An out-of-town friend of mine went to a cosmetic counter in Peoria recently to make a purchase and was asked by the clerk about her Gucci bag, “Is that real?” The friend, who owns several designer handbags, was first embarrassed, then irritated. I was embarrassed that my friend was asked such a rude question while visiting our city.
I’ve probably filtered out a million spam email messages offering “Rolex” watches, “Microsoft” software and all sorts of pharmaceutical drugs at unheard-of discounts. I’ve always gone by the slogan: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I prefer to purchase from a respected bricks-and-mortar store or a website that carries the Better Business Bureau logo and a secure padlock symbol. Such companies have a track record and can prove their authenticity and integrity to customers. Businesses spend billions of dollars to legally copyright a design, protect intellectual property or gain approval by the government. Protecting the brand is essential to the survival of the business. Yet not only are ideas and designs being stolen, but when this occurs, the brand’s value is also diminished.
I’ve been approached by salesmen selling merchandise on the streets of New York City, Los Angeles, Shanghai and Puerto Vallarta. As a naïve first-time visitor to a “big city,” I was intrigued by the smiling, yet aggressive salesperson. A Rolex watch. A Louis Vuitton handbag. Chanel sunglasses. CDs and DVDs. Genuine silver and turquoise jewelry—all at affordable prices. Cash only, no receipts.
One time, on a family vacation to Washington, D.C. in the early ‘90s, one of my sons, then in middle school, came running up to show me the “Ray-Ban” sunglasses he had just purchased from the nice man on the steps of the Capitol. Within five minutes, though, the glasses were broken and he was devastated. When we tried to return the item, the seller was, of course, nowhere to be found. The police may sometimes look the other way at streetcarts selling handbags or entrepreneurs hosting “purse parties,” but the seriousness of selling fakes is brought to light with pharmaceuticals. Not only are counterfeit drugs ineffective, they can be quite harmful, and the illegal manufacture, sale and trafficking of such drugs increases the cost of the legitimate products.
In recent years, the music and film industries have grappled with the theft of their products on the Internet. While it is true that copyright law needs to be updated to catch up with our 21st century lifestyles, it is also true that these are not “victimless” crimes. Hopefully, conscientious people will begin to realize that buying fake merchandise is also not acceptable.
A fake is a fake, not a bargain. But would anyone know the truth? Well, you would, for sure. tpw