Friday, July 7, 2017


By Sharon Wolff

Wolff's Flea Market is a leader in the swap meet industry for policy, research and education regarding counterfeit merchandise. Counterfeits are an ongoing worldwide concern, and wholesalers, flea markets, internet sources, small brick & mortar stores, mall kiosks, individuals, guys on the corner etc. are vulnerable and liable for selling fake merchandise. 

We monitor hundreds of brands in all categories along many parameters. We have spent years developing our Merchandise Patrol program and employ a fantastic team of patrollers, also known as Counterfighters. It is not an exact science, and we rely upon ongoing research and news stories to assist us in our quest. While we want our vendors to make money and sell their products, we do not tolerate counterfeit products and aim to Prevent-Intervene-Educate

During our routine patrols around the flea market, we sometimes encounter banned or counterfeit merchandise. Did you know that Chicago is the 3rd biggest US hub for counterfeit products? (Los Angeles and New York are ahead of us). So, it is not surprising that fakes are evident in several Chicagoland venues in small to larger numbers. 

Our first goal is to EDUCATE our vendors in order to keep our customers, vendors and market safe from counterfeits. 

Please click here see the FULL LIST OF MERCHANDISE RULES and an example of our Informational Pink Slip. is given to vendors as information and also as an expansion of our rules. It is updated as new information is revealed as a result of our ongoing research. 



By Sharon Wolff
Original post 9/28/11. Revised 1/12,  2/6/12, 9/10/12, 1/27/13, 7/6/17, 3/19/2021

Please always go to for the most updated information

Wolff's Flea Market is vigilant about inspecting merchandise at every booth, every week. If we talked to you last week or 2 weeks ago, we may talk to you again this week about the same or different items you are selling.  Please realize we mean no disrespect to you, nor are we singling you out from other vendors. It is our job to ensure that the merchandise offered at Wolff's Flea Market is in accordance to our rules, Rosemont/Palatine rules, and state and federal laws. So please, if you see a staff person lingering over an item on your table, or if you are questioned about your merchandise, do not take offense. We try to speak respectfully to you, and hope you can return the favor. When in doubt, we may ask you to remove a certain type of merchandise, or even request receipts from you.

While we are not perfect and cannot claim to know every detail about every type of item-we are open to engaging in productive, educational conversation, especially on the subject of possible counterfeit merchandise. We are lucky to have professional sources at our disposal and have also amassed a small number of people who can unofficially answer our questions about certain types of products. We may ask that you remove an item until we can verify more information at a future date. If we cannot verify more information, then it will need to be permanently removed.

We are aware that counterfeit merchandise exists world-wide, costing legitimate manufacturers millions of dollars of revenue each year, as well as funding illicit trade and deplorable working conditions. The fight against counterfeiting is ongoing and a seemingly endless list of products is affected. Unfortunately, flea markets across the country have received negative press for raids and arrests related to counterfeit merchandise.

Maybe you didn't know that what you are selling is counterfeit or not allowed. While we would love to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, at the same time, it's important for any questionable or banned items to be removed immediately and permanently from public availability.

It's outlandish how accessible counterfeit merchandise is over the internet from so-called “wholesalers”. Just google the topic and you will find numerous websites offering high end designer and other licensed goods. We find it appalling that overseas countries offer fake designer goods on the premise that they are quality and legal.  Read their descriptions; they actually seem to be bragging about replica and fake products. Even if they don’t indicate that it is fake-the awful grammar and spelling is a tell-tale (and humorous) clue that what you are buying is not real. Federal and international agencies work to shut down these websites but it is an ongoing process, and you, as a buyer and reseller-MUST BEWARE! Always keep in mind that if a bulk deal on any type of licensed, trademarked, designer, etc. goods seems too good to be true-it is! Just don’t get yourself fooled into thinking that what you order online is legal or real. Chances are, the website has not yet been caught and shut down. We don’t know how this part of the process works, but please for your own good, just stay away from such deals.

Sorry, but the same rules apply to your purchases of licensed or designer items from a wholesaler, even if it appears to be a legitimate brick-and-mortar store. We have seen questionable merchandise that has come from such stores in the city. At this point we do not offer a list of acceptable stores.

