Americans of Iranian descent have been having a hard time picking up iPhones and iPads in the state of Georgia due to a U.S. import ban that has translated into a sale policy at Apple stores. On multiple occasions, shoppers were heard by Apple Store managers speaking Farsi and denied service. The reason was a fairly cut and dry part of Apple's sale policy on 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.
The big offense here isn't that the U.S. has a trade embargo on Iran (that's another can of worms altogether), but rather that Apple is enforcing this policy through their retail locations. Obviously Apple isn't going to be shipping anything to areas restricted by law, but should they be held accountable for indirect re-exportation after they sell goods domestically? If so, should it really be within the jurisdiction of some chump retail employee to pry into the personal lives of others, or worse still, make brash assumptions based on language alone? It seems to me that the onus sits on government border control if they want to uphold these embargoes.
Apple employees later suggested that the shoppers in question just buy their goods online, but really, why should they have to? If Apple is willing to do that, why not just sell them the iPad or iPhone at a store? It's easy to jump on this situation as a case of racial profiling, but I think in the end it's just poor staff training on Apple's part; they need the shipping policy in place to comply with American law, but if managers were explicitly told not to sell to anyone even vaguely Cuban, Iranian, Korean, Sudanese, or Syrian, then Apple deserves the PR poopstorm to come.
As you might expect, major American Iranian associations are calling for Apple to change their position. Do you think Apple will, or are they right to be worried that the government would see them as being too lax on the law?
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