Note to Apple: If there’s any way you can avoid shuttering one of your flagship stores on the very day you launch a new iPhone, well, good luck with that when the store’s in Beijing, your customers broke its glass door in a prior year scuffle and this year’s iPhone-hungry contingent came armed with eggs.
The iPhone 4S, which launched stateside on Oct. 14, 2011, was supposed to go on sale today in China — and it did, save for a shopping mall store in Beijing’s Sanlitun district where over 300 customers gathered Friday morning in the freezing cold to have a go at snatching up Apple’s new iPhone.
It seems the crowd was more than a little intimidating, however, encircling the store instead of queuing in an orderly line. According to USA Today, the crowd included migrant workers, hired by scalpers (intending to resell the phone at premium prices) to wait it out overnight.
The store was due to open at 7 a.m. local time, but failed to do so. At around 7:15 a.m., a security guard emerged to announce Apple was canceling its iPhone 4S sales for the day and that the store would remain closed. And then things turned ugly.
Many of the customers, however, continued to wait. Eventually some chanted that Apple was a “liar” for canceling the sale. One customer then announced he had brought a bag of eggs, and began throwing them at the store’s glass exterior. This led to a scuffle between the customer and security guards, who were then forced to run off as they were chased by a group of customers.
It’s unclear exactly what happened next, but it sounds like customers continued to hang around the store, expecting it to open. Slightly more than an hour later, the police arrived and ordered the crowd to disperse, sealing off the area with yellow tape as Apple employees in the store put up a sign stating the iPhone 4S was sold out.
Apple’s official reaction to the mess: Safety first!
“We were unable to open our store at Sanlitun due to the large crowd, and to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, iPhone will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being,” said Apple spokesperson Carolyn Wu in a statement.
Apple’s other Beijing store opened as expected and reportedly sold all of its iPhone 4S stock in the first two hours.