Chinese Scalpers Book Genius Bar Appointments, Then Sell Them Online

Help with your Apple computer is no longer free in Beijing

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Claudio Villa / Getty Images

Customers flock to a Genius Bar to receive free computer help

Want a “genius” to help you with your iPhone or Mac? In China, it might cost you.

Apple stores are famous for their Genius Bars: Counters staffed by plucky tech whizzes who can help with anything from syncing iTunes to editing photos. Whether they’re teaching you software skills or diagnosing your phone for repair, there’s no charge. Just go to Apple’s website, register a time, and have all your questions answered.

In China this process is no longer so simple — or free.

According to the Beijing Morning News, entrepreneurial scalpers have targeted local Apple Stores, registering all available Genius Bar appointments and selling them back to the consumers for a price.

A reporter for the Beijing paper, Wang Bin, wanted his iPhone 4S fixed, but found all the appointments booked. However, when he went online to check websites such as Taobao Marketplace — a sort of Chinese eBay that allows consumers to sell products to one another — he found plenty of Genius Bar appointment registrations being offered for between $1.60 and $6.50.

Delving into the murky depths of the illicit Genius Bar appointment trade, Wang purchased a reservation from an online scalper. He was given two stores and two time slots to pick from, and then sent an instant message with information allowing him to log onto the Apple website and change the name on the appointment to his own.

As the Register points out, this isn’t the first time Chinese scalpers have targeted Apple. In the past, swarms of resellers would descend on Apple stores during new product launches and hock their purchases for many times the sticker price. With the launch of the iPhone 5, however, Apple instituted a new policy that requires customers to register online with photo identification before picking up their goods. As a result, the shady practice has become much more difficult (although not impossible).

While this reservation resale is technically possible (although likely illegal) in America as well, it doesn’t seem to have crossed the Pacific quite yet. One New York area Apple store employee said she was “not aware” of any reservation scalping, and a random sampling of available appointments on the Apple website shows no scarcity of appointments.

Thank goodness for that. Imagine how angry this lady would be if the Genius Bar took any longer.