On January 13, Apple releases iPhone 4S for sale in China. As soon as the news broke out, scalpers restlessly began their preparation of this big event. According to media reports, one week before the iPhone 4S official release date, there were already people recruiting with iPhone 4S marketing flyers at several job markets in Daxing, Changping and Fengtai etc. cities, the goal was to hire people to wait in line in front the Apple stores for the big panic buy on the release date.
At the Sanlitun Apple Store in Beijing, It is reported that hired buyers need to show up in front of the Apple stores at 6 pm the day before and wait all the way until 8 am next morning. After successfully purchased an iPhone 4S, these hired buyers can earn about 200 RMB in commission. The organizers even distributed uniformed hats or gloves to these hired buyers waiting in line in order to keep track of the operation.
Around 6 pm, many migrant workers hired by scalpers showed up in front of the store and started to wait in the line. But, somehow conflict broke out between the rival gangs of scalpers. In order to avoid the situation to escalate, just before the store opens in the morning, the Beijing Apple Sanlitun store announced that they would no longer be selling iPhone 4S.
This announcement angered thousands of people who had waited in line overnight, especially those scalpers who expected to turn a large profit form reselling iPhone 4S. One scalper, wearing yellow, even bought bags of eggs and began throwing at the store.
Many scalpers and customers stayed outside, reluctant to leave, hoping the Sanlitun Apple Store would open. Some scalpers gathered people in front of the door to shout “Open”, however the Apple Store was never opened.
Around 8:30 am, dozens of police came outside of Sanlitun store to maintain orders and to disperse the crowd. Around 9 am, crowd gathered outside of the store was gradually dispersed, but there were still some scalpers waiting not far away.
No iPhone 4S, customers were not happy, of course the scalpers were even angrier, therefore it triggered to the innocent migrant workers.
Once the Apple store announced they would stop selling iPhone 4S, those migrant workers waiting overnight surrounded the scalpers and asking for promised commission. The scalper looked displeased and said to talk about it.
A migrant worker waited in line told the reporter, he is in a group of 42 people, started waiting in line since 9 pm last night. The negotiated price was 200 RMB, but later became 150.
“42 people, at most total 3000 yuan, or each person 80 yuan at the most.” A scalper wearing black leather jacket told the migrant worker representative.
“At least 170 a person.” The migrant worker representative persisted.
“I only bought 4000, if you don’t want it, call the cops.” The scalper said.
42 migrant workers had no other choice but finally accepted the 4000 yuan from the scalper. After a long cold winter night, each migrant worker got less than 100 yuan of commission. Put it all together, not even enough to buy an iPhone 4S.
Around 12:10 pm, Apple China made an official announcement to stop selling iPhone in all Beijing and Shanghai retail stores.
“Demand for iPhone 4S exceeded our expectations, currently, it had been sold out in all Apple retail stores in China. Due to large crowd gathered at Sanlitun store, and to ensure our customers and employees’ safety, we are sorry that the Sanlitun store could no longer operate business. iPhone will temporally not be sold in Beijing and Shanghai retail stores. Customers can still order it through the Apple Online Store, or at China Unicorn and other authorized resellers.”