What did you get for Christmas? A fake Coach handbag or a Rolex watch with 2 x’s? How about a few DVD’s in plain brown wrappers? If you got anything that is not authentically what it claims to be, your shiny new prize is part of a multi-billion dollar global crime ring. And you, my friend, are an accomplice.
I’ve been bothered by this for years. As a person who has
worked in advertising all my life, I understand the value of a brand. It is my
job to help our clients build and zealously protect their brands. Consequently,
I cringe when I see an obvious fake. But that doesn’t stop some people from
thinking a fake Louis Vuitton
carries all of the prestige of the real thing.
Everyday my inbox is bombarded with offers of “name brand watches” at huge discounts, right along with the offers for generic Viagra and pleas from dethroned African leaders offering to pay me handsomely if I let then stash some cash in my checking account. These offers are easy to blow off. I’m smart enough to spot an obvious fraud, although some people must be gullible or they wouldn’t keep making these outrageous claims.
But some of these offers hit closer to home. There is a
local carwash selling handbags that are obvious fakes. So obvious in fact, that
a sign on the wall claims they are not fakes but faithful “reproductions.” Call
it what you want, it’s a rip off. And copying someone’s design is still stealing.
If you buy the fakes, you might as well be buying stolen car stereos out of a
But here’s the kicker; a local retailer ran a full page newspaper ad just before Christmas. One of the products offered was a clock for 25% off the regular $29.99 price. It looked like the George Nelson designed Ball clock we have in our bedroom. Ours is the official licensed reproduction from Vitra. We paid about $300 and of that price, each one of the appropriate copyright holders got their share. So who would know if I buy a bunch of these cheapos and sell them on EBay as the real thing? I would, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.
According to the USA Today (December 18, 2009) a November ’09 FBI bust of a crime ring alleged to be conspiring “to acquire a missile system designed to shoot down an aircraft”. To fund their activities they were selling, among other things, counterfeit Nike sneakers. Are the fake clocks at the corner store or the “reproduction” purses supporting terrorism? I don’t know. But I’ll error of the safe side and avoid them like the plague.
In 2009, a coalition of a Swiss watch makers unveiled a global “Fake Watches Are for Fake People” campaign, but I question whether their efforts go far enough. I admit to a minor addiction to watches, but if I couldn’t afford an Omega, Cartier or Panerai, a $40 Swatch would be just fine. But a fake? Not on my wrist.
Ask yourself this; would you eat McDonald’s French fries that some guy was selling out of the back of his car? Does a BMW badge on a Kia make it a BMW? Does a fake Rolex make you look cool?