Why you shouldn’t buy fake designer merchandise

Sunday, 30 November 2008 | Tags: , , ,

Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, Gucci...all designer names that make fashionistas drool. But counterfeiters are manufacturing everything from clothing to jewelry to perfume, even machine parts. It hurts legitimate business, and ultimately makes everything cost more. We do some undercover shopping in New York City and hear from an expert about the industry of fakes.

We spoke with Andrew Oberfeld, a former NYPD SWAT officer turned undercover agent for high-end design houses like Prada and Louis Vuitton. His job is to identify and bust sellers of illegal knock-offs in the New York area under the trademark counterfeiting law. Thanks to Andrew’s work, all bags displayed on New York’s famous Canal Street are now legal. But that’s not to say there’s no counterfeit products being sold here.

Armed with a hidden camera, we quickly gained access to a whole underworld of secret rooms and sneaky transactions, all surrounding the illegal sale of counterfeit bags and products. And we weren’t the only ones looking.

Unfortunately, many consumers are unaware of the damage they cause by buying fakes. According to Andrew, buying fakes affects the global economy and hurts us as an organized society. It hurts everybody. From lost sales to increased law enforcement costs to lost tax revenue, counterfeiting merchandise costs North Americans an estimated $250 billion per year.

Did you know:

  • In Europe they take counterfeiting very seriously. If you are walking through an airport and are carrying a counterfeit bag, they will fine you up to the value of a legitimate bag.

  • In the United States, it is illegal to make counterfeit merchandise, transport it for sale, sell it, and advertise it for sale. However, there is no law against buying counterfeit goods. Yet.

  • Increased law enforcement required in an area like New York’s Canal St. has driven up the cost of renting space, putting many stores (legitimate and not) out of business.

  • Often bags will be made elsewhere in the world and then shipped to North America without any markings. That way, customs officials are unable to do anything about them. The markings, like clasps and logos, will be affixed to the bags once they pass through.

  • Counterfeit bags only cost merchants a few dollars, but they still charge you anywhere from $40-100. The mark-up on that is phenomenal, and in the same league as the drug trade.

The Bottom Line

Buying fakes drives the prices of the real products up significantly since it is expensive for companies to hire people like Andrew Oberfeld to police their trademarked products. If you think buying fakes really doesn’t hurt these high-end luxury design houses, think again. In the end, it’s the consumer that ends up paying the price, in the form of increased price tags on designer products.

You can spot a fake because the quality of the material will not be as good as the real thing. Furthermore, the price is drastically cheaper than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

We definitely don’t recommend buying knock-offs. Based on what we found, you won’t be fooling anybody anyway. Think about it this way: even though you’re paying less, you’re still not getting your money’s worth since your $50 fake only cost a few dollars to make.

Save up for the real thing, or visit a reputable dealer that sells inexpensive merchandise INSPIRED by the big names.



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