Speak Farsi At The Apple Store And They Might Say You Can’t Buy An iPad

While no one in Iran can order a computer from a U.S. Apple store — and there are limitations on these electronics being brought into Iran — there is no legal reason a U.S. citizen should be barred from buying an iPad just because she speaks Farsi. And yet customers at Apple stores in Georgia are being told they can’t shop there because the government won’t allow it.

Atlanta’s WSB-TV recently investigated claims by area residents who said their efforts to buy iPhones or iPads were blocked by store staffers who don’t understand what a trade embargo is.

One customer, a 19-year-old college student and U.S. citizen, says she went with her uncle to the Apple store to buy an iPad, where a store employee overheard them speaking a non-English language and asked them about it.

“When we said ‘Farsi, I’m from Iran,’ he said, ‘I just can’t sell this to you. Our countries have bad relations,'” the woman tells WSB.

Another man from Virginia says he went with his friend, an Iranian in the U.S. on a student visa, to buy an iPhone at a different Apple store and got a similar story.

“We never talked about him going back to Iran or anything like that,” he tells the TV station. “He was just speaking full-fledged Farsi and the representative came back and denied our sale.”

A reporter went to the Apple store with the female customer. There, both an employee and a manager confirmed it’s against Apple policy to sell to anyone from Iran.

In the second case, of the man here on a student visa, you might be able to make that argument, though it’s really just the exporting of goods to Iran — and not the sale of items to Iranians in the U.S. — that is embargoed.

Regardless, the 19-year-old woman is a U.S. citizen living in the country, who just happens to also speak the language spoken in a country that is the subject of a trade embargo. This would be like the Apple store refusing to sell to anyone who speaks Spanish because they might have defected from Cuba. And are Apple employees asking every Korean customer whether they were born in North or South Korea?

The woman called Apple customer service. She received an apology and was told she could purchase the iPad online.

Customer: Apple Store denied me iPad for speaking Farsi [WSBTV.com]

Thanks to Abby for the tip!

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  1. StarfishDiva says:

    So I can buy my ipad online, ship it to a house in the US, put it in my luggage, and then get stopped when I try to take it to Iran?

    How the hell does this even make sense?

    • LHH says:

      in a word yes. There are export laws in regards to electronics and we have embargoes with certain countries, Iran being one of them. But I think the asshat store employees are misunderstanding/misinterpreting those laws. That is the job of the customs people.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        “That is the job of the customs people.”

        Exactly.

        • eldritch2k4 says:

          Exactly wrong.

          It is the duty of Customs Agents to prevent a product that shouldn’t have been sold from being exported.

          It is the duty of all members of a business to ensure that they never KNOWINGLY sell an item to an agent of an embargoed nation. That means that Joe Employee cannot KNOWINGLY sell an iPad to a U.S. Citizen that plans to export it to Iran or an Iranian citizen on a temporary visa. If, at any time prior to finalization of a transaction, an employee of a business suspects that the item may be exported to an embargoed nation, they should suspend the sale. So as to protect themselves and their business.

      • unpolloloco says:

        Not entirely. They do have a duty to prevent sales to Iran or people exporting to Iran. But this doesn’t seem to be the case here.

        • bluline says:

          How are store employees supposed to know which customers might export a product to Iran? The simple answer is that they have no way of knowing. It could be anyone, regardless of the language they speak. Their job is to sell the products and let Customs worry about the rest.

          • Coelacanth says:

            While perhaps not a foolproof system, if a person shows up at a store purchases a single device, it shouldn’t raise any exporting flags.

            Now, if the person showed up and wanted to purchase 10 iPads…. that could raise a little suspicion – but again, that’s a matter for customs to sort out.

            • AustinTXProgrammer says:

              When purchasing from Dell’s business website I have had to check a box that I wouldn’t reexport the equipment to embargoed countries so I believe the seller does have some responsibility.

              But that said it’s a check box. Apple should sell the products once the end user agrees to keep it in the US, even if said agreement is unenforceable by Apple.

        • CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

          No they dont. They have no way to know what the purchaser will do with it.
          If an apple store does not do any international shipping directly from their store then their employees have no need to even know any of the trade embargo rules.

