January 13, 2012 - 5:13PM
BEIJING – An angry crowd shouted and threw eggs at Apple's Beijing flagship store after it failed to open on schedule Friday to sell the popular new iPhone 4S model.
Hundreds of people waited overnight in freezing weather for the sale at the Apple store in the Chinese capital's Sanlitun district. Some said they were paid to wait by merchants who planned to resell the popular phones.
The crowd erupted in anger after the shop failed to open on schedule at 7am. Some people threw eggs and shouted at employees through the shop windows.
Police cleared the area and employees later posted a sign in the window saying the iPhone 4S was out of stock. The area was sealed off with police tape at mid-morning.
Apple said on it would stop selling its latest iPhone in its retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai to ensure the safety of its customers and employees. "The demand for iPhone 4S has been incredible and our stores in China have already sold out," an Apple spokeswoman said.
"Unfortunately, we were unable to open our store at Sanlitun due to the large crowd. And to ensure the safety of our customers and our employees, iPhones will not be available in our retails stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being," she said.
Customers will still be able to order the smartphone online or purchase it through Apple's partner in China, China Unicom.
Apple's iPhones are hugely popular in China and stores are mobbed for the release of new models, which can be resold for large markups.
Last May, the Sanlitun store was closed for several hours after a scuffle between an employee and a customer during the release of the iPhone 4.
"On the one hand there is poor organisation and on the other there were just too many people," said a man waiting Friday outside the Sanlitun store, who would give only his surname, Miao. "I don't think they prepared well enough."
Apple's other major outlet in Beijing in the Xidan district on the west side opened on schedule and the iPhone 4S was sold out by 10.30am, according to an employee who answered the phone there. She refused to give her name or any other details.
AP and Reuters