Yesterday while taking a stroll down Canal Street in Manhattan I found what can only be considered a sign of the end times. The counterfeit goods so proudly and brazenly sold out in the open on the streets were gone. I mean really gone. No little Asian women walking around with wide crates and black mini-tarps hawking dvds (and to a much lesser extent CDs -file sharing has hit the counterfeiters hard-), no almost close-to-identical were it not for the wrong logo Louis Vuitton bags, no coach handbags made out of synthetic leather. There was no sight of the bustling counterfeiter industry that permeates New York’s Chinatown. Bernard Arnault was seen halfway around the world jumping up and down in sheer delight.
Then out of the corner of one eye, I noticed it: the cops were performing a crackdown of massive proportions. It wasn’t just the illegitimate products that were being targeted. The NYPD shut down stores that sold legitimate items as well. One has to wonder what the motivation was until I asked a friend who proudly excels at minutiae. The police targeted the reputable stores as well as the counterfeiters because the bad guys sometimes use the good guys as fronts for their operations. If this sounds sinister it’s because it is. So everyone was shut down and for the first time in a long while counterfeiting in Canal street looked like if it was once and for all being choked out.
That is… until while watching behind the police tape a guy came near me and asked…”Louis Vuitton, Coach, Marc Jacobs $100″ I said, “No thanks”, and kept it moving. My friend who will remain nameless said sure. I pulled her by the elbow and asked her what she was doing, always being the adventurous type she said, I just want to see if irony will triumph. While I questioned internally whether it was irony or more of wack-a-mole I realized that such philosophical endeavors matter not to her.
The shady trench coat guy (ok, he wasn’t wearing a trench coat, I am using dramatic license now) left for a couple of minutes and came back with a box of some of the best knockoffs you will ever see. This happened right around the corner from a raid to end all raids in Canal street.
The moral of the story? Counterfeiting is the second oldest profession in the world. See here for the first. Copying never ends. The only way to stem the tide as it were would be to get consumers to understand how this hurts large billion dollar corporations and millionaire designers.