          • eldritch2k4 says:

            Actually, it is a violation of US law to sell to someone you suspect is either a citizen of an embargoed nation or will be shipping to an embargoed nation.

            FTA: “Sabet is a U.S. citizen. Like most 19-year-olds, the University of Georgia student is never far from her iPhone.

            So she was surprised Thursday when an employee at the Apple Store inside North Pointe Mall in Alpharetta refused to sell an iPad to her and her uncle after overhearing them speaking Farsi. The iPad was to be a gift for her cousin who lives in Iran.”

            Regardless of her citizenship status, if she let slip that she was going to ship it to her cousin in Iran, the Apple employee has a duty to not sell to her because it would make the store knowingly violate a trade embargo that could cause the assets of the entire corporation to be frozen.

            FTA: “Another man from Virginia says he went with his friend, an Iranian in the U.S. on a student visa, to buy an iPhone at a different Apple store and got a similar story.”

            Iranian on a Student Visa is still Iranian and if it was let slip, then the store employee has the same duty as was earlier mentioned.

    • framitz says:

      When I lived in Turkey we were not allowed to transfer any item to a local national that they could not purchase on the local (legal) economy. So most of my belongings were recorded on a customs form, and when I left the country every item had to be accounted for, every item on the listing.

      If I gave or sold one of the items it had to go to another NATO member and had to be transferred to their customs list.

      I doubt it works this way in Iran as they are certainly not a NATO member or an ally of the USA.
      Just leave the expensive toy at home to be more sure it stays YOURS.

    • keith4298 says:

      It’s not merely that a person can’t bring the item to the restricted Country, the law is more broad than that. The company isn’t even allowed to sell it to a person that’s a NATIONAL or a RESIDENT of Iran.

      Here is Apple’s disclaimer on exportation of devices: http://store.apple.com/Catalog/US/Images/MacOS9.htm

      It reads in relevant part: “6. Export Law Assurances. You may not use or otherwise export or reexport the Apple Software except as authorized by United States law and the laws of the jurisdiction in which the Apple Software was obtained. In particular, but without limitation, the Apple Software may not be exported or reexported (i) into (or to a national or resident of) any U.S. embargoed country or (ii) to anyone on the U.S. Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Nationals or the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Table of Denial Orders. By using the Apple Software, you represent and warrant that you are not located in, under control of, or a national or resident of any such country or on any such list. “

      Therefore, if the person buying the product said that he’s FROM IRAN (and I don’t expect the person in the store to do anything more than take them at their word), it doesn’t matter that they are not in the Country of Iran or never even returning. The mere fact that they are a “national” of the Country is enough to trigger the US law and deny them the product.

      To not do so would be to open Apple to tremendous liability at the National and International level.

  2. bigTrue says:

    I blame this on it being in Georgia and anyone speaking with a real southern accent sounds like a moron.

    • chucklesjh says:

      “I wahrk at Apple, it puts the breyad and buttah on the table”

      • kc2idf says:

        An’ that’s awl ah got to say about thayat.

        • George4478 says:

          “Youse fuckin’ guys doan know what da fuck youse fuckin’ talking about. Ain’t dat right, Paulie?”

          “Dat’s right. Fuck ‘em. Let’s go get a slice, Ma.”

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Hey! My bf has a Southern accent, is not a moron and does not sound like one.

    • framitz says:

      I’ve been all through the deep south, the variable accents might sound moronic to an idiot.
      Folks are folks.

      People with the attitude that they’re better than others is why the term ‘Ugly American’ came about.

      • Dave on bass says:

        Just stopped in to anecdotize (rhymes with anaesthetize, I guess): I have several friends from and in Alabama – and NONE of them has even the slightest hint of a Southern accent, even to us Northerners. It’s the weirdest thing. They all sound like “generic American newsanchor”, totally without accent.

    • Anna Kossua says:

      Nope, that doesn’t work. Since it’s an Apple store, it’s in the Atlanta metro area — virtually a million miles from what people think of as “hick” Georgia. And being an Apple store, they’re going to hire people that look like stereotypical Apple users. Hipsters, aging hippies, artist-types.

  3. Hartwig says:

    This is a very strange story, I understand that the US and Iran have a contentious relationship and Iran blocks a lot of electronics, but for this one store to not sell an item to someone speaking Farsi who is originally from Iran seems like a training issue. The fact that the manager agreed with the employees decision is the strangest part. Guess the genius bar could use some common sense.

