Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Updated 9/16/13
Before you begin, I will spoil the ending by telling you that for every cool item listed below, there lurks its illegal, counterfeit doppelganger, hoping to lure unsuspecting consumers into an evil web of decadent deceit. I have seen these wretched real-wannabes. In person. Online. At privately owned "licensed" stores. At the mall. In kiosks. At purse parties. At resale shops. At wholesalers. On eBay. Occasionally at big box stores. And, yes, I have even seen counterfeits at Wolff's Flea Market.

What?! Wolff's Flea Market doesn't allow counterfeits! Of course we don't. But you are also not allowed to rob a bank, drive over the speed limit, sell drugs or use child labor to manufacture counterfeit products. Crime happens. Counterfeiting happens. All authorities can do is try to control it and get to the sources to stop its spread. It is a daunting and ongoing task for every agency. We work our wolf-tails off trying to follow trends, educate vendors and keep counterfeits out of our market. We think our open, transparent patrol system works to keep it at bay, but the evil wannabe floats around our bubble? As soon as we know, it must go.

Counterfeiters attempt to cash in on high-end, licensed and designer goods when they create cheap, inferior fakes. As long as manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, a guy, independently owned stores with access to real and fake items exist- and are not stopped at the various "checkpoints" along the way- then counterfeits will exist, remain and attempt to take hold.

According to the April 13, 2013 Crain's Chicago Business article by Brian Dukerschein, Chicago is the number 3 city in the US for the presence and sales of counterfeit luxury goods; preceded by NewYork and Los Angeles. It is all around us here and world-wide. We attempt to be a counterfeit-free bubble in the midst of all this madness. Read our editorial response to this article here: http://wolffsfleamarket.blogspot.com/2013/04/editorial-response-to-crains-chicago.html

I am listing brand names for the purposes of education and discussion. Trademarks belong to the individual companies. This list is not fully inclusive and indicates trends we see at our market and other area venues (current as of the last update of this article). While we have not seen all of these items at the market, we are prepared for their possible arrival. We are not legal experts, but conduct ongoing research in all areas of counterfeiting to fight the presence of counterfeits at Wolff's Flea Market.

Wolff's Banned Merchandise Collage
There seems to be nothing changing faster than the technology available to us. Using smart phones and computers, we expect information, tech quality and infinite other concepts to be instantly accessible to us. Part of the joy we feel is that new tech toys are continually introduced to make our lives better, easier, cooler.

I share with you a list of some of the hottest tech items on the market. Designer Handbags have taken a back seat here as I believe that Tech is the number 1 counterfeit category seen at our market.  We have even found designer handbag logos on counterfeit cell cases! Unless noted, authentic versions of the below brands are allowed at the market, but remain strictly monitored and may require documentation.

Counterfeit Otterbox cases are
swimming into the Chicago area.
  1. Beats by Dr. Dre - Because of counterfeiting, we never allow this brand to be sold - new/used/real/fake. We are also aware that other high-end headphone brands are on the way from the coasts and beyond. Counterfeit Dr Dre headphones are the most widely seized items at UK customs: http://www.411mania.com/music/news/283599/Fake-Dr.-Dre-Headphones-One-Of-The-Most-Seized-Items-By-UK-Customs.htm
  2. All things related to Apple iPhones - cases, chargers, earbuds, inserts +.
  3. OtterBox smart phone cases-as of 5/26- this brand is banned at our market.
  4. Life Proof smart phone cases
  5. Speck smart phone cases
  6. Samsung accessories
  7. Sony gaming accessories
Due to our policy, we rarely see new counterfeit designer handbags. However, distributers are still selling our vendors bags with "diluted" logos. See the blog post: Oops! Trademark Dilution Explained. Most of the bags we find are onesies or twosies of cheap, used counterfeits found at local resale shops, estate sales, etc. These are also not allowed. Below is a list of commonly counterfeited designer purse brands.
  1. Coach - never allowed - new/used/real/fake/diluted
  2. Louis Vuitton - never allowed - new/used/real/fake/diluted
  3. Gucci- never allowed - new/used/real/fake/diluted
  4. G - brand purses are diluted Coach, Guess or Gucci and not allowed
  5. Burberry - Guess what! You may see Burberry-like plaid items like car seats or scarves for sale at your local big-box store!
  6. Dolce & Gabbana
  7. Prada
  8. Kate Spade
  9. Michael Kors
  10. Tory Burch
Although we rarely see a volume of new counterfeit designer sunglasses (same brands as purses), distributers are still selling our vendors a few styles with "diluted" logos. See the blog post: Oops! Trademark Dilution Explained. As of the writing of this article comparative brands are allowed as long as they do not bear designer logos. For the most part, the sunglasses that claim to be "our version of____" comply with trademarked logo rules. Sometimes the manufacturers get a little too close to the real logo and the vendor must remove a few pairs of diluted styles.  "DG" is also allowed as of the writing of this article. DG is its own brand with a trademark on file with the US Patent Office and no pending litigation that we can find as of the writing of this article. DG is not purporting to be D&G- Dolce & Gabbana. Confused? We swim in a very deep cauldron. What applies to one type of product does not always apply to another. You cannot sell a comparative purse brand.

Certain brands are more prevalent in counterfeit circles. If we see these brands of clothing that are new, we will assume them to be counterfeit and not allow them.

