by Karlie Morris
People travel to New York City for all sorts of reasons. Some of which include sightseeing, internships, Broadway musicals, and of course, shopping. Fifth Avenue is one of the best-known shopping districts in the country. It houses Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Saks Fifth Avenue, and many other designer stores. Once you pass this area you will come to side streets, and those house the counterfeit markets.Some are even in the backs of old vans! That must make it easy to drive the counterfeit handbags and accessories away from the cops. People have their own opinion about fake products, but if you would take the time to investigate, you would know all of the damage that is being done by purchasing these items. Even though counterfeiting is popular among our generation, it is illegal because it damages the economy, and cheats many designers of the profits they deserve. It is even tied in with human trafficking. Unless you want to be a part of these things, do not buy a counterfeit.
One thing many people do not know is that buying counterfeit, or fake, handbags is against the law. This law is known as the Trademark Counterfeiting Act of 1984. The law can impose fines up to $5 million, and could possibly lead to 20 years in prison, for those who violate it. This law makes it illegal to sell or buy counterfeit products, and even if you know of any actions like this taking place, you could be at risk of being fined (“Did You Know“).
Counterfeiting is when someone steals the exact logo of a brand, like Louis Vuitton or Coach. Now, I am not trying to persuade you in my direction just because it’s against the law, but because of the fact that it is disrespectful to those who made the designs in the first place. Would you want to have someone steal your name, and pretend to be you? I didn’t think so. It’s basically the same principle. If you buy a counterfeit handbag, then you are most likely trying to make people believe that it is the real thing. In reality, most people know it’s not. If you are willing to put that new Chanel bag on a dirty cafeteria floor at school, then all bets are off. People are going to know it is a fake. So if that is your only reasoning for buying a fake in the first place, then don’t do it!
Even though there is a law that states making counterfeit bags is illegal it does not really do much good when people aren’t punished for their actions. There are several cases that indicate this, one being a case against a company selling counterfeit Louis Vuitton and Gucci products. The seller says she has no idea that the bags she was selling happened to be fake, when in all reality she knew they were all along. After she was caught red handed selling the bags the judge clearly knew what was happening, and she still got off with no charges. She even began selling them again (Pun Yang Lee). This is the problem with counterfeiting. Even if the seller knows that what they are doing is illegal, if there is not enough evidence then they will not be prosecuted. Counterfeiting is also such a small crime compared to murder or something of that sort. Police and prosecuters would rather take the time to get a murderer off the streets than a counterfeiter. That is a good thing, but they need to start enforcing the laws against counterfeiting.
Now, not to confuse you, but there is a difference between counterfeits and knock-off handbags. Knockoff handbags are the ones that you can tell are obviously fake because the logo isn’t the same. They usually have cheaper quality materials. For example if someone is trying to knock-off a Coach handbag the letters may be G’s instead of C’s. These are legal because they aren’t using the actual logo from a designer. Counterfeit bags are the ones that you cannot always tell are fakes. They use the same logo as the original bags, and some counterfeiters even go to the extent of using high-quality materials to construct the handbags. This video explains how to tell the difference between a counterfeit and a real bag by showing examples. Guides explain that when buying handbags in New York City sellers will put the knock-off bags in the window displays of their stores. They then either have a back room or special place where they hide the counterfeit handbags. They do this so that they will not get caught selling anything illegal. When someone walks into their store they then lead the them to the back of the store to get the best quality bags (“Guide to Buying“).
I have come across several how-to guides for buying a “quality” counterfeit handbag. Why would you buy a designer handbag for $2,000, when you can buy one of lesser quality for around $30? This is the basis of their reasoning. They even tell you where to get the best replicas. Canal Street in New York City is among one of the favorites, although counterfeits are popular in California and Chicago. If you go overseas to China they even have malls full of counterfeit goods, but they call them discount malls. Some people believe that they are truly getting that Armani T-shirt for a really good price, when in all actuality it’s just a good replica. These guides tell you to go into the store, and someone will take you into a basement or out to a van to show you the merchandise. The best way to negotiate price is to come with a wad of bills, then you tell the seller you will pay x amount of dollars, take it or leave it. They mention that the sellers are almost always willing to sell the handbags to you, if you meet them in the middle. They say another great option is to walk away if you do not like the price they give you. Usually they will call after you and are willing to lower the price (“Guide to Buying“). It is honestly scary the places handbag dealers will take you to purchase that “new spring 2013″ Chanel bag.
