FORTUNE -- When Wang Bin's iPhone 4S developed a glitch, he went online to book a slot at the nearest Apple Store Genius Bar.
Mr. Wang, a correspondent for the Beijing Morning News, soon discovered that every appointment at all three Beijing Apple Stores had been booked four weeks in advance.
They'd been snapped up by scalpers and were being resold online for anywhere from $1.60 to $6.50 apiece.
Wang, who published an account of his troubles on Monday, had a choice: He could either pay the scalpers' prices or stand in line for up to four hours hoping for a cancellation.
Think of it as a 21st century illustration of what economists call the "tragedy of the commons," whereby a shared resource -- a rich fishing bank, a field for grazing cattle -- is quickly depleted by individuals acting independently and in their own self interest.
This is not the first time Chinese scalpers have caused headaches for Apple (AAPL). The launch of the iPhone 4S in Beijing was abruptly halted in January 2012 when the company's barricades were overwhelmed by gangs of "yellow bull" scalpers bused in from the countryside.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is reportedly visiting China this week to smooth over a variety of issues. This one, however, is probably below his radar screen.
Thanks to Electronista for spotting the story.
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In a survey of 100 iPhone 5 buyers conducted outside New York City Apple Stores Friday, Topeka Capital found that 36% (the purple slice of the top pie chart at right) were purchasing their first iPhone -- suggesting that more one in three buyers were switching to an iPhone 5 MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Sep 22, 2012 4:23 PM ET
A line-cutting fracas that broke a window and injured four is reportedly "resolved amicably"
It turns out that the clearest account yet of the incident Saturday -- described by some observers as a "riot" -- that left blood and broken glass outside Apple's (AAPL) flagship store on Beijing's Sandilun Road was published Monday in the People's Daily, the official organ of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party:
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