Last week, 9to5 Mac ran a piece from the Beijing Evening News about Apple store scalpers selling Genius Bar reservations. In their article, the Beijing Evening News claims that it's impossible to make an appointment at the Genius Bar without purchasing one from a scalper. But is it really?
Scalpers in China are old news: they're everywhere. Scalpers in China is pretty much part of the norm. At my day job in Beijing, I've often been told to use scalpers for things such as train or bus tickets. They're a part of life. Apparently what made these scalpers newsworthy is that they're selling appointments to the Apple Store's Genius Bar.
As normal as scalpers are in China, I've never had to use them for a visit to the Apple Store Genius Bar. In my personal experiences with the Apple Store in China, I've even found online reservation for the Genius Bar almost unnecessary: You can either reserve over the phone or just show up, and they often try to squeeze you in.
Looking to find more information on the subject, I reached out to Apple's branch in China, phoning two spokespersons. Unfortunately, Apple was unwilling to comment on this alleged situation. With no official reply, the only thing left to do was try our own luck at reserving Genius Bar slots.
The process involved trying to book reservations online, visiting an Apple store, and calling the Apple support hotline. Through various methods, I was able to reserve time slots for different Genius Bars in China without the need of scalpers. Some of the reservations were for dates far into the future; others were for the same day. Some were for iPads and iPhones, while others were for iMacs. Do be aware that at some stores, such as in Shanghai and Chengdu, there were only available appointments for iPhones and iPads.
When I visited the Apple Store in Beijing, I was able to make a reservation for Mac and iPhone repair within the store. It took less than three minutes. Beijing, obviously, is one of the biggest cities in China.
On the phone, it was a bit more bothersome, but reservations could be made after dialing Apple's international call center and then calling the actual store.
When asked about the reason why it was so hard to make a reservation, an Apple Store employee told me that it was because the store was so busy. Further inquiries revealed that the employees at the Apple Store Sanlitun Beijing were well aware of the fact that scalpers were selling reservations.
"We accommodate walk-ins for iPhone, iPod and iPad repair," and Apple Store employee at the Sanlitun Beijing Store told me. "The scalpers can sell reservation numbers but it doesn't matter to us; we want to serve our customers, they come in, and we try our best to get them served, because that way it undermines the scalpers."
I also caught up with two scalpers waiting outside the Sanlitun Apple store. The two scalpers surnamed Deng and Wang offered to buy and sell me iPhones and accessories. When they asked what I was doing at the Apple Store, I replied that I was getting a Genius Bar appointment to repair my Mac.
The scalpers offered me a reservation—a reservation I didn't need—for Monday afternoon for US$32. This was a stark comparison from the original Beijing News Report of $1.63, but perhaps different scalpers have different prices? The scalpers also promised that once I paid them, they would give me reservation ticket numbers and I would be able to see a Mac Genius. The scalpers are circled in the image below.
When I asked how they had so many reservations, the scalpers got jittery. One guy said they had someone helping them, while the other said they reserved it all online. It's unclear how they're doing this. That said, it wasn't hard for me to book reservations. Of course, some of the reservations I made were for a week from now, but it beats shelling out $32 to a scalper.
Below you can see the various reservations I book for China's various Apple Store Genius Bars.
Apple Store Sanlitun, Beijing:
Apple Store Hong Kong Plaza, Shanghai:
Apple Store Xidan Joy City, Beijing:
Apple Store Sanlitun, Beijing again:
Apple Store MixC, Chengdu Sichuan:
Apple Store Nanjing East, Shanghai:
Apple Store HK Plaza, Shanghai:
Apple Store Pudong, Shanghai:
Monday, August 5? I have a date with an Apple Genius in Shanghai! Too bad it's so damn far from Beijing...
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