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Thursday, September 30, 2010, 09:00 am PT (12:00 pm ET)

Scalpers capitalize on Apple's limited iPhone 4 stock in China

When the iPhone 4 went on sale in China last week, scalpers immediately began taking advantage of Apple's limited stock, offering the device to customers with a 10 percent markup and apparently causing a fight with regular customers at one store.

With the handset completely sold out in the four Apple retail stores in China, scalpers were waiting outside the locations, according to The Wall Street Journal, to offer an alternative. Those scalpers purchased many of the smartphones when they went on sale earlier in the week.

"Want to buy an iPhone 4?" the scalpers have reportedly been asking customers. "Come with us."

"Working in groups, the scalpers lead willing customers to an empty stairway in the same mall, where their cohorts keep stacks of iPhone 4s in the original packaging," the report said. "One scalper was offering the 16-gigabyte version of the device for 5,400 yuan, or about 795 dollars, a 10-percent mark-up over the sticker price."

The scalpers' handsets are said to be selling at a brisk pace, too, with one person revealing they had sold 10 handsets in just an hour. At least five groups were said to be working inside Beijing's Sanlitun Village mall.

The issue caused a scuffle with customers this week, according to MIC Gadget. Large crowds reportedly resulted in people being pushed into the cashiers' counter, and scalpers walked out with large bags full of iPhone 4s.

"According to sources, the real customers and the iPhone 4 scalpers had a fight in the Apple store," the report said. "A gang of scalpers were cutting the queue and some customers were fed up with the scalpers for buying large quantities of iPhone 4 and resell them outside the store. The police and Apple’s own security staff appeared to clean up the mess and due to the chaotic crowd, the store needs to be closed temporarily..."

The iPhone 4 went on sale in China on Saturday, drawing huge crowds of thousands of people, lined up to get their hands on Apple's latest smartphone. Carrier China Unicom received more than 200,000 preorders, and struggled to meet consumer demand.

A total of 100,000 handsets were said to have been sold in the first four days of availability, while the other 100,000 who preordered may have to wait until as late as the end of October to have their order fulfilled. Just 40,000 units were shipped for the first day of sales.