The introduction of the newly repleased iPhone 4S in Beijing, China turned ugly on Friday morning when the company failed to open its store and a frustrated crowd consisting of loyal Apple phone users reacted by pelting the store’s gleaming glass walls with eggs.
“Apple Inc. said it had temporarily suspended sales of all iPhones at its five mainland China stores out of concern for the safety of customers and employees. However, these phones will still continue to be offered online, through the company’s official partner, Unicom, and at authorized resellers. The statement did not say when Apple stores would resume selling the iPhone 4S.
Demand for iPhones in China far exceeds supply, which has spawned an army of scalpers who hire migrant workers to snap up products that the scalpers then resell at much higher prices.
A large group of people of more than 1,000 who gathered outside the Apple store on Friday in the Sanlitun district of Beijing included organized teams of migrant workers, identifiable by matching armbands or hats. Some of the migrant workers said they were bused in and promised payment of 100 renminbi, or about $16, for purchasing a phone.
Wary of unrest, police ordered the store not to open, according to one source familiar with the situation. Furious, some would-be customers threw eggs. Police controlled the crowd and temporarily shut off the store.
Those recruited by scalpers were particularly angry. Some said the store’s closing meant that they would get only 10 renminbi, meant as a food allowance, after standing in line all night in freezing temperatures.
It was the second time in less than a year that the Sanlitun store had been forced to temporarily close while trying to offer a new product. In May, four people were injured and a glass door was smashed when a crowd waiting to buy the iPad 2 turned disorderly, according to China Daily,” New York Times said in a post.
At other store in Beijing and the three stores in Shanghai, the phone sold out quickly, leaving some customer disappointed, but with there is no reports of incidents.
China is the Apple’s fastest-growing market: with just five of the it’s stores, and the country accounts for one-sixth of its global sales. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, said last week that “customer response to our products in China has been off the charts.”