Chinese scalpers have set their sights on a new, in-demand product with limited availability: Genius Bar appointments inside Apple's popular retail stores.
Local ticket scalpers are online in Beijing charging between 10 and 40 yuan ($1.63 to $6.52) for a Genius Bar appointment after booking up all available appointments months in advance, according to Beijing Morning News. The trend is causing trouble for some Apple product owners in the area, as getting to a store is sometimes difficult due to their work schedules. These Apple customers are then left with a difficult choice: pay the scalpers for a ticket or hope that there is a no-show and a place opens up for them in the Genius Bar queue.
"[Booking service at an Apple Store] is difficult," said one customer, "like [getting a] Spring Festival train ticket." The customer was referring to the Chunyun period, a time of extremely high traffic load in China, which typically starts 15 days before the Lunar New Year. During that period, scalpers often charge double or triple the usual price for a railway ticket.
One reporter, having failed to secure a Genius Bar appointment through the normal routes, looked into advertisements that offered up slots at the city's Apple Stores. Within minutes, the scalpers had presented a choice of two local stores and two time slots. After receiving login details for the booking from the scalpers, the reporter was able to access the appointment on Apple's site in order to change the details to his own, ensuring there would be no problems with the newly acquired time slot.
The reporter contacted the manager of the Apple retail outlet, relaying the process he'd just gone through and asking whether the store or Apple would be doing anything to squash the network of scalpers. At the time of the writing of the story, there had been no response.
Apple's retail outlets are high traffic locations â welcoming 120 million visitors in the last quarter of 2012 â and this is even more so in the world's most populous nation. One Beijing location, according to the report, sees hundreds of Genius Bar reservations made per day, and appointments for iPhone and iPad maintenance stay in short supply in the city.
Responding to the Beijing Morning Times story, some observers have noted that low appointment availability is something of a regularity in Hong Kong. Reportedly two out of three Apple Stores there regularly have no appointments available.