  4. uber_mensch says:

    Apple:
    Khak too Saret.

  5. dush says:

    Does Siri in iOS6 understand Farsi now?

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Uh, WTF? Domestic sales are never (as far as I know) subject to embargo laws. That’s the task of U.S. customs to prevent any embargoed merchandise from leaving the country.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I should quantify that statement by saying domestic RETAIL sales. Many commercial products fall under domestic trade secrets and are strictly regulated. But not iPads and other retail products.

  7. Brontide says:

    Did anyone *READ* the quoted policy?

    PROHIBITED DESTINATIONS
    The U.S. holds complete embargoes against Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria

    The exportation, reexportation, sale or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a U.S. person wherever located, of any Apple goods, software, technology (including technical data), or services to any of these countries is strictly prohibited without prior authorization by the U.S. Government. This prohibition also applies to any Apple owned subsidiary or any subsidiary employee worldwide.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      “to any of these countries”

      Does that mean its individual citizens while in the U.S., or does that mean any exports to the country itself?

      Your quotation definitely does not provide a clearl enough explanation for the current situation.

      • unpolloloco says:

        Knowingly selling to a person who will export a product to Iran is illegal (and treated the same as if they directly sold to Iran). Theoretically, if the government found an iSomething in Iran, they could storm Apple HQ and seize records to try to prove that Apple knowingly sold a product there. This could be significantly financially damaging and would be a PR nightmare for Apple.

        That said, the retail employees here didn’t quite understand the law – and should have sold it to them since there’s no indication that they’d try to take it back to Iran.

        • Brontide says:

          “When we said ‘Farsi, I’m from Iran,’ he said, ‘I just can’t sell this to you.'”

          • BBBB says:

            I know two people who state that they are from “Persia” instead of saying “Iran.” This is because they consider themselves Persian and left to get away from modern Iran. This also avoids the “Iran” reaction (but not the “any middle eastern sounding country is bad” reaction).

            • Anna Kossua says:

              Yep. I am friends with a married couple from Iran. While they do say they’re from Iran, they call themselves Persians and explain the difference. (They’re also Bahá’í, not Muslims, which has a little bit to do with the story, although one could also be Muslim and Persian, for what it’s worth.)

    • Auron says:

      So a US citizen who has no plans to transport or sell an iThing to an embargoed country shouldn’t be allowed to purchase an iThing simply because they speak the primary language of an embargoed country? What’s next? Should Apple ask a person making an online purchase if they speak the primary language of an embargoed country before the sale is finalized?

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        No, Apple should run a full FBI background check before you can purchase anything from them.

        That’s how every other retail company does it, right? Right?! No? How do they do it? Oh, they just sell it to you? Damn, well…. Fuck, Apple. Sell them the product!

    • The Cupcake Nazi says:

      I can’t tell if you’re trying to defend Apple here, or the customers. Regardless, nothing about that text applies to either of these situations at all.

      • Brontide says:

        I’m defending the employee actions. The policy is quite broad and if they had any reservations that they were selling to someone who was going to take the unit to or sell it in Iran the policy would clearly prohibit them from making the sale.

        • crispyduck13 says:

          Their policy should be clarified then. Retail employees should never be in a position to judge whether a sale of a product is in accordance with international embargos. It’s absurd, and I’d bet money that it will change shortly. Hope Apple likes their latest lawsuit.

        • Snapdragon says:

          No, the items are clearly prohibited from being transported to Iran. Reading through this policy… retail store employees are not empowered in any way to make decisions regarding who can legally purchase the item. Let’s face it–the denial of the sale was based on nothing more than a language being spoken within earshot of a sales rep.

        • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

          I’m defending the employee actions. The policy is quite broad and if they had any reservations that they were selling to someone who was going to take the unit to or sell it in Iran the policy would clearly prohibit them from making the sale.

          I see. I’m at a loss, however, to see anywhere in this post, or the original story, where there was any indication that these people were going to export these things to Iran. Can you point that out for me, please? How do the Apple employees “know” that this is the case?

          • Brontide says:

            The customer saying “I’m from Iran” might be a clue.

            • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

              That short declarative says absolutely NOTHING about the purchaser’s future actions. Maybe she was buying it for a U.S. citizen. Maybe it was for herself. The words “I’m from Iran” in and of themselves give no indication of intentions for the iPad. I think you’re reaching here in order to avoid walking back a rather faulty assumption on your part.

    • nearly_blind says:

      If you do “read” and understand English it’s easy to see that this doesn’t apply to the case of a retail store. To continue your line of argument, I guess Apple should close all stores in Florida because there are a lot of Cuban’s there. For the case of the store, the buyer is physically in the US so their national origin is irrelevant. The only possible way Apple as a company would need to take special action is if it could be proven that Apple new that specific buyer planned to export to an embargoed country. E.g. if some person/company bought thousands of units and then someone warned Apple this company may be an illegal exporter. Assuming that someone of Iranian origin is an illegal exporter is discrimination based on national origin which is illegal (nationality is a protected class).

      • Brontide says:

        I’m defending the employees, not necessarily the policy. If anything my biggest knock would be against Apple for failing to provide proper guidance to employees as to WTF this means in reality.

        • nishioka says:

          > If anything my biggest knock would be against Apple for failing to provide proper guidance to employees as to WTF this means in reality.

          Just why on earth would a retail store need to include trade embargoes in its training? If you’re going to knock Apple for this then it’s pretty clear you don’t know how the hell a trade embargo works either.

        • Sarek says:

          There is no way in Hades that the retail clerks received training from Apple to decide on their own to whom they can and cannot sell product based on the customer not speaking English. They made this up out of whole cloth — and from their own prejudices.

      • rmorin says:

        Eh that policy reads pretty confusing:

        The exportation, reexportation, sale or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a U.S. person wherever located, of any Apple goods, software, technology (including technical data), or services to any of these countries is strictly prohibited without prior authorization by the U.S. Government.

        Any former English majors in the house to provide some clarity? Does the “wherever located” refer to the person selling or buying? Practically it could refer to both, but I am not sure on the syntax.

        • Johnny Baby for $$100,000,000,000,000 says:

          This “wherever located” is definitely referring to the seller in this construction.

    • Weekilter says:

      Simply speaking Farsi does not mean that you cannot buy a product in the US. To assume that anyone who speaks a language of a place that has embargoed items is at best ignorant.

  8. Storie says:

    when you start working at Apple, they make you sign this BIG HUGE IMPORTANT EXPORTS NOTICE FROM THE GOVERNMENT about not selling to countries with embargos and all of that and how you can go to jail if you do. They don’t exactly explain to you what it is, and there’s no training on it, so you’re left with your own interpretation of a highly complex legal document. A similar situation happened at my store.

    • EnergyStarr says:

      you are dead on. import/export laws for the US are NOT straightforward. Add the burden to track exports to the SECOND destination and it gets really messy.

    • CrazyEyed says:

      Exactly. They left the employees to interpret the policy which can very easily be misinterpreted.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Something tells me they are going to be rewriting their very vague policy and retraining all retail staff in the near future.

  9. Coffee says:

    Oops…nationality is a protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964…this presents a problem for Apple, methinks.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      This would all work itself out if we could just go back to 1975. We were buds with Iran then.

  10. crispyduck13 says:

    I just can’t believe people are really this stupid.

    “A reporter went to the Apple store with the female customer. There, both an employee and a manager confirmed it’s against Apple policy to sell to anyone from Iran. “

    Where the fuck am I, what planet is this? Is there something in the water?

    • Snapdragon says:

      I can’t believe the reporter didn’t contact Apple corporate directly for clarification. Oh wait… yes I can. It’s a much more sensational story and they get more click-throughs if it sounds like Apple is enforcing some kind of racist corporate policy.

      • soj4life says:

        Manager could have called, did not, made apple store employees look like the morons they are.

    • kc2idf says:

      I can.

      Back in 2005, I attended a Perl pogrammers’ conference in Toronto. Most of the attendees there were American, and one of the attendees was telling me that when he attempted to get on a plane from ATL to YYZ, that they insisted he needed a passport to do so.

