BEIJING -- At first, it looks like a sleek Apple store.
Sales assistants in blue T-shirts with the company's logo chat to customers. Signs advertising the iPad 2 hang from the white walls.
Outside, the famous logo sits next to the words "Apple Store." And that's the clue it's fake.
China, long known for producing counterfeit consumer gadgets, software and brand name clothing, has reached a new piracy milestone -- fake Apple stores.
An American who lives in Kunming in southern Yunnan province said Thursday that she and her husband stumbled on three shops masquerading as bona fide Apple stores in the city a few days ago. She took photos and posted them on her blog.
The three stores are not among the authorized resellers listed on Apple Inc.'s website. The maker of the iPhone and other hit gadgets has four company stores in China -- two in Beijing and two in Shanghai -- and various official resellers. Apple's Beijing office declined to comment.
The 27-year-old blogger, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the setup of the stores was so convincing that the employees themselves seemed to believe they worked for Apple.
"It looked like an Apple store. It had the classic Apple store winding staircase and weird upstairs sitting area. The employees were even wearing those blue T-shirts with the chunky Apple name tags around their necks," she wrote on her blog.
"But some things were just not right: the stairs were poorly made. The walls hadn't been painted properly. Apple never writes 'Apple Store' on its signs -- it just puts up the glowing, iconic fruit."