Just Fake It!

Many folks, these days, are traveling for more than just sightseeing, they’re going shopping. With the dollar lingering near all-time lows versus some major world currencies, many shopping tourists are traveling to the States. However, some real shopping bargains exist elsewhere, particularly in the rip-off goods category.

My trip last year to China was a real eye-opener: the major markets all sold knock-off goods openly, while big, red banners, hang across all entrances, proclaiming “Maintain Intellectual Property” (one of the few signs anywhere in China written in English). (I’m still trying to figure out what the banners that said “Striking Forbid Illegal Management Activities of Soliciting Goods” mean, but that’s another story …)

These huge open-air markets are enough to make brand-name companies fume, with brands like North Face, Nike, Victorinox, and Columbia Sportswear and others all featured prominently, for pennies on the dollar. They don’t even bother with the spelling errors (you’ve seen them: “Addidas”) or mismatched teams (e.g., “Atlanta Braves Football Club”). The rip-offs are so realistic, it’s hard to tell them from the real thing, and it’s all right there in the open. It puts Canal Street to shame for sheer audacity.

But it’s not just China that’s in the big business of selling black-market items. They’re being sold across Europe too, usually in Asian-run boutiques. The shoe pictured above was featured prominently in the window of a downtown Barcelona shoe store just last month. Note the altered swoosh. I can hear Phil Knight screaming …