      Now, today, you would need a passport or passport card for this, but in June 2005, this was not yet the case. In June 2005, the bill was before Congress for this, and it was not yet law. It wasn’t signed by Pres. Bush for another couple of months, and didn’t go into effect until the next year or so. He had to get a supervisor to intervene so he could get on the plane.

      Oh, by the way, did you notice what I said was his point of origin? Oh yeah, Atlanta, Georgia.

  11. CrazyEyed says:

    From the Source Link:

    PROHIBITED DESTINATIONS
    The U.S. holds complete embargoes against Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria

    Complete Embargo def: complete prohibition of commerce and trade

    The exportation, reexportation, sale or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a U.S. person wherever located, of any Apple goods, software, technology (including technical data), or services to any of these countries is strictly prohibited without prior authorization by the U.S. Government. This prohibition also applies to any Apple owned subsidiary or any subsidiary employee worldwide.

    I find it troublesome that an Apple employee can use assumption for their basis of denying a sale on this policy without asking questions first such as: Do you plan to take this back to Iran? Are you a United States citizen? If so can I see some ID? If the Customer had answered “Yes” to bringing the item back to Iran or “Yes” to being an Iranian citizen, then the rejection of the sale would have been justified under the “indirect” reference. I can understand someone on a student visa being denied a sale but a U.S. citizen???

    Simply saying your Iranian and being denied the sale is a bit prejudice and descriminatory. Perhaps the employees could have been a little more clear on the policy before incorrectly citing their own policy. It appears the verbiage doesn’t factor how a U.S. citizenship comes into play. This will be an interesting discussion.

    • bluline says:

      “Do you plan to take this back to Iran?” No. (But I’m lying, and you have no idea that I am.)

      “Are you a United States citizen?” Yes. (But I have relatives in Iran and I plan to ship this device to them, but I have no obligation to tell you that, so I’m simply lying to you again.)

      See how easy that was to avoid?

      • CrazyEyed says:

        The US Citizenship can be legally proven though. I’m a U.S. citizen. Who’s to say I won’t attempt to ship an IPhone to Iran and I have no ties what-so-ever with OFAC sanctioned contries? At least make them sign a waiver after they’ve proven citizenship. If the government is that worried about any commerse going to Iran at least the waiver absolves Apple from any wrongdoing. There’s never going to be a true 100% complete commerce embargo with any of those countries. Just don’t punish those who are legal citizens simply for the fact they speak Farsi. Because the OP advises they are a U.S. Citizen, its no different than if I was denied because I was black, Asian, Muslim, etc.

        • bluline says:

          I’m a US citizen but I can’t prove it to a store clerk unless I happen to have my passport with me, and I don’t usually carry my passport at home because, well, I don’t have to.

    • simonster says:

      Export is defined as follows:

      (2) Export of technology or software. …:
      (i) Any release of technology or software subject to the EAR in a foreign
      country; or
      (ii) Any release of technology or source code subject to the EAR to a foreign
      national. Such release is deemed to be an export to the home country or
      countries of the foreign national. This deemed export rule does not apply to
      persons lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States and
      does not apply to persons who are protected individuals under the Immigration
      and Naturalization Act (8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3)). Note that the release of any
      item to any party with knowledge a violation is about to occur is prohibited
      by §736.2(b)(10) of the EAR. [0]

      So selling a product to an Iranian national seems to fall under the definition of “exportation.” I think this is crazy too, but it does seem like there’s a basis in the law for refusing to sell an iPad to an Iranian.

  12. eightoneeight says:

    I live in LA and there are tons of Iranians here, Persians i think they prefer even though i keep asking them to show me where Persia is on a map, but whatever. They have craploads of ipads, ipods, macbooks, etc. and many buy them and i’m pretty sure take them back to Iran with them, along with tons of other electronics like TV’s DVD’s, etc. One is a Doctor back there, another is the wife of a popular Persian musician here but i think this might be because they are in Georgia like bigTrue said and not somewhere where it’s more common to see a bit of diversity.

    I just don’t think customer service, sales people at the local Apple store need to be worrying about trade embargos, i mean they are kids working the floor there, seriously.

