Saturday, May 5, 2018


BY SHARON WOLFF Creative Media & Merchandise Consultant to Wolff's Flea market
We are not lawyers, and this is not legal advice. Information here is gathered from our experience and ongoing research. Counterfeits are not allowed at Wolff's Flea Market. 
Vendors are responsible for monitoring their own merchandise.)
Questions?     Call or text 847-524-9590 
Originally published May 2015, Edited 11/17/16, 3/7/2017, 5/5/18
  1. WHAT IS A COUNTERFEIT? Counterfeit products are illegal fake copies of real products. People knowingly or unknowingly buy or sell counterfeits. Other related terms: fake, copy, replica, forgery, knock-off, bootleg, pirated, unlicensed, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, look-alike.
  2. IS THERE A LAW? The Lanham Trademark Act is the federal law prohibiting counterfeits. It bans the use of: copied pictures, words, symbols, logos, etc. except to original trademark owners. This law protects brands and their intellectual property.
  3. WHY DON’T YOU ALLOW COUNTERFEITS? We strive to uphold the law and maintain our market as a legitimate shopping venue. 
  4. WHO CARES? We care because counterfeit products are illegal, deceptive and poor quality. Brand owners, private investigators, US Customs, and other governmental agencies send people into flea markets to raid, arrest and sue individuals and market owners. Additionally, stores, individuals, mall kiosks, wholesalers, importers, manufacturers, websites and street vendors are also routinely busted and/or sued. Unfortunately, counterfeiting continues.
  5. WHAT KINDS OF THINGS ARE COUNTERFEITED? In one word: EVERYTHING. Every brand and type of item is vulnerable. Trendy and expensive items are highly desirable and fall prey to counterfeiting over and over again.
  6. WHAT DOES “CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR” MEAN? A pattern, logo or packaging design that closely resembles the real item and causes you at first or second glance think it is the real item. A brand name or logo may not actually be present, but pattern, color combination, packaging, wording, etc.  may be very similar. Other terms: trademark dilution

  8. WHY DO STORES SELL “COMPARE TO” ITEMS IN SIMILAR BOXES? Comparative advertising is legal in the US if item is “clearly identified, truthful, and non-deceptive" (wikipedia). However, we occasionally see lawsuits between companies. Read more here.
  9. WHAT ABOUT THOSE  SPORTS “PARODY” T-SHIRTS? Years ago we allowed limited designs that did not use the name of a team or certain parts of logos. We currently do not allow sports parody (also known as mash up designs) shirts. This is a subjective and gray area of ongoing research. 
  10. COME ON, IT’S A FLEA MARKET, PEOPLE DON’T EXPECT TO FIND THE REAL THING HERE! It is illegal to sell counterfeits, wherever you are. We work hard to maintain our reputation for offering legitimate goods and NOT counterfeits. 
  11. WHAT IF I TELL THE BUYER IT IS COUNTERFEIT? It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise.
  12. BUT THE CUSTOMER DOESN’T CARE AND WANTS IT. It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise. We recognize that the counterfeit industry is fueled by consumer demand for look-alike, cheap, trendy products.
  13. WHAT IF IT IS ONLY ONE ITEM? It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise. Did you know that several trademarks or patents may apply to only one item?
  14. WHAT IF I DIDN’T KNOW? Well, now you know, so put it away. Repeat offenders may be ejected from the market. 99% of our vendors choose to be educated and safe. However other vendors have been permanently ejected over the years for selling counterfeits.
  15. WHAT IF IT IS USED? It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise, NEW or USED.
  16. WHAT ABOUT “THAT GUY” OVER THERE WHO IS SELLING IT? If you see someone selling banned merchandise, please give us a space number and we will check it out. You may do this anonymously. 
  17. CAN I JUST SELL IT TODAY? NO. It is illegal to sell counterfeits. 
     (click on photo to read small print)
  18. WHY WAS I ABLE TO BUY THESE COUNTERFEITS TO BEGIN WITH? We enforce our own rules, and cannot answer for the manufacturer, importer, store, guy, other flea market, website or wholesaler where you bought the counterfeit item(s). Unfortunately, even when vendors apply good faith in asking their source about the legitimacy of their purchase, they may be told that it is "ok", when it is in fact counterfeit. Counterfeiting is a worldwide problem that is not limited to flea markets. At least 80% of counterfeits are from China and only a fraction are stopped at ports of entry. Some components separately enter the country through regular mail and are assembled into counterfeits
    here. Arrests can and do happen, so we need to stop it HERE and NOW.
  • We have a 3 part program: Prevention-Intervention-Education (PIE).
  • We conduct ongoing research.
  • We monitor over 200 vulnerable brands and licenses. We do not allow certain highly counterfeited brands: Coach, Louis Vuitton, MAC, Beats by Dre, Otterbox, Lifeproof, Gucci, Chanel, KatVonD.
  • We monitor 9 categories of merchandise: Electronics/Phone Accessories, Purses, CDs/DVDs, Clothing, Perfume/Cosmetics, Jewelry/Sunglasses, Toys, Licensed Sports Apparel, Homegoods.
  • We analyze products according to many parameters.
  • We use hands-on training with photos and items to teach staff and vendors about counterfeits.
  • We vigilantly patrol our markets. 
   19.  HOW DOES YOUR POLICY PROTECT US? Our policy keeps customers from making fraudulent purchases, prevents vendors from arrest and protects the flea market from vicarious liability lawsuits for allowing counterfeit sales. Flea market raids occur all around the country. Designers Coach, Louis Vuitton and UGG have won millions of dollars from lawsuits against flea market owners.
  • Vendor arrests: NY, IL, WI, IN, TX, FL, MO, KY, SC, MA
  • Coach: Swap Shop, FL ($5.5M), Visitors Flea Market, FL ($42M/bankruptcy), New Hampshire, Chicago, 
  • Louis Vuitton: Eisenhauer, TX ($3.6M), Swap Shop, FL (undisclosed, but over $5.5M)
Questions?    Call or Text  847-524-9590 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wolff's Flea Market Bans Sales of Eclipse Glasses

