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'Best Ripoff Store' Ever: Fake 'Apple' Outlet In China

The scene inside.
The scene inside.

Planet Money spotted this before us, but it's still an interesting story and there are more developments to pass along today, so here goes:

Kudos to the BirdAbroad blog for this week posting photos and a detailed description of what sounds and looks like an Apple store in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming — but is in fact a pretty good imitation.

News sites are now jumping all over the story. As The Wall Street Journal's China Real Time Report blog says: "suddenly, one of the most famous Apple stores in the world is one that not only isn't a real Apple Store, but apparently isn't even an authorized Apple reseller."

It's one thing to sell knock-offs. Doing a good job recreating a whole store takes piracy to another level.

As BirdAbroad reported, on the surface the store sure looks like the real thing:

"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."

The products looked like the real thing. It was, the expatriate blogger wrote, "the best ripoff store we had ever seen (and we see them every day)."

But a closer look revealed that "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."

And then, a walk around the corner, "revealed not one, but TWO more rip-off Apple stores," BirdAbroad reported.

Now, according to China Real Time Report, "a store employee reached by phone [has] confirmed that the store is not an authorized Apple reseller. The salesman said products in the store are genuine Apple products sold at the same prices as those advertised on Apple's website."

An Apple spokesman, the blog added, declined to comment on what action the real company might take.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.