    • RobotEmbryo says:

      Iran and Persia are one and the same, The name was changed from Persia (come from the Greek’s name for land of the Pars) by the first Shah Pahlavi after the fall of the Qajar dynasty around 100 years ago, to Iran [a form of an older name for the same country, Arya- the word from which the term 'Aryans' originates from], in effort to distance the country’s reputation from foreign influence and proxy control, as the Qajars had succumbed to. Ironically, many Iranians now say they are Persian, in the same interest of distancing themselves from the direction their country has taken since 1979.

      It should be noted, however, that while all Persians are from Iran, not all Iranians are Persian. The ethnic majority in Iran are Pars (Persian), but 1/3 of the country are Torks or Azeri. Then you have Assyrians, Kurds, Lor, Gilaki, Mazandaranis…..

      Does that help?

  13. spittingangels says:

    While the 19 yr old was confirmed as a US citizen, the story doesn’t address the citizenship of her uncle that was supposedly with her. The suspicion might have been that, since he was in attendance, she might be attempting to buy the device for him, much in the way that minors often try to get persons-of-age to buy alcohol for them.

    Many US computer/electronics companies have these embargoes in place (and mandated by the federal government) and if there’s any evidence that the sale might be to a non-US citizen from an embargoed country, the sale will be denied.

    Don’t like this restriction? Take it up with the US government, not the manufacturer.

    Now, if both the girl AND her uncle were US citizens, then the store employees and manager definitely need training but I think it’s extremely interesting what this news article omits.

    • ar says:

      “Many US computer/electronics companies have these embargoes in place (and mandated by the federal government) and if there’s any evidence that the sale might be to a non-US citizen from an embargoed country, the sale will be denied.”

      But that is where you’re making the same incorrect assumption as these employees. You’re interpreting “selling to Iran,” as “selling to someone in your store who may or may not be from an embargoed country or may just speak the same language.” That’s just incorrect.

      What IS the law is that nobody can be discriminated against based on race, religion, gender, or nationality. Of which they were.

      • spittingangels says:

        “But that is where you’re making the same incorrect assumption as these employees. You’re interpreting “selling to Iran,” as “selling to someone in your store who may or may not be from an embargoed country or may just speak the same language.” That’s just incorrect.

        What IS the law is that nobody can be discriminated against based on race, religion, gender, or nationality. Of which they were.”

        But it’s not discrimination based on nationality if you are attempting to comply to a federal mandate. If the article had confirmed that both the girl and her uncle were US citizens then, as I previously stated, the store staff needs training on this issue and were in the wrong.

        The story conveniently omits any detail as to the nationality of her uncle that was in attendance. If he was from Iran, his presence could be enough to have the sale denied as he is a non-US citizen from an embargoed country. Since he is not a US citizen then, following logic, his stay here would only be temporary and when he went back to his country he would want to take back his property and run afoul of the embargo.

        As I am understanding this, since there is a complete embargo, then citizens of those countries would not be able to acquire these items without some kind of government authorization. Now, it’s kind of a moot point because export laws should catch this if a non-citizen tried to leave the country but many corporations will err on the side of caution and avoid any sales to citizens of these countries to avoid afoul of the mandate.

        Now, I’m not saying the store was right or wrong in this situation because we simply were not provided all the necessary details to draw that conclusion. I’m merely pointing out the elephant in the room which is that the article addressed the girl’s citizenship but not that of her uncle that was present at the time of the attempted purchase. The conclusion that I’m drawing is that the uncle is likely not a US citizen and the story omitted this fact because it’s inclusion would pretty much make this a non-story. If they were both citizens, I feel that that detail would certainly have been included as it would have left any doubt that the store interpreted this policy incorrectly.

        I’m certainly no expert on the law but Apple’s policy makes reference to “prior authorization from the U.S. Government” which alludes to their being an official way for citizens of these countries to petition the government for consent for these types of sales. The other person in the story that was a student here on a visa could, presumably, have researched this followed whatever requirements necessary to gain authorization for this purchase.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          Claiming that you’re following a law when no such law exists is *NOT* an affirmative defence for being a racist sack of dog shit.

  14. Malik says:

    So, if you are speaking Spanish, do they assume you may be from Cuba?

    • George4478 says:

      When the store owner asks what language you are speaking and you reply “Spanish, I’m from Cuba,’ then they will assume you are Cuban.

      The store did not just assume they were Iranian, the customer said they were Iranian.

