Thursday, August 05, 2010

Knock it off

There was an interesting article in the NY Times the other day on the counterfeit trade.

If you’re like me, you may be thinking that most of the c-trade was $30 Vuitton bags sold at flee markets, and $100 Rolex watches hawked on the sidewalks of New York.  And that the people who buy said “Vuitton” bag or “Rolex” watch either know that they’ve bought a fake, and don’t care, or are so studip they think they’ve gotten themselves the real deal. (“Gee, that Rolex watch only lasted a couple of weeks. I thought they were supposed to work real good. Sure glad I didn’t pay $7,000 for it – bad enough to be out a hunnert.”)

As it happens, counterfeiters have branched out, and are going down-market, faking lower end brands and selling them for slightly knocked-off prices.  The prices seem like a reasonable Internet-type bargain, so the buyers buy – and get stuck.

Uggs are one product where fakes abound:

In 2009, 60,000 pairs of boots were confiscated by customs agents globally… In the same year, the company took down 2,500 Web sites selling fake products, along with 20,000 eBay listings and 150,000 listings on other trading sites like Craigslist and iOffer. That’s despite the relatively low price of real Ugg boots, which cost around $140 for a basic model.

Or, as I found at the Wrentham Mall this June, around $90 for last year’s basic model on sale. (Hmmmm.  At least I think they were Uggs and not Fuggs. In either case, I am looking forward to toasty tootsies this winter.)

The Ugg empire is large enough to patrol its virtual waters looking for fakes. (For starters, all they have to do is google “fake Uggs”.)

Not so smaller outfits, which – if they’re fashion-ista-y enough – also get knocked off. They may not have the manpower or pocketbook (real Kate Spade!) to go after counterfeiters.

Perhaps the most peculiar counterfeit item noted in the article was this:

In California, the authorities recently seized a shipment of counterfeit Angel Soft toilet paper.

Counterfeit toilet paper? Say what?

Now, I’m the first to admit I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about toilet paper.

I’m happy to stick with my birth-right brand, Scott’s, which is what I grew up with. I like it just fine and, while I don’t actually want to find myself in the position of writing a t.p. review here, on the bathroom tissue continuum, Scott’s lies about midpoint between the soft and fluffy, 20 sheets to a roll types and the wax-paper style I encountered in loos in England when I first traveled there in the early 1970’s.

But since toilet paper is already relatively cheap – I mean, I haven’t heard any frugal-for-the-duration stories about people tearing up newspapers; oh, wait, there aren’t any more newspapers to tear up – why would someone bother to counterfeit it?

My guess is that bulk buys of counterfeit toilet paper end up in off-price stores in poor neighborhoods, where folks can maybe kinda sorta feel good about buying a “real” brand that’s advertised on TV – even if it’s real-fake – rather than having to go with generics.

Can’t blame them for wanting to trade up. My own experience with generic brands is that they never seem to be as good as what they’re genericizing. That faux kleenex is not as soft on the nose blowing; fake Prince spaghetti leaves more white scum in the pot.

Still got to wonder about the economics of counterfeiting toilet paper.

Could it be that the factories in China that produce the “real” Angel Soft are also producing the real-fake Angel Soft, so it’s not really fake, but real?  Or is it that, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing counterfeit?

Boy, everything sure was a lot simpler when everything worth buying was Made in America, and the only place to buy toilet paper was the grocery store.

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