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Chinese scalpers booking & selling Apple Store Genius Bar appointments online

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
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 ? welcoming 120 million visitors in the last quarter of 2012 ? 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.
post #2 of 35
Simple: proof of ownership to set up an appointment, $50 fee for not being the one to show up.

Originally posted by Relic

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Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
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post #3 of 35
Here we go again with those damn Chinese scalpers. I remember being so pissed off when the iPad 2 was released that I sent my first and only email to Steve Jobs telling him about all of the Chinese scalpers that were infesting every store that I went to.
post #4 of 35
Apple could ask to verify the location of the device the appointment is made from. If it's nowhere near the store, or if a bunch of appointments for different stores at overlapping times are being made by one entity, then Apple could allow overbooking or add some additional confirmation step.
post #5 of 35
Quote:
Chinese scalpers booking & selling Apple Store Genius Bar appointments online

Aw, that is out of order.

Vultures!

post #6 of 35
People often suck.

How about the traditional Red Chinese cure for this–example scalper kneels down and gets a bullet to the back of the head, in front of an Apple Store for added impact.

Sometimes you've just got to admire the simplicity, directness, and effectiveness of totalitarian justice.
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post #7 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

People often suck.

How about the traditional Red Chinese cure for this–example scalper kneels down and gets a bullet to the back of the head, in front of an Apple Store for added impact.

Sometimes you've just got to admire the simplicity, directness, and effectiveness of totalitarian justice.

Is that the traditional Red Chinese cure?

post #8 of 35
Apple can simply prevent scalpers by:
1. allowing appointments only by those who have an Apple ID with credit card.
2. allowing only one appointment per Apple ID.
post #9 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magic_Al View Post

Apple could ask to verify the location of the device the appointment is made from. If it's nowhere near the store, or if a bunch of appointments for different stores at overlapping times are being made by one entity, then Apple could allow overbooking or add some additional confirmation step.

Too easy for the scalpers to work around. They have plenty of local bodies to throw at that simple obstacle.

post #10 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by jameskatt2 View Post

Apple can simply prevent scalpers by:
1. allowing appointments only by those who have an Apple ID with credit card.
2. allowing only one appointment per Apple ID.

1. Apple IDs are free.

2. Only around 7% of adults in East Asia and the Pacific own credit cards.

 

http://www.gallup.com/poll/154340/credit-cards-formal-loans-rare-developing-countries.aspx

 

Not sure what solution is available that doesn't penalize or inconvenience the end user.

 

Personally, I unlink my credit card from iTunes after each purchase.

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post #11 of 35

I think we tend to get a First World sense of superiority on things like this, calling these guys names, when in reality, they are simply being good capitalists... Identifying a scarce resource, finding a way to corner the market, then acting as middle man for a cut of the action.

Not very different than DeBeers cornering the supply of diamonds and then setting the price, or Comcast taking advantage of a poorly designed regulatory system and leveraging their monopoly to rip us off.

 

Capitalism at its purest. I kinda admire these guys (at least as much as I admire any other corporate capitalists.)

It is, however, up to Apple to fix the system.

post #12 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

1. Apple IDs are free.

Yeah. But the appointments could be limited to an Apple ID that has a credit card on file.
Quote:
2. Only around 7% of adults in East Asia and the Pacific own credit cards.

Hey, that solves the problem pretty handily, doesn't it? 1wink.gif

Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
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Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
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post #13 of 35

Apple just needs to get more information when the appointment is made, such as the phone number for your iPhone.

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post #14 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

Capitalism at its purest. I kinda admire these guys 

It is not pure capitalism because they are stealing a resource from Apple. Apple's reputation for excellent customer service is tarnished by their actions.

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post #15 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

2. Only around 7% of adults in East Asia and the Pacific own credit cards.

I think this implies Apple can expect at most 7% market share of total population.  And this is also too optimistic because some of the credit card holders will not buy the Apple product. 

post #16 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

It is not pure capitalism because they are stealing a resource from Apple. Apple's reputation for excellent customer service is tarnished by their actions.