    The North Face Outdoor Gear
  1. True Religion Jeans
  2. Polo Ralph Lauren Shirts
  3. Lacoste Polo Shirts
  4. Northface Jackets - fleece Denali
  5. UGGS boots
  6. Monster -Fox hats, t-shirts and hoodies
  1. New Era - sports caps 
  2. American Needle sports caps
  3. Sports jerseys 
  4. Nike shoes - Air Force 1 and any other new releases
  5. Timberland work boots
  1. Hello Kitty hair accessories and jewelry
  2. Chanel jewelry
    Boo Hiss for these $5 counterfeit
    Chanel earrings at brdfahion wholesale
  3. Tiffany jewelry
  4. Licensed cartoon character accessories
  5. MAC cosmetics
We are often asked about perfume dealers. First of all, realize that perfumes bearing "Compare to" labels are legal and allowed. We believe we have sifted out the obvious counterfeit guys and continue to monitor current vendors, research sources, receipts and consult with experts. You will see only a small handful of perfume vendors at our market who we currently believe (as of this update) to have legitimate documentation about their products' authenticity. We do ask occasional vendors to pack up and leave the market if they do not have appropriate paperwork. This research is ongoing.

CDs and DVDs
New releases, home-made copies, multiple recordings in one copies and otherwise illegal copies are monitored. We have been educated by representatives of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and keep a close eye on these products. Occasionally people who clean out homes may have a mixed batch of used items: often home-made recordings. We educate and expect them to remove what doesn't belong.

Vendors, don't despair! Your suppliers also have legitimate, non-infringing, generic items that are acceptable and legal. You just need to do your homework.

Ok, that's all for now. Let's have some flea market fun!

Monday, April 15, 2013


Wolff's Flea Market response is to Brian Dukerschein’s April 13 article, "Counterfeit Luxury Goods Invade Chicago". 

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130413/ISSUE01/304139986?template=mobile&X-IgnoreUserAgent=1 (In order to read the full Crain's article, you will need to register for free at chicagobusiness.com)

My name is Sharon Wolff. I am Creative Media and Merchandise Consultant for Wolff’s Flea Market, Chicago area. Our family-owned outdoor market has operated at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont since 1991. We also operate an indoor market in Palatine.

I am writing to several Crain's staff in response to the aforementioned article with the intent that this message be read and understood by many in the Chicago community.

Wolff's Counterfeit Cartoon
First, realize that not all flea markets tolerate counterfeit products. Wolff’s public stance is that counterfeit merchandise is never allowed. We work diligently to create a legitimate, family friendly venue for antiques, collectibles, bargain shopping, resale and new merchandise.  We have been told that given regulations and reputation, counterfeit vendors avoid us.

I have personally addressed and educated other flea market owners at the National Flea Market Association Conference regarding the issues of counterfeiting. Opinions stated in this commentary reflect the views of Wolff’s Flea Market. We are not legal experts. Ongoing product research is an independent venture that has resulted in the development of working procedures to combat counterfeiting at Wolff’s flea Markets.

Please refer our website, rules and several Wolff's Flea Market Blog articles written by me that attest to the fact that we take this issue very seriously.

Wolff’s Flea Market is wholly aware that categorical counterfeiting is a worldwide problem. We imagine an infinite amount of imported and locally manufactured counterfeit products that cycle the economy after bypassing numerous checkpoints (customs, ports, websites, alleged licensed wholesalers, a guy, etc.) along the way before trickling down to potential all-you-can eat buffets at local flea markets. We recognize that there are many agencies and authorities assigned to this task. In reality, not everything is intercepted or seized. It then becomes our responsibility to look for it at the flea market...

For us, as soon as we know, it must go. We closely monitor merchandise, and enforce strict procedures for our “Prevention-Identification & Intervention-Education-Research-Counterfeits-Everywhere” (PIERCE) Program. Research is an ongoing race and parameters of analysis are ever changing as counterfeiters attempt to “improve” upon their never-ending chain of products. I study current trends, commonly counterfeited brands, seizures, arrests, read books, subscribe to brand name news and counterfeit alerts. I consult designers, investigators, experts and visit retail stores, wholesalers, online sites and more. I write informative detailed reports. We have a growing list of specific brands that are never allowed to be sold at our markets.

It is critically important to realize what I encounter during “Research Trips” to privately owned “authorized” stores, wholesalers, kiosks and pop-up stores at malls. These ventures activate my “Merchandise Patrol” mentality. Sadly, while intending to study legitimate products, I CONSISTENTLY FIND COUNTERFEITS ALONGSIDE THE REAL ITEMS. Wolff’s recognizes that counterfeits are prevalent and unchecked in a variety of the above places. Even big box stores are not immune to the problem of counterfeiting or the occasional presence of unlicensed product.

At our flea market, we do our best to keep counterfeit merchandise out. However, as long as it enters the country, as long as fakes are created and re-created, as long as it is accessible, our job will not end. Nor will the jobs of any authorities on all levels. We get it, we are with you in this battle, so please do not generalize that all flea markets are havens for counterfeit merchandise.

Beyond the fight, one of our primary goals is to educate our vendors. As a special education teacher for 8 years I understand that people acquire information in different ways. I teach our full-time merchandise patrol staff and vendors using a combination of written materials, sample merchandise (real and counterfeit), and many photo examples. Once educated, we hope to believe that vendors will be able to make appropriate decisions regarding their sources and products. 99% of our vendors are agreeable and open to frank, honest learning and communication. They must learn the realistic legal dangers to themselves for selling counterfeits. I also create and distribute pictorial educational reports and news articles of arrests. If a vendor purposely chooses to bring counterfeit products to the market at a future time, then he or she is immediately and permanently ejected.

Pounding the pavement, fighting counterfeits, one item at a time.