Knockoff designer goods are easily available on the streets in areas like Los Angeles’ Santee Street and New York’s Canal Street.
The internet is also full of online auctions and cybersellers offering “Inspired by” copies and fakes.
The old method of spotting counterfeit items was simple: flimsy hardware, cheap leather and crooked logos were a dead giveaway.
Fakes are now so good (and expensive) that you sometimes can’t tell the difference.
So how do you know what’s real and what’s not?
- The price. A new Louis Vuitton handbag for $100 is not the real. The real LV typically sells for $800 to well over $2000. Same thing for my friends Prada and Gucci.
- Where it’s sold. Authorized dealers for Chanel, LV, etc. do not merchandise out of the trunk of a car and they do not sell at online auctions or home parties.
- Point of origin tag. Designer apparel or leather goods with a “Made in Taiwan” tag is likely not authentic.
- What if you are shopping online and come across a great deal on designer apparel? How do you know you’re getting the real thing?
Read the fine print.
Some etailers will lure you in with key words you’re likely to search for like Chanel or Prada. Many sites use overkill with words like “authentic,” “genuine” and other adjectives — to describe their merchandise.
Only by reading the descriptions carefully will you see comments like “Inspired by…” to clue you in that the merchandise isn’t an exact copy (which the etailers claim gives them immunity from trademark infringement.)
Many of the better knockoffs come with packaging, locks, etc. to appear (and sound in description) like the real thing.
Ebay.com has rules posted forbidding the sale of counterfeit merchandise, but it’s not unusual to see Louis Vuitton and Gucci bags on the site for less than $100.
How do you protect yourself?
Purchase goods from an authorized dealer (a department store or a company outlet). Many labels sell directly to the public on company-owned sites such as Gucci.com, eLuxury.com (Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, etc.) and Coach.com.
If in doubt, contact the designer directly and ask if you’re buying from an authorized dealer.