Something disturbing happened in the food industry last week. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration moved to allow genetically engineered salmon in the U.S. The salmon, , whose DNA is altered and “enhanced” to speed up growth, are the first genetically modified animals of any kind approved for human consumption in the U.S. Needless to say, the ruling raised eyebrows and brought on calls for greater caution from consumer advocacy groups. None of the salmon has been sold stateside as of yet and it’s predicted to show up first in restaurants, but what scares me the most is that it will be up to those restaurants to determine whether they want to let their customers know about what many are dubbing “frankenfish.” And I’m no vegan or health food nut.
To me, it’s all about “but is it real?” Are those salmon still “real” or are they somewhat “fake” now? Manufacturers say they are indeed real as the fish could theoretically be produced through conventional breeding. What’s changed is they can now be injected with DNA from other fish to make them grow twice as fast. But is it all through natural methods or fake techniques?
If you ask my daughter what I hate, she will say “phony, sneaky, and braggy.” A beloved salmon produced by somewhat phony means does not make me happy. I love salmon and I’ll never forget seeing them battle their little hearts out upstream in Alaska, endearing them to me even more. To think of them injected with something does not sit well with me.
Nothing fake does.
Is That a Real Rolex?
Those salmon work hard for their livelihood and I work hard for what I have. I’ll come clean though in that years ago I went to more than one trending “purse parties” where you could walk out with a Gucci or Louis Vuitton for a fraction of the cost. Problem was, they weren’t real. Thinking back, I’m ashamed I did that and am glad the trend ran its course.
Sadly, that trend is now online. Simply Google “fake Hermes” and a host of sites and options will pop up. There are even Facebook groups and apps that deal in counterfeit goods. Not only do these sites make buying fakes easy, they’ve brought a level of anonymity to the process. It can’t feel good pretending you’re something or someone you’re not and hoping and praying someone doesn’t ask you about your fake purse. But thanks to the internet, you no longer have to worry that Sally next door knows your double G belt is a fake cuz she bought the same one at that purse party you went to. Your secret is now safe with only millions of online users.
Fake is Fake
Although it’s not illegal to buy a counterfeit item, it’s at the very least a questionable choice and if you turn around and sell that item without honestly sourcing it, you could face legal issues. And if you should buy those poser purses overseas, take care claiming them in U.S. Customs.
But seriously, if you won’t buy fake food or imitation anything, why is buying a fake Neverfull okay? A lot again goes back to social media. We are inundated with celebrities sporting their red-soled Louboutins and $20,000 Birkin bags on Instagram, but if you are sadly obsessed with their million dollar lifestyles but don’t have a million dollar budget, you may turn to the dreaded F word: FAKE. It seems we all want to keep up with the Kardashians but don’t have the cash to do so. The market for designer everything continues to grow and so does the market for counterfeit goods.
Perhaps Aileen Luib of theballeronabudget.com said it best when she wrote, “I’m not trying to pass judgement on people who buy fakes, but I want to shed light on the sinister business that is the counterfeit industry and how its proceeds fund organized crime, terrorism, and human trafficking.” She goes on to add that purchasing a fake bag or watch may seem guiltless and victimless, but it’s very likely someone is suffering at the expense of your label and logo vanity and the money you saved.
It really benefits no one. Wearing something counterfeit can only leave one feeling counterfeit themself. Your self-pride and confidence cannot be bolstered and any sense of authenticity has got to fly out the door.
So where does all that counterfeit goods profit go and how are they produced so inexpensively? Sales from the counterfeit underworld have been documented to support organized crime, gang warfare, and terrorism, including the purchase of actual guns used in attacks, and human trafficking and child labor keep costs low. Is carrying that phony Chanel to dinner really worth supporting these causes? Think about it. Sleep on it.
I remember reading the book, “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster” years ago and I recently read an article by its author, Dana Thomas on Bazaar.com. In it she remembers walking into a Thailand assembly plant and seeing little children, all under 10-years-old, sitting on the floor assembling counterfeit leather handbags. The owners had broken the children’s legs and tied the lower one to the thigh so the bones wouldn’t mend. These wounded, abused children my friends, and are the victims of your knockoff purchases. Maybe it’s time to knock it off.
Pirated and counterfeit goods are both a social and economic problem and are hurting our economy. Those who make fakes don’t pay taxes, meaning the cities we live in and the schools our kids go to lose money and none of the goods are regulated by the government. It’s estimated that more than 750,000 American jobs are lost due to the knockoff industry and think about it, if someone is going to buy a fake, they are more than likely never going to buy the authentic piece, meaning the value of originals may decrease and the all-important scarcity of them becomes a a thing of the past. As writer Kamila Hankiewicz wrote, “Counterfeiting ends up damaging the very industry it tries to copy.”
