Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The True Cost of Counterfeit

RCMP photo of seized counterfeit handbags
People, I debated for some time whether or not this topic was one that truly belonged in my Fort Mac blog, but in the end decided it did as it's come to my attention a couple of times locally. The issue? Counterfeit handbags.

Now, this might seem an odd topic to cover but I was startled a few months ago to walk into a local business and find a selection of handbags that had logos and labels like Coach and Chanel. Looking closely I realized the bags were a fraction of the cost of the "real deal".  Looking even closer I realized that the bags were counterfeit, of course, and not the real deal at all.

Many people might think this is no big thing, and not really an issue at all - except that it is. I'm not a handbag snob, and I'm as likely to carry a Wal-Mart bag as a Coach. I'm not a label watcher, either, but what I am is against things like organized crime, terrorism, human trafficking, and child labour - and people, counterfeit handbags have been linked to all those things.

The sale and distribution of counterfeit bags is illegal, and can be prosecuted. More than the illegality, though, is the high cost of these bags. Oh, getting a counterfeit Chanel for $100 when the real thing retails for $1500 might seem like a steal but the cost I'm talking about isn't monetary - it's the cost to our society and community. Would anyone buy a sofa if they knew the proceeds were going to fund terrorist organizations or organized crime groups? Does anyone feel good about buying items produced by starving, impoverished ten-year olds overseas? So what makes buying a cheap counterfeit handbag that supports these activities any different? Isn't counterfeiting a form of theft, too? It might seem like Chanel and Louis Vuitton are big companies and can afford to lose some income due to counterfeit bags, but is it really any different than any other form of theft?

I've seen the argument that these bags don't really hurt anyone, and that it's not like people are buying drugs or stolen goods. These varying shades of morality bother me, though. It might seem like it's just one purse, but when it's hundreds of thousands of purses all over the entire world it suddenly becomes a very lucrative market, and that's where organized crime and terrorist groups move into the issue.

Look people, I didn't know a lot about this issue until I was offered a selection of "designer" handbags from the trunk of a car in London, England. I clearly knew the bags were counterfeit, and the surreptitious manner in which they were being sold indicated to me that the seller knew this was a risky enterprise. I walked away, did some research, and was stunned to see the links one cheap counterfeit handbag had to organized crime, human trafficking, slave and child labour, sweatshops, and terrorism. It put an entirely new spin on the issue for me, and if I cannot afford a genuine designer handbag I know I will never purchase the counterfeit version. The price is just too high - and it's a price far higher than the one with a dollar sign in front of it.

Counterfeits in Canada
Counterfeit Handbags and Links to Organized Crime
Harper's Bazaar Report on the HIgh Price of Counterfeit
RCMP and Counterfeit Handbags

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