New York City councilwoman Margaret S. Chin, whose district includes Chinatown, has introduced a bill would make it a misdemeanor to buy fake designer merchandise on the street or anywhere else. Violators would face a $1,000 fine, a year in jail, or both.
The New York Times interviewed a tourist who articulated the argument against Chin’s bill.
“I come down here, I will continue coming down here, and I will follow the Chinese people wherever they take me,” the New Jersey resident told the Times reporter “as she stood amid the purse and sunglass vendors on Canal Street.” “I don’t believe in child labor and I don’t believe in supporting terrorists, but if I want to buy a knockoff, that’s my business.”
Strange; I would say that it is the business of the designers who are losing money to illegally counterfeited merchandise. In the course of the Times’ inquiries to business owners and shoppers yield more rationalizations than Chins in the Chinatown phone book, such as…
- Some of the knock-offs are really good. “Six years ago, I bought a ‘Rolex’ watch, and it still works. Never even changed the battery,” said one satisfied counterfeit fan.
- The price is right. “I think people should have the option to buy what’s in their budget,” said another New Jersey visitor. “I like fashion for an affordable price, and not everyone can afford $300 or $500 for a bag.”
- Knock-offs provide jobs. “How many people will be out of business if this passes?” asked a public-spirited knock-off buyer.
- Pro-choice. “If they know what they’re buying and they go into a store and realize it’s not an original Gucci or Prada,they should have a right to buy what they want,” opined a freedom-lover.
- It’s too much trouble to enforce the law. “There’s a limited number of things we can do,” said someone named Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Wait...what???
- It will hurt the Chinatown tourist trade. “They’re coming here for this,” a Chinatown business owner said, pointing to the “seemingly endless line of storefronts filled with handbags.” “The main attraction is this, here.”
- The end justifies the means. “If the economy is going down, why stop people from spending money?” asked a local utilitarian.
There is no legitimate reason not to make knowingly purchasing counterfeit designer goods illegal, and any ethical consumer should refuse to buy such items with or without a law. These products are notorious for being manufactured in foreign sweat shops, they are misappropriating trade-marks, and wearing or using them to make others believe one owns a designer product is misrepresentation. Buying fake Rolexes and Burberry scarves is no more ethical than knowingly buying stolen goods, and carries the extra unethical bonus of wearing a visual lie.
How disturbing that so many among the public are willing to excuse inexcusable conduct on the grounds that, in essence, they just want to keep doing it.