By now you've probably seen all the stories out of China about the fake Apple stores. They got me wondering: What if my neighbor, Bob, was to tell me that he did in our little town what those Apple imitators did in their Chinese city? What might that conversation go like?
"Hey, Paul, let's take a drive and go look at my new Apple store."
"You built an Apple store, Bob? I didn't know Apple sold franchise rights."
"Oh, I didn't get any franchise rights. Just hired an architect, a construction company, and a crackerjack interior designer, who lucky for me had recently gotten out on parole. ... Voila, Apple store."
"Uhhh, OK, Bob ..."
Two thoughts occur next: This must be a gag, or Bob's having some kind of breakdown. But we drive to his Apple store - which looks absolutely indistinguishable from your standard Apple store -- and Bob couldn't wait to hear my reaction.
"What do you think?"
"What do I think? I think it's one sweet Apple store, Bob."
We walk inside. The store wasn't open for business yet, but Bob had hired a staff and they were busy stocking shelves. Now I'm thinking I must have misunderstood him on the franchise thing; maybe Apple is going that route, after all.
Right then he elbows me in the ribs. "Hey, neighbor, check out the circular staircase."
"Says Apple store, all right. ... But, Bob, I think I may have misheard you back at the house; you did ask Apple's permission to do this, right?"
"But you know Apple's lawyers are going to be all over you before you can even get the store open."
"Maybe. The staff's working their butts off and I'm thinking we might be able to open by Monday."
"Building permit, how'd you get a building permit?"
"I told Town Hall it was going to be an Apple store. They were tickled; wanted to know if Steve Jobs would be at the opening."
Bob has clearly lost his mind and doesn't have a clue as to what he's gotten himself into. ... I take a stab at bringing him back to reality.
"Never mind Apple's lawyers, Bob, I'm thinking you may have broken a law or two here."
"Thank-you, Capt. Obvious. I'd say it's more like a half-dozen."
"You could go to jail."
"Expect as much."
"Then how can you be so cavalier about all of this?
"Follow your dream, my man; build it and they will come. ... This is an Apple store, not a Ponzi scheme. The press will eat it up; the public will make me out to be some kind of hero; and, what fanboy hasn't fantasized about owning his own Apple store?"
"But what happens to your store if you go away?"
"Apple will buy it. The publicity will be priceless. And I didn't skimp; this is a real-deal Apple store."
Crazy, yes. Crazy like a fox. As we drove home, I had one more question:
"Bob, if you do open the store on Monday, do you think you can swing me one of those employee discounts on a new iPhone?"
"Oh, sure, I could do that ... but it would be wrong."
Any advice for Bob? The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.