You seem to take that rather personally.

post #17 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by tzeshan View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

2. Only around 7% of adults in East Asia and the Pacific own credit cards.

I think this implies Apple can expect at most 7% market share of total population.  And this is also too optimistic because some of the credit card holders will not buy the Apple product. 

Hard to speculate. Young people may get a parent of relative to buy it for them, even give them gift cards for the iTunes store.

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post #18 of 35
What the f is wrong with China?! Corrupt nation, corrupt people.
post #19 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Hard to speculate. Young people may get a parent of relative to buy it for them, even give them gift cards for the iTunes store.


They could even sell their kidneys.  But honestly and statistically these cases have little't affect of the total numbers.

post #20 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by tzeshan View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Hard to speculate. Young people may get a parent of relative to buy it for them, even give them gift cards for the iTunes store.


They could even sell their kidneys.  But honestly and statistically these cases have little't affect of the total numbers.

Well things are changing rapidly in China as it transforms into a high income region. The most recent statistics I found were from a year ago. I would not be surprised if the percentage is up a few ticks since then. It is really the percentage in the urban areas that is relevant as the vast population in the rural areas are not yet smartphone customers anyway.

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post #21 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by grblade View Post

What the f is wrong with China?! Corrupt nation, corrupt people.

 

Dude, if this is your example, you should look within your own borders.

post #22 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Well things are changing rapidly in China as it transforms into a high income region. The most recent statistics I found were from a year ago. I would not be surprised if the percentage is up a few ticks since then. It is really the percentage in the urban areas that is relevant as the vast population in the rural areas are not yet smartphone customers anyway.


As this article implied, the Chinese are fast adopters of Apple products.  I think most people that desire to own the Apple products have already done so.  This may change if Apple change its strategy toward the China market. 

post #23 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by tzeshan View Post

As this article implied, the Chinese are fast adopters of Apple products.  I think most people that desire to own the Apple products have already done so.  This may change if Apple change its strategy toward the China market. 

I would not consider Apple's market penetration as static or saturated at all, either in China or the US. Teenagers are always coming of age and the halo effect, advertising and word of mouth will continue to expand Apple's market for iPhones and iPads.

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post #24 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I would not consider Apple's market penetration as static or saturated at all, either in China or the US. Teenagers are always coming of age and the halo effect, advertising and word of mouth will continue to expand Apple's market for iPhones and iPads.


There is no doubt Apple will continue to sell well in China.  But I am talking about growing market shares in China. 

post #25 of 35

The easiest solution to this problem is to require the Apple device serial number as part of the reservation and limit the reservation to one or two serial numbers.  

post #26 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

I think we tend to get a First World sense of superiority on things like this, calling these guys names, when in reality, they are simply being good capitalists... Identifying a scarce resource, finding a way to corner the market, then acting as middle man for a cut of the action.

Not very different than DeBeers cornering the supply of diamonds and then setting the price, or Comcast taking advantage of a poorly designed regulatory system and leveraging their monopoly to rip us off.

 

Capitalism at its purest. I kinda admire these guys (at least as much as I admire any other corporate capitalists.)

It is, however, up to Apple to fix the system.

Capitalism at its purest? I think Adam Smith would cringe in his grave - though I understand that he never used the term Capitalism in his treatise. I thought an essential part of the morality of the 'Free Hand' of enterprise model was the notion of honesty, integrity?

This appears to be expoitation and vulturism. The system works fine without these middle men exploiting a 'gap in the market'. There is no gap.

post #27 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by kharvel View Post

The easiest solution to this problem is to require the Apple device serial number as part of the reservation and limit the reservation to one or two serial numbers.  

There is no easy solution. For example a common reason to seek out Genius bar appointments might be because your iPhone won't turn on or won't charge hence you probably don't know your serial number. What ever method you devise to restrict the service to legitimate Apple customers will in the end actually inconvenience them. Apple's generous support services is something that has always set it apart from other tech companies.

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post #28 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by pembroke View Post

Capitalism at its purest? I think Adam Smith would cringe in his grave - though I understand that he never used the term Capitalism in his treatise. I thought an essential part of the morality of the 'Free Hand' of enterprise model was the notion of honesty, integrity?

