Chinese scalpers hire migrant workers to wait in line for iPhone 4S
Overview: On January 13th, Apple’s new iPhone 4S was finally made available for purchase in China。By 7PM, over one thousands eager customers were lined up outside Beijing’s two official Apple Inc. retail stores, in Sanlitun and Xidan. The crowd was made up of a large number of migrant workers from Hebei province and Beijing’s Daxing.
Because the Apple stores limited the sale of the iPhone 4S to two per person, scalpers hired individuals to wait in line and purchase the iPhone 4S, which the scalpers would then resell at a higher price, with a profit of 500 to 1000 yuan.
January 13th marked the introduction of the Apple iPhone 4S to the Chinese market. At Apple’s Xidan location，people began lining up as early as midnight on the night of the 12th. A majority of the people in line were not buying the new commodity for themselves, but instead had been hired to wait in the long line with the promise of compensation.
On January 13th at 7 am, Apple fanatics were ecstatic over the release of the new iPhone4S。 By 7pm, thousands of people were lined up outside of Beijing’s two official Apple store locations, in Sanlitun and Xidan. However, many of the people waiting in line were not actual customers, but instead were “托儿”, or people hired by others to pose as real customers. One person claimed to be recruited by the Apple store to purchase the new phone, and then later resell it at a higher price. The management at Apple deny such allegations， stating that such actions might have been orchestrated by scalpers seeking a profit instead of the company’s management team itself.
People waiting in line to make a 100 yuan profit
While the iPhone 4S was not released for sale until the morning of January 13th, people were promoting the sale of the cellular device in Daxing, Changping, and Fengtai a full week earlier. Laoliucheng (老刘称) was one of the thousands waiting in line. Laoliu claims that many scalpers are hiring others to wait in line to purchase the new Iphone4s cell phone.
“You get paid 100 kuai to wait in line from 6pm until 8 am the next day,” Laoliu says, on top of the 100 kuai, they also receive a free dinner for the overnight wait. The number of hired people to wait in line at the two Apple store locations was not the same. The original plan was to recruit over 200 people, but the orchestrators ultimately decided that the more the merrier and recruited over 1,000 people.
Laoliu said the person who hired him to wait in line was a woman by the surname of Zhao (赵). During a phone conversation, Ms. Zhao disclosed that she was an employee working for Apple Inc and promised compensation of 100 kuai in exchange for the purchase of the iPhone 4S.
Two days ago at 4pm, people lined up outside of the Xidan Apple Inc. store. Like Laoliu, people were hired in the dozens to wait in line for the new release of the Apple product. One person at the scene estimated that there were about four or five hundred of such individuals.
Laoliu stated that after several days of frenzy, he successfully recruiting forty to fifty people to wait in line. He recorded the individuals contact information and highlighted the eclectic nature of the group, ranging from migrant workers to students. Laoliu also mentioned that most volunteers were hired from Hebei province.
Recruiters, like Laoliu, were distinguished among the crowd by yellow bands that they wore on their sleeves. Recruiters also used cell phones to get in touch with their hired help.
By 7pm, the crowd outside of the Xidan location had surpassed 1,000 people. This number includes the Apple store’s staff as well as police officers that were dispatched by the city government to maintain order at the scene.
Suspicion surrounded the seemingly ridiculous among of demand for the new iPhone 4s. Some claim that Apple Inc. was responsible for the hundreds of people waiting in line and had hired people to wait in line, buy the product, and then redistribute it. Apple Inc. denies such allegations. One Apple employee asked, “Why would we buy our own product to just resell it at a later time?”The Apple employee continued to say that people were most likely hired by scalpers and not by Apple Inc.
As the day went on, the crowd grew. Tensions rose when the clock struck 8pm and the promised dinner was still nowhere to be seen. Around the same time, it became evident that the number of Apple employees was insufficient to provide for the needs of the hundreds waiting in line. Some began to worry that after already waiting in line for a full day, they would still be unable to get their hands on the new cell phone.
The situation further intensified when those hired to wait in line began to worry that they would not be compensated for their hours of waiting, knowing that their pay was conditional upon whether or not they produced the iPhone 4s. Some began to abort the plan and headed home, still leaving several hundreds committed to waiting in line.