updated 10:40 pm EDT, Wed June 20, 2012
Cited US trade restrictions, backed by management
Two Apple store employees in Georgia have been accused of racially profiling Farsi-speaking shoppers, and refusing to sell them trade-embargoed iPads and iPhones. In two separate incidents, American customers of Iranian descent have been quoted Apple's export compliance policy and denied purchase based on perceived nationality. Apple has not officially commented on the matter, other than a telephone customer relations representative suggesting that one customer buy the iPad online rather than at retail.
Sahar Sabet reported that when she was trying to purchase an iPad and iPhone and was discussing the matter with her uncle in Farsi, she and her uncle were approached by a clerk who asked them what language they were speaking and where they were from. The Apple store clerk then refused to sell the pair the technology after Sabet, an American citizen, told him that they were speaking Farsi and originally from Iran.
A Georgia television news crew sent a reporter to the store in question after hearing Sabet's story and obtained video seen below of the same employee who prevented the sale repeating the policy, as well as comments from the store manager supporting the employee and his decision to bar the sale. After the report was initially made public, Zack Jafarzadeh told the station that he was present with his friend trying to buy an iPhone and recounted that "we never talked about him going back to Iran or anything like that. He was just speaking full-fledged Farsi and the representative came back and denied our sale."
Apple does have a published export compliance policy, which mirrors US trade guidance. The policy says that the US "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 US 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 US Government. This prohibition also applies to any Apple owned subsidiary or any subsidiary employee worldwide."
MacNN contacted the State Department for comment and was told that Apple's governmental policy-derived corporate export document is aimed at state-sponsored purchases, and should not be construed as prohibiting individual purchases such as presented in Georgia, especially to US citizens, regardless of ethnicity. It is illegal for US citizens to enter Iraq or other proscribed countries with certain restricted electronic devices like iPads and the iPhone, however. Furthermore, the spokesman added that there is a large amount of information on international trade available including sanctions, sanction enforcement and violation reporting at the US Government export informational webpage.