There’s also the issue of whether one knows they’re buying a fake or if they are being faked out. Telling the difference between real and bogus is getting harder and harder. I hate the fact that someone might think they’re buying the real thing but are getting unknowingly ripped off, but I also hate the idea that someone knowingly buys something fake, especially again and again. Fakes are rarely high quality, but one ingredient they all share is deception. Either the buyer is deceived or those who see you sporting one are deceived. If fashion in and of itself is a form of self-expression and style, what are you expressing in a pair of fake Manolos or wrapped in a fake Burberry scarf?
Faking You Out
Thomas also writes that at one time, 90 percent of Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior items offered on EBay were fakes. Ninety percent! And just last year Amazon stopped 3 billion suspicious counterfeit goods listings from hitting its website. So bad is the trend that many consider it an economic, social, and moral epidemic.
Then there’s the new van method of selling fakes. Feeling no longer safe in storefronts that might be raided, counterfeiters now keep their stock in vans, allowing them to race off in a moment’s notice should authorities show up. Really? Who in the world wants to buy anything from the back of a van? Sadly, as long as there is a demand for cheap imitations, there will always be an abundant supply of them.
If it’s the designer look you want so bad, consider dupes. Do what?
Through retailers like Forever 21 and Zara, consumers can purchase items that have the features and design elements of coveted high-end brands but without the logos and price tags. They are an accepted replacement of fakes and knockoffs and are even okay with some designers, including Olivier Rousteing of Balmain. For example, look at the two shoes below. One is Valentino’s popular Rockstud slingback and the other is from Sole Society. Without seeing the name on the inside sole, could you really tell the difference?
So by purchasing the Sole Society pair of pumps, you not only get perfectly adorable and stylish shoes, you also don’t have to worry about supporting the black market or lying about “who are you wearing?”
Counterfeit Checks and Balances
Again though, it’s not just fake designer shoes and bags infiltrating the market. Fake Nike sneakers and Yeti coolers are hot items, as are electronics and jewelry. That Rolex watch you’re eyeing online? Check the source. Better yet, buy it at a reputable retailer.
As I mentioned at the top of this blog, salmon is now making headlines, but Thomas reports everything from baby formula to medicine is counterfeited. It’s believed nearly 70 percent of extra virgin olive oil is actually virgin oil and to ensure you’re getting real cinnamon, buy it fresh and unground from a trusted source that lists harvest dates and then grind it yourself at home. As for honey, buy only single origin versions and if you’re picky about your coffee and black pepper, choose only whole bean versions of both. The list goes on and on and doesn’t stop in the kitchen.
Counterfeit cosmetics and perfume are also abundant and the FBI at one time issued a consumer alert for fake cosmetics, most of which are made with carcinogens in unsanitary labs and may contain dangerous levels of bacteria. Valerie Salembier of “Don’t Buy Fakes” asks “would you consider spraying urine on your neck or arsenic on your lips? That’s what you could be doing if you buy impostor beauty goods.” That GAO report mentioned above? It found that all Urban Decay products it tested (tested by them, not all offered online or elsewhere) were fake.
Some may say “imitation is the best form of flattery” but it’s also true that copies are never as good as originals. Counterfeit goods are often low quality and in some cases even unsafe. How safe can that electronic device be considering it didn’t go through any safety checks and as Hankiewicz asks, “would you buy Viagra if you knew it’s not legit?”
So what can one do? Here are some tips:
- Only buy fragrances and cosmetics from the brand’s website, a major department store or drug chain, or an authorized dealer. This should be your standard for any high-end brand purchase as well, whether it be a purse or bedsheets.
- Know the standard price of what you’re buying and keep in mind that if the bargain price you find is too good to be true, what you’re buying is probably is probably not. A bag that retails for $2,500 is offered for $150 is most likely not real.
- If you’re hell bent on avoiding the brand’s store or other tried and true reputable retailer, do your research. Visit a store and get familiar with the item you’re considering by looking at it not just online but in your own two hands. Feel the leather. Check the seams and hardware. Know what the real deal feels and looks like.
- Check the item’s details. Pay extra attention to things like zippers, snaps, and closures. Is the stitching straight? Do edges and patterns match up? Are there traces of glue? (the seams of designer bags are rarely glued). Is the logo exact and not altered even slightly? Counterfeiters are known to make Gucci’s double Gs backwards, Ralph Lauren’s polo player mallet-less, and Lacoste’s crocodile facing left, rather than the standard right. Know your brand’s logo to a tee.
- Look for signature marks like LV’s stamped serial numbers or Prada’s exclusive zipper choices. If you’re in the market for a certain item, research their brand signatures and hallmarks. If an item doesn’t have them, don’t buy it. Many sites also boast an item comes with attached original tags but always question who attached those tags and know that designers such as Chanel, Goyard, and Hermes never attach tags to their bags.
- Make sure the item you’re buying is actually that brand’s item. Counterfeiters often place one designer’s logo on another brand’s design. Know that what you’re looking at is actually a product offered by that designer.
Happy and honest shopping everyone!