Some people think that counterfeiting is actually helpful to designers. They believe the more counterfeits that are sold the more advertising it does for a brand. This makes the brand more popular among people all over the world. They think that some people form attachments to their fake Louis Vuitton wallets, which in turn makes them want to go out and purchase a real one. I don’t agree with this at all. If people were abandoning their counterfeit bags for the real deal then why do so many counterfeit handbags sell each year? I seriously doubt that someone who doesn’t care if there bag is real or not is going to get so attached that they feel the need to buy one from the real designer. Yes, seeing a counterfeit Chanel bag may get the brands name out there, but not in a good way. If someone sees that the bag is falling apart and does not know it isn’t real they probably won’t go out of their way to purchase one. Some people say imitation is flattery, but I disagree when it comes to handbags (Fisman).
As it stands now, New York City, California, Chicago, and many other jurisdictions are being cheated out of sales tax because of these cash sales. Designers are also losing money because they aren’t selling as many handbags due to all of the counterfeits. It is even hurting women, as some think they are scoring a good deal. Let’s be honest, who isn’t looking for a bargain these days? One photographer found an Yves Saint Laurent bag on eBay for $300. She was sure it was real, but when the strap broke and she took it to YSL to get it fixed she was told it was a fake (Odell). That had to be embarrassing for her. Some bags are even going for as much as $500 when they are not real. I find it ridiculous that people are going to such lengths to use good-quality leather to make counterfeit bags! With the materials they have they could make their own handbag line, and possibly become a legend. Anything could happen if they would use their skills for good (“Why Buying“).
Most counterfeit products are made and produced in China. 62% of all seizures are from China each year. That is where most sellers get their handbags and accessories. There is a number that tells how much money is being made from purchasing counterfeits, but the actual one is not known.There is however an estimated number that is pretty significant. It is thought to be around $75 billion per year. That is unbelievable! Think about how much money these hard working designers are losing each year due to counterfeit goods (Orr).
There was an experiment to see how much traffic the counterfeit websites were getting, and how much they were actually selling. To figure this out a “fake” counterfeit website was made.They had come across several websites that looked to be selling the real thing, but it turns out you either get a knockoff handbag or they steal your money with nothing in return. One thing they noticed was that if they put up a picture of a handbag that was new on the market the other websites would try and beat them out by selling other new products that the fake counterfeit site did not offer. It seemed to be all like a game between the sellers (Orr). These websites were generating a lot more activity than expected. Honestly, after browsing through some websites they don’t even look safe or reliable. Don’t gamble your money on a website like that. Save it for the casinos.
The courts are now starting to crack down on internet counterfeiting. Coach recently won a $257 million judgment. This judgment is one of the largest in history for Internet counterfeiting, although is not known if they collected their judgment. Other brands such as True Religion and Ugg Australia have also won large settlements in the past few years because of the counterfeiting of shoes and jeans. This is making the courts want to enforce the law more than ever before. They are trying to have websites that sell counterfeit merchandise shut down, because most of the people running these websites are from overseas (Steigrad). But new websites pop up every day making it almost impossible to catch all of the crooks. If counterfeiting were put to a stop it would make things so much easier. Going through a lawsuit is a long, and drawn out process. It is taking up ample time in the courtrooms, which is why most of them are thrown out. They just take way too long to go over, and they usually have something they find more important to be dealing with.
Surprisingly counterfeiting is linked to human trafficking. Many people would think that is a crazy statement to make, but sadly it’s true. Many of the workers who are producing these handbags overseas are young children, mostly young girls. They are working in horrible conditions, and some are even used as slaves. They are often mistreated. Many of these girls are even sold into sexual slavery. They are forced to do criminal work, such as counterfeiting, to bring in more revenue (“Fake Bags“). A reporter from Harpers Bazaar went to a factory in Thailand and witnessed some horrendous sights. She saw children with their legs broken on purpose and tied down so they would not mend. The owners of the factory did this because the children wanted to go outside and play instead of working (Thomas). The fact that things like this are going on is frightening. I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering these children go through so that people, like us, can have the newest, and hottest bag. Do you want to be a part of something like this? I didn’t think so.
So if you are thinking about traveling to New York City, and want the new Chanel handbag that just came out, save up your money. Don’t buy a counterfeit. It has so many negative things tied to it, including human trafficking, and who wants to support that? If you can’t afford that handbag, then don’t worry about it! Go see Wicked on Broadway, or see the Empire State Building. No one is honestly going to care if you have the “it” bag or not. It’s just a status symbol, and going to New York City in general is status enough. Be kind to the designers and your wallet when you go shopping, instead of becoming involved in something illegal. I promise, you can have style without the hottest new handbag.
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