Chinese counterfeiters have a long history of cloning hardware from major tech manufacturers, but now they're going a step further by cloning entire stores.
A US blogger living in Kunming in Southwest China noticed what appeared to be an Apple store pop up in her town, complete with the store's trademark spacious, airy interior, blue-shirted staff, products to play with, and upstairs seating area.
"We proceeded to place a bet on whether or not this was a genuine Apple store or just the best rip-off we had ever seen," said the blogger, who hasn't disclosed her identity but goes under the pseudonym BirdAbroad. It turned out to be the latter -- a quick glance at Apple's website shows that there are only stores in Beijing and Shanghai in China.
Even more curiously, the staff believed they genuinely were working for Apple. "I tried to imagine the training that they went to when they were hired," says the blogger, "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."
There is some debate as to whether the store in question is a "Premium Reseller" taking the job far too seriously. (Not any more there isn't. See the above update.) The blog's author addresses this in the comments, adding: "What these stores are doing is clearly different -- they are trying to trick people into thinking this is an actual Apple store. The employees all think they actually work for the American company Apple, when they plainly do not."
You can see plenty of images of the store on BirdAbroad's blog, along with discussion in the comments.
It isn't the first time cloning of this scale has been claimed. In 2006, for example, it was reported the whole of NEC, the electronics firm, was cloned.
(I lined this up a few days ago, but just noticed it's in the Metro today.)