Chinese Re-Sellers Help Drive U.S. iPad Sales

PHOTO: Apple customers take cover from the rain as they wait in line at an Apple store on the first day of the launch of the new iPad, in San Francisco, March 16, 2012.

Apple stores in New York City were mobbed with shoppers Friday hoping to get their hands on the sleek new iPad. Among the early adapters were another group of buyers, Chinese immigrants, snatching up the gadgets to resell, for a steep mark-up in China, where they're not yet available.

Employees at two stores in New York, described resellers, many of them Chinese, lining up early this morning looking to buy a product, which though manufactured in China is not yet for sale there.

"We're seeing lots of different people here today," said an employee at the Apple Store on Manhattan's Upper West Side, unauthorized to speak to the press. "Some of them are definitely looking to re-sell, but we'll sell to anyone."

The latest crop of iPads, like other new incarnations of the popular iPhone are routinely bought in cash at retail stores, then sold to middle men in New York's Chinatown, before being re-sold on China's ubiquitous black market.

In 2010, Apple briefly tried to bar certain Asian customers from purchasing products at their stores on Manhattan's 14th Street and in SoHo, blocks from New York's bustling Chinatown. Then New York Attorney General Chris Cuomo wrote Apple to complain. The company said the policy had been reversed following the state's investigation.

ABC News attempted to speak to several shoppers at a New York Apple store, who appeared to be working together to purchase several iPads. Apple stores limit shoppers to two devices a day.

Most of the Asian shoppers did not speak English or declined to speak when approached by a reporter. One man, who bought two iPads with cash, would not identify himself to ABC News, saying only: "No problem. For my family."

An employee at the SoHo store said re-sellers, who need to provide a valid email address, will often just slip a piece of paper with an email address written on it, ignorant of what it says.

"We often have guys coming in several times a day. So we'd recognize them. We are practically on a first name basis with many of the re-sellers because we see them so often," he said.

China's booming middle class have created one of the world's largest markets for luxury goods, from Louis Vuitton luggage to Apple iPads. But in an effort to maintain demand, Apple tightly controls the supply of its products internationally.

Calls to Apple for comment were not immediately returned.

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