BEIJING: Everyone has heard of fake iPads and fake iPhones, but a fake Apple store?
China's passion for all things Apple has gone into overdrive, it appears, with the discovery of a fake Apple store so convincing that even the staff think they work for Mr Steve Jobs.
The store, in the south-western city of Kunming, was uncovered by an American blogger who was initially fooled, before she noticed that not everything was as it seemed.
At first glance, the signs, computers and layout of the shop all look exactly like a genuine Apple store, says the 27-year-old blogger, who posts under the name BirdAbroad and has been living in Kunming for more than two years.
Photos posted by the blogger show the employees wearing Apple's trademark blue T-shirts with name badges hanging around their necks.
But a closer look reveals that the winding stairs going up to the chill-out area are poorly made, the walls have not been painted well, and the shopfront sign says 'Apple Store' whereas the real deal just sports the now-famous fruit logo.
The staff, however, 'all genuinely think they work for Apple', she wrote. 'Clearly, they had also been told that above all, they must protect the brand.
'As I took these photos I was quickly accosted by two salespeople inside, and three plainclothes security guys outside, putting their hands in my face and telling me to stop taking photographs - that it wasn't allowed. And why wasn't it allowed? Because their boss told them so.
'I... may or may not have told them that we were two American Apple employees visiting China and checking out the local stores. Either way, they got friendlier and allowed me to snap some pictures.'
Contacted by AFP yesterday, she said: 'I do not know if the computers were real or fake - they seemed real, but it can be hard to tell. She added: 'As of last night, the store was still open.'
And it is not the only Apple clone in the area. A quick walk around the corner revealed two other rip-off Apple stores, one of which sported a sign saying 'Apple Stoer', BirdAbroad said.
The Apple website lists four official stores in China - two in Beijing and two in Shanghai, and none in Kunming.
It has a list of approved retailers that sell its products, but none of those in Kunming corresponds to the fake store's address, according to the blogger.
A spokesman for Apple China declined to comment.
China is home to the biggest counterfeit market in the world, and despite repeated government pledges to root out fake goods, these are still widely available. As the Apple craze spreads around China, fake iPhones and iPods have emerged.
The news, however, is unlikely to have an impact on the US-based IT giant, which on Tuesday posted record sales and profits in the recent quarter as sales of iPhones and iPads more than doubled, helped by huge demand in Asia.