Apple Store Refuses To Sell To American Citizens Speaking Farsi In Case They Might Send iPhone To Iran

from the policy-is-policy dept

This is just bizarre. Apparently, an Iranian-born American citizen who was speaking Farsi was denied the ability to buy an iPad and an iPhone because store employees cited an Apple policy barring the export of Apple products to Iran.
Jafarzadeh, who is from Virginia, said no one asked him where the phone was going. The employee only questioned his ethnicity.

"I feel like this is a bit of racial profiling against Iranians and I'm appalled," Jafarzadeh said.
It certainly sounds like Apple might want to train some of its employees a bit better in understanding what "export" means. And maybe Apple employees should also be made aware of the fact that American citizens can speak Farsi.

Filed Under: apple store, farsi, ipad, iphone, iranian-american, virginia
Companies: apple


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  1. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 25 Jun 2012 @ 6:11am

    Or a Subordinate Afraid of Being Fired.

    Here is a paradox-- during the 1960 Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins, the counter-service employees immediately refusing service to the Black students were themselves Black, as was the normal order of things in the South. A White man's place in a restaurant was as the boss, not as a waiter or a cook. The same went for a range of kindred occupations, such as sleeping-car porter, or hotel bellhop. The lunch-counter workers were of a different social class than the students, and did not particularly tend to identify with them. Of course, a Black lunch-counter worker who had willingly served a Black student would surely have been fired, but beyond that, the lunch-counter workers displayed anger at the students for putting them between a rock and a hard place. The myth of White superiority in the Old South had a kind of counterpart, the myth of Black inferiority. A Black sleeping-car porter could not be blamed for being only a sleeping car porter. Everyone knew that train conductors were White men, so no blame attached to a Black sleeping-car porter for not becoming a conductor. Simply because the immediate enforcers of racist policies were often themselves Black does not mean that there was no racism.

    Now, in the present case, there were two separate Iran-IPhone incidents, involving different customers, in different stores in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, with different sales people. There were probably additional incidents which did not get reported. However, similar incidents did not appear in the rest of the country, say in California. This suggests that the problem is very likely at Apple's local district office. It has become apparent that Apple decided rather quickly that conducting "ethnicity checks" was no part of its policy. Apple almost immediately referred Ms. Sabet to its own website to buy an IPhone, making clear their position that the clerk was speaking only for himself in respect of ITAR. Further, the official Apple memorandum which was cited referred to the country Iran, and not to American citizens of Iranian origin. That would cover things like the store actually shipping merchandise to Iran. It would also cover Apple making the necessary technical arrangements with Iranian telephone companies to support IPhones in Iran. However, the "ethnicity checks" were probably invented by someone local, someone in a position of local power.

    I am doubtful of the claim that the clerk somehow heard something decisive. People don't talk that way. When friends or relatives talk to each other about other friends or relatives, they don't need to mention what state or country these friends or relatives live in, because that is obvious in the context of the relationship, even though it is entirely obscure to an eves-dropping stranger. In such cases, one rarely uses the surname of the person referred to, because it is not necessary. They often use colloquial first names, which do not appear on any official piece of paper. The notion that a clerk could somehow insert himself into family gossip, and make any sense of it is highly suspect.

    Going by the usual standard of "constructive dismissal" cases, telling an Iranian-American sales clerk that Iranian-American customers were undesirable as security risks per se, and requiring him to enforce a policy against them, would very likely be taken as legally equivalent to firing the clerk for being Iranian-American. One comparable case involved a Midwestern convenience store owner who sent a memorandum to his employees, along the lines of: "let's take bets about who I'm going to fire next," and was found by the courts to have engaged in constructive dismissal of an employee who walked out in response. The employee was therefore entitled to unemployment insurance. Of course, the problem with constructive dismissal is that while the dismissed employee can eventually get justice, it can take years, and that is not much help for someone with the rent due. We can assume that the Iranian-American clerk in the Sabet case was under duress, afraid of losing his job, and that the real discriminating party was somewhat further up the corporate ladder.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2163035/Apple-store-bans-Sahar-Sabet-19-buying-iP ad-speaking-Iranian-language-Farsi.html

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/apple-clerk-sell -ipad-farsi-chatting-georgia-teen-article-1.1100638

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