iPhone

[Believe Tech or Not] The Guy Who Started the Infamous Kidney Jokes

Yep, someone actually sold their kidneys for an iPhone...and an iPad

by: - Last updated on: March 29th, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • Whenever a tech product is perceived as being too expensive, it is inevitably accompanied by remarks like “you will need to sell a kidney to get it.”
  • Ever wondered why it is always “kidneys” that come into the question? Why not simply use a phrase like “costs an arm and a leg”?
  • That’s because a person actually sold his kidneys to buy a pair of very expensive gadgets.

One thing most Apple products are associated with and actually come with is a higher-than-industry-standard price tag. While this “exorbitance” (yes, that is a word now!) brings the element of exclusivity amongst its users (something many Apple users take very seriously), for many non-Apple people it also inspires a meme-fest that often takes digs at how ridiculously high Apple prices its products. And at the center of it all are often the good old kidney jokes. Whether it was the iPhones or the AirPods Max, the announcement of their prices was inevitably followed by a “kidney joke” deluge.

man sold kidneys

Why “kidney” jokes?

But have you ever wondered how buying an Apple product somehow invoked kidney-selling feels? It is not like there aren’t other extreme and highly illegal measures one could take in order to get enough money to buy an Apple device. For instance, one could:

  • rob a bank,
  • kidnap someone rich for ransom
  • or simply do something idiotic enough to go viral over the Internet

All of which often results in cash without having to really sell organs or harming oneself.

Just for the record, we do not endorse any such activity for devices of any kind. Much though we love our tech and gadget stashes, they are certainly not worth breaking the law or literally sacrificing body parts.

But to get back to the point: why does the will to buy an expensive gadget arouse organ trafficking jokes?

No smoke is ever without fire and that stands substantially true in case of all the kidney jokes that are often cracked when Apple launches a product. Believe it or not, the kidney jokes weren’t a figment of someone’s imagination. They didn’t just pop into existence and it may be hard to accept but the kidney jokes actually transpired from reality. The kidney jokes we make actually started in 2011 after someone actually did just what the jokes suggested!

It all happened in…China in 2011

Wang Shangkun was your routine 17-year-old Chinese kid. Like many of his age, he too wanted the latest gadgets from Apple – which at that time were the iPhone 4 and iPad 2. And like many of his age, Wang did not really have the money to get them. However, totally unlike many (make that “any”) of his age, Wang decided on a drastic measure to get these gadgets. He made the decision to sell his kidney on the Internet in order to finance the iPad 2 and iPhone 4.

wang shangkun

It all began when Wang saw an advertisement on the Internet which offered money in exchange for organs. Wang decided the devices were worth living without a kidney and contacted the traffickers. The agents organized the illegal procedure and managed to fix a surgery in the hospital. Wang’s kidney fetched him about $3,500 and he used the money to buy an iPad 2 and an iPhone 4.

Yes, that actually happened.

Of course, it did not end well. It could not. The expensive gadgets and the fresh scar tipped off Wang’s mother that something was fishy and after some interrogation, young Wang confessed. Five people were later arrested, including the surgeon who performed the surgery. The news received extensive coverage and suddenly, people were associating selling kidneys with buying iPhones because hey, someone had actually gone and done it.

Got an iPhone and iPad…but bedridden for life

That was not the end of it, though.

Years later, the sold kidney has cost Wang his health and mobility. As reported by many news outlets, Wang’s health started deteriorating shortly after the illegal surgery and he suffered from renal failure in his second kidney. It was evidently because of unsanitary conditions under which the illegal surgery was performed. Wang is now bedridden because of organ failure and is in need of constant medical attention.

The lesson? Well, it is pretty simple: do not sell your organs on the Internet for gadgets or for anything else. And while you are at it, maybe try not to sell your organs on the Internet at all. Period.

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