Apple has called a halt to all iPhone sales in China after huge crowds disrupted the launch of the iPhone 4S in Beijing. After some customers waited for days in freezing temperatures outside the Apple store in the Sanlitun section of Beijing, the store announced that it would not open as scheduled on Friday morning. Naturally, that sent the crowd into a frenzy, leading customers to rush the doors and throw eggs at the giant windows. Police had to cordon off the store and some arrests were made and store remained closed due to "safety concerns."
Despite the fact that sales went smoothly (though the new phone sold out quickly) at other Apple stores in Beijing and Shanghai, the incident led Apple to halt all in-store iPhone sales in the country. Customers can still buy them online, but the botched rollout in Sanlitun angered many of those who lined up early hoping to get a phone. Some of those in line were actually migrant workers hired by re-sellers to snatch up the phones for the black market, but despite standing on line for 12 hours, they did not get paid because they weren't able to get a phone.
Part of the blame for the screw up is that despite having 300 stores worldwide, Apple has only five retail outlets in mainland China, its second-biggest market after the U.S. The company had promised 25 by the spring of 2012, but their expansion has been slowed. According to Blooomberg, China's Apple stores generate the highest average revenue of all their stores worldwide.
Today's incident does teach us two important lessons. Despite all the charges of abuse and harsh conditions at Apple's supply factories in China, the people of that country are just as eager to snap up the shiny products as they are anywhere else. Also: they always remember to bring eggs to large product launches, apparently. That's a pretty savvy consumer.