Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Haul of Shame

Sharon Wolff

Don't get me wrong - I love a good bargain. Coupons, clearance racks, discount stores, flea market deals, garage sales and thrift shops are included in my shopping repertoire. Today I happened upon an unfamiliar thrift store that is part of the latest pop-up trend of new resale shops in the Chicago area. I will not mention the name of the establishment. The main point of this story is how easy it can be for anyone to have an experience similar to the one I am about to describe. Note that I was not fooled, but you could see how an inexperienced person may make a seemingly small mistake that could cause a big problem.

Feeling that familiar pre-deal head rush, I decided to enter the store, "just to have a look". Right away I found a couple of interesting cookbooks in like-new condition to give away to a few runners up of the Hungry as a Wolff Cookbook raffle this weekend.

And then I saw IT. For a mere $1.99 IT could be mine!  A designer handbag. Wow! Was this one of those exciting rare moments when one finds hidden treasure buried in a pile of castoffs? Could my brain even begin to calculate the real value of this purse? For those of you who know my investigative methods, the obvious answer in capital letters would be NO. You see, a deal such as this that "looks too good to be true", is just that. It was counterfeit!

How do I know? You ask. There are many characteristics that give it away. Sloppiness of stitching, poor quality and asymmetry of pattern, to name a few. But mostly it was what I call the "mere fact of its existence" in this type of establishment that caused me to automatically doubt its authenticity. However, being the smart phone geek that I am, I decided to take the purse over to the seating area to have a little "counterfeit identification session" with myself. (It's true; I really do that!)

Figure 1: The purse as I found it. Images are for educational purposes
only and the "Kate Spade" logo is trademarked!

Figure 2: A quick look inside the purse indicates poor droopy lining (x), a BLANK inner tab (y)
and bunched up seamwork (z). Designers assign their labels inside and out. I knew I was right in my suspicions.

Continuing on, I decided to get a closer look at the outer stitching.
But alas! Something was more wrong than giving a porcupine a gift of balloons!
Figure 3: Huh? Where is the label? It seems to have gone missing!
Hey! The label wasn't even sewn on! It was a sticker! Amazing that the glue even lasted long enough to make it to the store's shelf. I was disappointed because I wanted to buy this purse for my "Haul of Shame" staff education collection. Believing it would be like finding a needle in a haystack, I retraced my steps around the store, and actually found it!
Figure 4: Oh, there it is on the floor!
 Does anyone really think a high end designer would use
sticker labels on their products?

In the end I purchased the purse. After all, given the absence of textbooks on this subject, $1.99 is a great deal for an educational demo piece.

Counterfeiting is a serious and punishable crime. We continue our research and education. Remember - as a seller you are ultimately responsible for your own wares, and when in doubt, do not buy it! We are cautious and strict about what we allow. Don't buy these types of items, and don't bring them to our market. While we cannot claim to know everything there is to know, we try!

Update 8/24/12:   I continue to amass cheap knock-off and counterfeit additions for the Haul of Shame Museum and will periodically conduct educational workshops at the Palatine market for those interested individuals.  Address your questions to with the subject "Fashion Pit".

Update 10/26/12: Resale shops, garage sales and thrift stores offer an essential economical solution for people on thrifty budgets. Housewares, clothing, books, etc. in excellent usable condition at affordable prices are what you really nee. However, these venues are also one of the final resting places for counterfeit purses. Unwanted and unloved, used knock-offs "trickle down" to fester and fool unsuspecting consumers. Leave the purses alone, even if they are served under glass. Stick to the necessities and generic finds.

Don't fall into the fashion pit!