Sellers can purchase wholesale merchandise from the Midwest Merchandiser catalog.
"The Merchandiser Group magazines bring you coast-to-coast coverage of the Flea Market and Swap Meet industry. Each monthly issue is packed with sources of wholesale merchandise as well as articles bringing you the inside scoop on how to prosper in the fascinating world of flea markets and swap meets." Source: Sumner Communications, Inc.

Used and pre-owned counterfeit items cycle their way into garage sales, resale store and thrift shops. Private individuals and both for profit and non-for profit shops have not been targeted by officials, probably because of the small number of used items that trickle in. Official investigations seem to focus on new items, sellers, wholesalers and the manufacturers. However, keep in mind, that although you may think you are getting a great deal on a used designer bag, chances are that it is fake. Even if it is used, or if you have only one item, it is not allowed to be sold at the market.

1. Is is ok to sell a fake item if the seller tells the buyer that it is fake? 
   No! It is illegal to sell counterfeit products.

2. Is it ok to sell my own real purse?
No. There is no way to determine authenticity of many types of items unless a representative of that particular company is present to do so. In some instances, we may accept a receipt that matches the item(s), but some brands are never allowed at the market because we just can't tell for sure that they are real. For us, it is sometimes easier to tell if an item is fake, but not tell if it is real. Some brands that are never allowed: MAC Cosmetics, Dr. Dre headphones or earbuds, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci.

3.  Why can't I sell a purse whose logo is similar to the real thing, but is slightly different?
 This is called "Trademark Dilution" and essentially tricks a buyer into thinking they may be buying a designer item. Owners of the trademark believe that dilution diminishes the value of their brand with inferior representation.

For this article, I am using the Louis Vuitton brand as an example for counterfeit and dilution.  The same concept applies to other trademarked brands. I include the logo for educational purposes only and understand that it is owned and copyrighted by Louis Vuitton. 

A genuine Louis Vuitton handbag may cost $1,970 from the official, authorized Louis Vuitton store or website. This price exceeds the budget of most of us regular folk. If you can knowingly or unknowingly buy a fake bag for $35 or even $60, would you? What is wrong with someone wanting to have the "designer look" but not pay the designer price? First of all besides the legal ramifications, the fake bag is of poor quality and will likely begin to quickly degrade-seams will tear, zippers will break. The loss of even $35 is a waste of your hard-earned money. Why not buy a nice no-name leather bag that will look better and last longer? We applaud the vendors who offer these acceptable attractive & quality items.  And what about the naive buyer who actually thinks they are getting a good deal and have been tricked? That's just wrong.

There seems to be a fine line between "designer inspired" and "Trademark Dilution".  Our research continues. Below is an example of trademark dilution.

Think you're looking at a genuine Louis Vuitton item?
 Look again and you will see that the logo
 is actually "LX" and the quatrefoil
 monograms are incorrect.
This is called "Trademark Dilution", and it's illegal.
This is the Louis Vuitton monogram logo.
Even if you don't care about prancing around using a "disposable" purse, the real crux of the matter includes the economic and legal ramifications of buying and selling counterfeit merchandise. I will conclude this article with brief information on these 2 areas and include links for further reading.

Economic: The industries and owners of the trademarked items lose millions of dollars in sales and profit to counterfeiters. Governments lose money enforcing laws related to intellectual property rights.

Legal: Louis Vuitton is actively committed to fighting counterfeit trade. As a result, over 13,000 proceedings and 6000 raids have been launched resulting in the arrest almost 1000 counterfeiters. (Source HERE) This is just one company's process, and many other companies have joined in the fight.

Google the following terms to read more examples and cases related to the legal ramifications of counterfeits: designer handbags, fake purse, counterfeit raid, flea market raid, wholesale designer sunglasses. Please be informed and protect yourselves and your families!

REVISION January 2012: A federal jury has awarded Louis Vuitton has been $3.6 million in a settlement for trademark infringement against a San Antonio flea market for allowing counterfeit items to be sold at their establishment. This landmark case shows that not only are individual sellers liable for counterfeit goods, but also the flea market owners who rent space to them.

The math: 9 infringed trademarks x $4 million per mark = $3.6 million

Sources and Further Reading:
Bogus Goods to cost flea market $3.6 million
Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006

No parts of this article may be copied or distributed without permission from Wolff's Flea Market.
Trademarks shown are for educational purposes only and belong to Louis Vuitton. Seriously how else can we educate?