      • Snapdragon says:

        But I say I’m Italian all the time. Does that mean I’m boarding a plane to Italy anytime soon?

        • erinpac says:

          And if you didn’t just say you were Italian, but said you were “from Italy” and then the person responded with an obvious assumption that you actually lived in Italy, you wouldn’t clarify? It’s a slightly different phrase, and seems like a reasonable interpretation.

      • HFC says:

        Being FROM Iran and being a current citizen of Iran are two totally different things.

        “Farsi, I’m from Iran. However, I left 20 years ago because of the oppression. I am now a citizen of the United States of America, where I am free to purchase whichever consumer electronics I am able to afford, even the overpriced items in an Apple store.”

  15. dolemite says:

    “was told she could purchase the iPad online.” I’d have to give them a big “F YOU”. Thank you, oh Apple Geniuses for allowing me the pleasure of giving you my hard earned money. I am so humbled you saw fit to allow me to do so.”

  16. HFC says:

    Reading these comments makes it obvious to me that some people will over look anything to defend Apple.

    • CrazyEyed says:

      I believe Apple was in the wrong until I know more information about the citizenship of both the girl and her uncle. If they are both documented American citizens, then Apple should apologize. If just one of them is not, then the rejection of the sale is justified.

      • HFC says:

        In that case, they should ask for verification of every customer’s citizenship. Every Hispanic could be Cuban, every black person could be Sudanese, every East Asian could be North Korean. Anyone could have renounced their citizenship and pledged allegiance to an embargoed country.

        • CrazyEyed says:

          When you put it to that extreme, then yeah. Had the OP spoke English or not incriminated themself with a statement such as “I am from Iran” then we wouldn’t be talking about this now.

          Certaintly more qualifying questions should have been asked if Apple plans to strictly interpret this policy. As a global company, I see the need for the policy to be in place. But if its that damn important, you better make sure employees know the difference between discrimination and qualification.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            HURR DURR THEM FURNURS SHOULD SPEAK ENGLISH.

            No, but seriously, don’t be a racist fuck.

            It doesn’t matter where someone is “from,” a retail employee making just above minimum wage is neither qualified nor empowered to make decisions regarding the citizenship status of a customer.

  17. golddog says:

    Oh, thanks Apple. You’ll let them buy it online? How generous.

    So by selling it to them online and apologizing, Apple has clarified that the stores are interpreting the exportation rules wrongly. So far as I can tell Apple hasn’t made an official statement about this. There should be one before stores start setting up separate Genius Bars for brown people or anyone with an accent.

  18. JaundiceJames says:

    The South. It figures.

  19. oldtaku says:

    Tip for Iranians: tell the rednecks you’re Persian. Heck, even the Iranians in Los Angeles do this.

    • nishioka says:

      > Tip for Iranians: tell the rednecks you’re Persian.

      They’ll probably think you meant Parisian, and then hate you for being French instead.

      • Coffee says:

        False dilemma – they won’t know what Parisian means.

      • Anna Kossua says:

        Ha! I used to work with another guy from Iran. For some reason, I thought he was French! He never said Persian or Parisian, so I don’t know where I got that. We had a good laugh when I figured out my mistake. Great guy, by the way, great artist.

  20. sparc says:

    wow, that’s ridiculous that it appears to have happened at multiple Apple stores. Maybe the KKK can start working at Apple stores instead of adopting a highway.

  21. AisKareem says:

    I would love to see an Apple Genius trying to pick out Sudani and Syrian dialects of Arabic.

  22. britswim04 says:

    It’s actually common practice in Apple Stores to refuse to sell large quantities of iPads to customers who appear to be resellers. I know, I did it. It ruins the store’s attachment rates, it ruins individual employees’ numbers (and therefore affects their reviews) and worst of all it reduced the numbers of iPads available for actual customers.

    It happened all the time, Asian, South-Asian or Middle Eastern guy comes in, asks how many iPads he can buy. “2 per customer, sir,” thirty seconds later they’re back with their wife, kid, parent and anyone else they can get their hands on. “I’ll taken 10, there are 5 of us.” If you press them and say it’s 2 per paying customer, they throw a fit and walk out. If they did get to purchase (buying 2 per paying customer) sometimes they’d wait outside until we announced we were sold out and then immediately resell them to people at the end of the line for a markup.

