The fake Apple stores in China that made headlines for looking exactly like the real thing are, in fact, elaborate knock-offs. And at least one store employee knows it.
The Wall Street Journal tracked down a clerk at one of the bogus stores -- management didn't return the Journal's calls -- who confirmed that they are not authorized Apple resellers, nor are they official Apple stores.
But while the stores are fake, the Apple products inside are real.
"It doesn't make much of a difference for us whether we're authorized or not," the employee told the Journal. "I just care that what I sell every day are authentic Apple products, and that our customers don't come back to me to complain about the quality of the products."
An American blogger who uses the alias BirdAbroad discovered three stores in Kunming, China, and posted nearly a dozen photos to her blog. In an e-mail to PCWorld, she said that the Apple products inside seemed genuine, but she couldn't say for sure. It's not clear where these stores get their merchandise.
Apple hasn't made any public statements about the fake stores. The only four authentic Apple stores in China are divvied among Beijing and Shanghai, but authorized resellers do business in other cities, with rules governing their appearance. (Calling one's self an "Apple Store" is almost certainly not allowed.)
Widespread media attention could prompt Apple to crack down on these stores, but then again, Apple's China business isn't exactly suffering. Last quarter, the Apple's revenue in China grew six-fold compared to the previous year, accounting for $3.8 billion, or 13.8 percent, of the company's total quarterly revenue. For Kunming, it may just be a matter of time before the real thing comes to town.