Today we sent a special edition email.

Subject: Banned at Wolff's - Eclipse Glasses

  • Everyone is excited about the upcoming eclipse on Monday August 21. However we extend this warning to our clientele:
  • Beware of counterfeit eclipse viewing glasses! •Due to recent news regarding this issue, Wolff's Flea Market is BANNING ALL SALES OF SOLAR ECLIPSE VIEWING GLASSES.
  • Counterfeit glasses can cause eye damage.
  • It is unspeakable to think that counterfeiters would sell something dangerous in order to make a few measly dollars. Vendors and customers do not be tempted to purchase even if someone claims them to be "certified or real."
  • You do this at your own health risk. We are not authorized to determine authenticity and will be making our best effort this weekend to educate and remove from market. If you see someone with these glasses please note space number and call or text 847-524-9590.
  • Remember that counterfeits are illegal and dangerous counterfeits are even worse!

Wolff's Flea Market

Monday, August 7, 2017


By Sharon Wolff



Created 8/7/17 - Updates as needed

Thank you for considering selling at one of Chicagoland’s best flea markets! Whether you are getting rid of a few household belongings or starting out as a new small business, we are here to support you in your endeavors!

We want your experience at Wolff’s Flea Market to be pleasant and successful.
Please note that in order to ensure that success and maintain our reputation as a legitimate, family-friendly shopping venue, we incorporate stringent merchandise rules.

It is imperative that you carefully read and re-read:

We inspect your merchandise. We inspect everyone’s merchandise. 
All day. More than once. It's what we do. It's what we love. Call us weird. Call us Counterfighters.

We also expect you to educate yourselves on the type of products that are allowed and why certain items are banned.

It is unfortunate that some vendors don’t read our rules and need to either remove a big chunk of the merchandise they invested in, or even worse, not have anything left to sell and therefore need to leave our market. (And worst - take it out again and experience the Drive of Shame, straight out the exit.)

Common items that first time sellers seem to bring:
Counterfeit Dolce & Gabbana purse
See the removable clip-on tag? 
  • Baby furniture: high chairs, strollers, cribs etc. We do not allow because of safety and recalls.
  • Counterfeit wholesale electronics: Online or even local wholesalers are known for selling counterfeit phone accessories - chargers, cables, headphones - BEWARE!
  • Counterfeit sports jerseys: Garage sale/thrift shop/other sources might even tell you the jersey is real. It might appear to be crisp and clean with tags. Items are faked in varying quality. Please know your product before investing and bringing it out to sell.
  • Counterfeit or high end designer purses: Sorry it is very unlikely the (insert brand name) purse you found for $3 at a garage sale is real!
  • And even if you are "sure" that your Coach or Louis Vuitton are real - you still cannot sell them. And a few other brands as listed on MERCHANDISE RULES and pictured here.
  • And other stuff, too, so let's just all read and re-read the rules.
While we aim to educate new vendors, those  who don’t get with the program may end up being permanently ejected. 

Our goals: 
It’s a piece of PIE!

And as always, please call or text us with questions. We are not lawyers, nor do we represent any of the hundreds of brand names and designers we have made it our business to protect. We are a small family-owned business that aims to do the right thing by keeping our clientele safe! We are always learning about new products and counterfeits and sharing our merchandise experience with the world!

Google is your friend: Please "google" many of your questions regarding counterfeits.
Or text/call us 847-524-9590
2018 "Counterfeit Collage"