One of the books I started reading recently is titled Hot Property : The Stealing of Ideas in an Age of Globalization , which is all about counterfeiting and how it affects… well, basically everything. The books starts off by throwing a bone to the fake Rolex’s and Louis Vuitton bags, then delves into how it affects you (airplane part manufacturers selling parts not to spec, re-dated perishables like rubber, etc), how pervasive counterfeiting is, etc. Well, this brought me to thinking about Chinatown, NY and the sale of counterfeit products. Would you buy something that’s fake?
Here’s how it works if you want to buy a fake purse or shiny thing in Chinatown… you go down to Canal Street in Manhattan and nine times out of ten, someone will approach you and drop a brand’s name (Tiffany? Louis? Prada?). If you’re interested, you’ll perk up and look at them. They’ll flash out a catalog (or a large semi-glossy page) of products with prices listed underneath. If you say yes, you basically follow them down an alley to a back room where they’ll have boxes full of this fake stuff.
The alternative is you walk to one of the storefronts, preferably one of those incredibly narrow and deep stores that already sells Proda, Lovis, and Tiffony’s (Po1o is popular too) stuff anyway and is “not quite” counterfeit. Walk up to the guy running the show and ask him if he or she has other, better purses. They’ll look at you and probably will take you back into a room. It’ll be behind a pseudo false door (the walls are all slotted so you can hang stuff off them, the one in the back simply opens up to the storeroom) and the tiny room will be PACKED with cardboard boxes. He/she will show you a few purses, haggle briefly, and either you’ll buy it or they’ll shuttle you out.
I’ve actually never bought a fake purse (I don’t carry a purse and its ridiculously bad form to give it as a gift to a girl when you’re a guy, but somehow awesome if you’re a girl giving it to a friend though, it’s a horrible double standard!) but I’ve been on many a trip to the nebulous black market of high end accessories. I would say most people don’t realize how easy it is to get counterfeit products in the States (everyone knows of the $1 DVD movies or $10 for Microsoft Office 2003 in Hong Kong, but that requires a trip to Hong Kong and some sweating in customs)… so would you buy a fake purse if it meant chopping 80-90% off the price?
Also, from what people tell me, quite often when you go to Asia and see products really cheap, it’s not because the products are counterfeit but because they are stolen. With all the production in Asia, often times the workers steal a few to sell. Either way, it’s still illegal stuff. Incidentally, I wrote this article because I thought people would find it an interesting read on how simple the infamous “NY Chinatown black market” is and this isn’t meant as a guide or anything to help you buy illegal goods. Since it is illegal, you could get in serious trouble for buying stolen goods or counterfeit products.