Fake Goods, Real Money

After reading some of Yi-Chieh Jessica Lin’s book, Fake Stuff: China and the Rise of Counterfeit Goods, I thought back to the first time I encountered a fake goods market. I was eleven years old and in the sixth grade. My step-dad had just been offered a job in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mom and I were excited to tag along for a quick four-day trip to the “Big Easy.” It was my first time missing school for a reason other than illness.

While in New Orleans, we spent most of our time shopping. I guess I had it bad from an early age—I just had to visit Saks Fifth Avenue. Of course, I could only afford a pair of navy blue Polo dress socks but that didn’t matter to me. I still had a purchase from one of the most well-known stores in the world. After Saks we stumbled upon The French Market, a covered shelter filled with vendors selling produce, handmade baskets, souvenir t-shirts, and jewelry. Some vendors sold purses. Many of which resembled those found at Saks and boutiques. Mom immediately began to bargain. Working as a teacher meant that no vendor was going to “steal” her money. Each time she went to the market she left with at least one purse, sometimes two.

This past summer I lived in New York City. Many of the fake goods sold in New York can be found on Canal Street in Chinatown. New York fake goods sellers have to be stealthier about their marketing and selling techniques. Many of the sellers walk around with large plastic bags filled with Louis, Gucci, and Fendi. If a cop is spotted, then a quick getaway is possible.

Shanghai seems to be less worried about selling fake goods. Located on West Nanjing Road, Han City Fashion and Accessories is a three-story mall dedicated to selling fake watches, purses, headphones, shoes, clothes, and even eyeglasses. You could spend an entire day in the mall. Don’t worry, there is a food court just in case you get hungry. Those of you who visited Shanghai five or six years ago might remember Xiangyang Market. Han City is where many of the vendors from that market have relocated.

During my time in Shanghai I have visited the fake market at least three times and have walked away with only two items. While I enjoy bargaining, I just can’t fathom paying the high prices for fake goods, the quality of which, I am unaware of. I also know that since I’m a westerner, the price of a good automatically increases when I walk into a vendor’s booth.

After reading Fake Stuff, maybe I should feel better about buying fake goods. Supposedly the quality can be just as good as the real thing. You just have to keep an eye out for the good fake stuff.

The group will travel to Beijing on Thursday. I have heard the Silk Market there is one of the best places to find fake goods. Fingers crossed! Time is running out. I need to buy some gifts for Mom and Memal (my grandma).