This appears to be expoitation and vulturism. The system works fine without these middle men exploiting a 'gap in the market'. There is no gap.

Capitalisam and 'morality' in the same sentence?

hahahahahahahha... oh god... please stop..... my sides ache!!!

Executives making 500 times the wages of their average employee is moral! REALLY!?

Health insurance companies standing between the patient and the doctor with a ladle out collecting ungodly amounds of money for contributing nothing is moral!?

Listen... of all of the arguments for capitalism, 'the morality of the invisible' hand is the most completely nonsensical. It is by definition (by its strongest suporters) AMORAL, which is the entire point. Don't put that messy idea of fairness into the sacred market.

 

I stand by my statement. These guys are the epitome of capitalism. Bless their little corrupt hearts.

post #29 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by ankleskater View Post

Is that the traditional Red Chinese cure?
You doubt that this is a well documented form of punishment in China? Or are you quibbling with my slightly tongue-in-cheek framing?
Edited by Robin Huber - 7/29/13 at 10:22am
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post #30 of 35

Taking names on reservations, not allowing editing, and checking ID at the appointment would stop this. It is easy to justify the need to customers as it is for their protection. 

post #31 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phone-UI-Guy View Post

Taking names on reservations, not allowing editing, and checking ID at the appointment would stop this. 

I doubt that would work.

 

Scalper books appointment in advance

User buys an appointment from scalper

Scalper cancels the original appointment thus opening up the schedule

Scalper reschedules for the same time slot under the name of the user

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post #32 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

For example a common reason to seek out Genius bar appointments might be because your iPhone won't turn on or won't charge hence you probably don't know your serial number.

When you register your product through your Apple ID- the Serial number is entered as well.  And you set your appointment up through, guess what, your Apple ID.  :)

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post #33 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I doubt that would work.

 

Scalper books appointment in advance

User buys an appointment from scalper

Scalper cancels the original appointment thus opening up the schedule

Scalper reschedules for the same time slot under the name of the user

Good trick!

When a reservation is canceled there could be randomized delay before if shows as available on the schedule.

The scalper has a big risk of not being able to reschedule.

If it is close to the appoint time it could be offered to a walk-in


Edited by city - 7/29/13 at 11:53am
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post #34 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I doubt that would work.

Scalper books appointment in advance
User buys an appointment from scalper
Scalper cancels the original appointment thus opening up the schedule
Scalper reschedules for the same time slot under the name of the user

You are right that nothing can stop it 100%. And no one thing by itself will make much difference. But a combination of techniques could make it no longer lucrative for the scalpers. Based on the method described in the story, the first step would be to not allow the changing of details once the appt is made: name, device requiring service, email, etc. none of those things should ever change for a legit appt.. Sure, the scalper could try to cancel and redo a new appt; but that might not always work. Apple could introduce a random interval, say 5 - 30 min before a cancelled slot is made avail for rebooking. The scalper would spend so much time trying to reacquire the time slot that it wouldn't be worth their effort. Apple could also look more closely at the people making appts: IP addresses, etc. Again, not fool proof. But the goal is to increase the cost of doing business for the scalpers.
post #35 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

You are right that nothing can stop it 100%. And no one thing by itself will make much difference. But a combination of techniques could make it no longer lucrative for the scalpers. Based on the method described in the story, the first step would be to not allow the changing of details once the appt is made: name, device requiring service, email, etc. none of those things should ever change for a legit appt.. Sure, the scalper could try to cancel and redo a new appt; but that might not always work. Apple could introduce a random interval, say 5 - 30 min before a cancelled slot is made avail for rebooking. The scalper would spend so much time trying to reacquire the time slot that it wouldn't be worth their effort. Apple could also look more closely at the people making appts: IP addresses, etc. Again, not fool proof. But the goal is to increase the cost of doing business for the scalpers.

Sounds like a good plan but the scalper could write a script that tested the availability every second through a proxy server. But like you say no single solution exists, especially one that retains the friendly and easy access to the Genius Bar for all Apple device owners. Once you make legitimate customers jump through hoops to be authorized, Apple becomes just like any other serial number checking tech support system. 

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