade official” has even weighed in, saying, “Confronting [the challenges we continue to face combating intellectual property theft in China] is a high priority for the Obama Administration.”

Regardless of the international furor, let me assure you that the store is still open and seems to be operating as normal. I have heard that international news crews will be descending on Kunming shortly, but until their footage surfaces let me offer you this bit of video, taken by me a few hours ago (Friday evening, China time).

Enjoy!

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Now It’s Your Turn: Send Me Your Fake Apple Pics!

Hello, Internet.

To the half million of you who have visited in the past 48 hours: Welcome! Thanks for coming. As I’ve stayed awake watching you all leave comments and links, reposting and retweeting, I’ve pondered not only such grandiose matters as the smallness of the world and the ability of the internet to connect us, but have also grappled with practical issues: What Would Sudeep Do (WWSD)?

I have decided that intrepid commenter Sudeep would now ask you all to do your part to keep up the madness and send me photos of the fake Apple stores you’ve seen.

Before we get into the intricate nest of issues around intellectual property rights in general, and specifically in China, let’s take a moment and admit that all of this ripoff junk is amazing. When it’s poorly done, it’s hilarious and a little sad. When it’s brilliantly done, it makes you stand back and wonder – the attention to detail, the belief that customers can be fooled, the willingness even to hire people and taken them unknowingly along with you on your little ruse.

Have you seen Apples stores that you think are fake in another part of China? Tonga? Dar es Salaam? Send your photos to me at birdabroadblog [AT] gmail [DOT] com. The higher quality the fake, the better. A few people have already sent in photos – if good ones keep rolling in, I’ll put them up here. Please include the location (as specifically as possible), the date you took the photo and how you’d like to be credited. Do yourself a favor, and check Apple’s website first to see if it’s an actual Apple reseller.

Speaking of which, to address the main issue that people have been getting all bent out of shape about: the stores I photographed do not appear to be authorized Apple sellers. The list of resellers in Kunming that Apple’s website has published does not include the locations that I photographed. An employee at the main store photographed has confirmed that it is not an authorized reseller. Apple itself has confirmed that it is a fake.

So. Begin!

Hanoi, Vietnam. October 2010. Courtesy of RP

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Are you listening, Steve Jobs?

UPDATE #2: Click here for updates on the fake Apple store, with video footage.

UPDATE #1: To address the main issue that people have been getting all bent out of shape about: the stores I photographed do not appear to be authorized Apple sellers. The list of resellers in Kunming that Apple’s website has published does not include the locations that I photographed. An employee at the main store photographed has confirmed that it is not an authorized reseller. Apple itself has confirmed that it is a fake.

I will not be publishing on this blog the addresses of the stores I photographed – if you live in China, you’ll understand why. Feel free to email me at birdabroadblog [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

*****

The Western news media is replete with pithy descriptions of the rapid changes taking place in China: China has the world’s fastest growing economy. China is undergoing remarkable and rapid change. This represents a unique moment for a society changing as quickly as China.

You probably read such things in the paper every day – but if you have never been to China, I’m not sure you know quite what this means on a mundane level. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, in the 2+ years that RP and I have been in our apartment, much of the area around us has been torn down, rebuilt, or gutted and renovated – in some cases, several times over. I had the thought, only half-jokingly, that when we returned from a couple months abroad, we might not be able to recognize our apartment building. Or that it might not be there at all.

As it turns out, my fears were baseless – our scrappy little home remains. The neighborhood, however, has definitely kicked it up a notch or seven. Starbucks has opened not one, but THREE branches (that I encountered) within a 10 minute walk of one another. An H&M has opened across from our apartment building. These are the kinds of major Western brands that were previously only represented in Kunming by fast food chains like McDonald’s and KFC. Our neighborhood has quickly become the swanky shopping center of the city.

So when we strolled down a street a few blocks from our house a couple weeks ago, I was only sort of surprised to see this new place, one that any American of my generation can probably recognize instantaneously:

It’s an Apple store!

Or is it?

RP and I went inside and poked around. They looked like Apple products. It looked like an Apple store. It had the classic Apple store winding staircase and weird upstairs sitting area. The employees were even wearing those blue t-shirts with the chunky Apple name tags around their necks.

We proceeded to place a bet on whether or not this was a genuine Apple store or just the best ripoff we had ever seen – and to be sporting, I bet that it was real.

I know, you guys are laughing: an Apple store in Kunming? No one who doesn’t know me personally has ever heard of Kunming before. Kunming is the end of the Earth. It’s all true – but seriously, China warps your mind into believing that anything is possible, if you stay here long enough. When we went back to this store 5 days later and couldn’t find it, having overshot by two blocks, I seriously thought that it had simply been torn down and replaced with a bank in the mean time – hey, it’s China. That could happen.

You have already guessed the punchline, of course: this was a total Apple store ripoff. A beautiful ripoff – a brilliant one – the best ripoff store we had ever seen (and we see them every day). But some things were just not right: the stairs were poorly made. The walls hadn’t been painted properly.

Apple never writes “Apple Store” on it’s signs – it just puts up the glowing, iconic fruit.

The name tags around the necks of the friendly salespeople didn’t actually have names on them – just an Apple logo and the anonymous designation “Staff”. And of course, Apple’s own website will tell you that they only have a few stores in Beijing and Shanghai, opened only recently; Apple famously opens new stores painstakingly, presumably to assure impeccable standards and lots of customer demand.

Is this store a copy of one of those in Beijing? A copy of a copy in another Chinese city? A copy of a copy of a copy?! While you’re pondering that, bear in mind: this is a near-perfect ripoff of a store selling products that were almost unknown when we first came to China. My white MacBook was likely to draw only blank stares or furrowed brows as I sat gnashing my teeth trying in vain to get a piece of Chinese software to run on it.

Being the curious types that we are, we struck up some conversation with these salespeople who, hand to God, all genuinely think they work for Apple. I tried to imagine the training that they went to when they were hired, in which they were pitched some big speech about how they were working for this innovative, global company – when really they’re just filling the pockets of some shyster living in a prefab mansion outside the city by standing around a fake store disinterestedly selling what may or may not be actual Apple products that fell off the back of a truck somewhere.

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.

I…may or may not have told them that we were two American Apple employees visiting China and checking out the local stores. Either way, they got friendlier and allowed me to snap some pictures.

And the best part? A ten minute walk around the corner revealed not one, but TWO more rip-off Apple stores.

Some store managers may have dozed off briefly during certain parts of the lecture on How to Completely Ignore Intellectual Property Rights:

Anyone from Apple want to come down to Kunming and break open a can of IPR whoop-ass?

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