    What happened to the OP is the case of some bad apples ruining it for the rest. Is it racial profiling? Maybe, but the stereotype was reinforced to me EVERY MORNING for MONTHS after the iPad and iPad 2 came out.

    • CrazyEyed says:

      This case isn’t so much about the sale and resale of the item. It appears to be discrimination purely based on the fact they spoke a foreign language associated with Iran. At no time (at least in the article) did Apple ask proof of citizenship. You can’t deny a sale based on ethnicity alone. I could be Italian but have an Iranian citizenship. Because of my citizenship, it would be justified in disallowing the sale of an Apple product to me. Its like saying just because your black, your grandfather had to be part of the slave trade. It’s all assumptions. A few more qualifying questions by Apple would have cleared this up before the OP felt mistreated.

    • HFC says:

      This is a totally different scenario. Refusing to sell an item to someone because you think it’s possible they might send the item to Iran is different than refusing to sell to a re-seller.

  23. incident_man says:

    I’d say to the OP, “So the Apple Store doesn’t want to sell you an iPad? That’s OK, come on over to where I work and I’ll sell you a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4G, as long as you have valid photo ID.”

    • HFC says:

      I need a photo ID to buy a Galaxy Tab 4G? What if I pay in cash?

      • incident_man says:

        Where I work, you need a valid photo ID to activate it on a 3G or 4G network because it sets up a postpaid wireless account.

  24. blueman says:

    Gee, if only Consumerist writers had devices that would let them contact Apple for comment…

  25. brinks says:

    Is it even legal to ask someone their nationality before you sell them something? Discriminaton based on nationality is illegal in every other situation.

    You sell it to someone who tries to take it to Iran, and it’s confiscated by customs. Done. And the salesperson doesn’t have to look like an asshole.

  26. Captain Obvious says:

    We’uns here in da South, are just stoopid. The North should have let us secede and fend for ourselves.

  27. sqeelar says:

    Genius. Or as they say in Farsi نابغه‌، نبو‌غ‌، ‌استعد‌اد، دما‌غ‌، ژنى‌

  28. CarlS says:

    The import-export controls on computers have been in place for a long time. There was a time where export of any such devices to any section, portion, region, citizen, or to any firm doing business with the communists was strictly prohibited, and tightly controlled. Yet it never stopped the transfer of sensitive technology. No, indeed. What it did do, though, was ensure that any such transfers were accompanied by the transfer of high value funds to specific pockets. It’s not any different now. Want proof? Just watch YouTube videos from the middle east and observant viewers will see Apple tech – and other high technology products – in use everywhere. It’s interesting, too, when you follow the money trail . . .

  29. JonBoy470 says:

    Clearly no one commenting here has ever had to deal with export-controlled technology. Apple makes a whole host of products that are “high performance computers” and that contain “encryption” and are thus subject to Export Administration Regulations, administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security, which is part of the Commerce Department. There is furthermore currently a total embargo against Iran. Not saying these regulations are right, let alone effective, but Apple is a big enough company that they aren’t able to fly under the radar on these issues. They would be opening themselves up to considerable legal liability for violations.

    In short, it would be a violation of federal law for Apple (or one of its employees) to knowingly transfer an export controlled product (such as an iPad) to an Iranian national. Even if that Iranian national was located in the United States at the time. So the college student, once he outed himself as an Iranian, is right out. The fact that the Uncle’s citizenship was undisclosed is curious. It wouldn’t surprise me if the front-line employees are trained to err on the side of caution. This issue probably wasn’t handled the best by said front-line employees, but I hesitate to put them in the wrong.

  30. voogru says:

    Government imposed racism.

    And we want the government running anti-discrimination laws…

  31. syxx says:

    made up story, they probably got pissed when they asked for a discount and the employee told them no

  32. shufflemoomin says:

    Ignorant and poorly-educated people in the US? If ever there was news that isn’t really news, this is it.

  33. mubd says:

    They should emboss some text on their lovely glass windows…

    “WE SERVE ONLY NON-IRANIAN/NORTH KOREAN/CUBAN/SUDANESE/SYRIAN FOLK”

  34. Sad Sam says:

    Um lots of people speak Farsi who are not from or citizens of Iran.