When it comes to buying knockoff bags from Chinatown, my friends and I are guilty. The idea of owning a purse that could pass for the expensive designer bags we coveted was too enticing for us to resist. The idea that we were committing a crime (of the legal kind, not just a fashionable offense) was the last thing on our teenage minds.

In those days, the police rarely came. In the event that they did, a quick shut-down of the outside shop (which the vendors could do quicker than you can say “911”) was all that was necessary.

Today, the police are implementing new and more aggressive tactics to shut down the age-old business. City Councilwoman Margaret Chin proposed a bill that would penalize counterfeit purchases by a $1,000 fine or a year of prison time.

Chin seemed especially angry that Canal Street is regarded as “the counterfeit capital of the country” and the fact that it draws tourists looking to get a quality ripoff. “Our laws are incomplete in that they only target the supply of these items and not the demand,” she said. “The bottom line is that counterfeiters need to sell to do their job, and we need a law in place to punish buyers for supporting this illegal trade.”

Though I regularly traveled from New Jersey to purchase knockoffs with the money from my part-time job at the mall, now that I work in the fashion industry I see the inherent problem it causes for the business.

By purchasing knockoffs, you take money away from the original designer and the more affordable brands that you’d alternatively turn to for a great handbag or dress. That’s not to mention the blow the government endures in lost taxes; Chin estimates that counterfeit products cost the city almost $1 billion annually in tax revenue.

Still, a $1,ooo fine or a year in jail is pretty steep for a high-school student with meager earnings and designer taste. And what about the mass-produced brands like Steve Madden, Forever 21 and now, Zara that rip off high-end designers? Should they be punished as well or is that form of counterfeiting okay since it’s taxed?

What do you think? Do you agree with Congresswoman Chin’s bill? Should the government punish the buyers? Is the punishment too severe? Have you ever purchased a counterfeit product? Did you feel any buyer’s remorse? What other steps can the government take to police counterfeit shopping?

-Jessica C. Andrews

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  • the fine makes it not worth it…you can definitelt buy a designer bag for a $1,000 DOLLARS…

  • Mimi

    I’ve never understood how the people who sell the knockoffs can stay in business when they do it in open air markets. Heck, I can go outside my office building right now and take about 10 steps to the corner and find a guy selling knockoff handbags. If politicians and police are so concerned about the problem, and everyone knows where to go to get it, why don’t they just shut down the vendors who are selling the illegal goods and lock them up and fine them instead of the consumer?

  • dvine

    not a fan of the fake bags.. why pay all that money and it’s not even real.. i know the real ones are even more expensive so this is suppose to be a steal but i’m not buying it.. i prefer to go to regular stores and buy bags that are just as nice..

  • Jay

    Really? I think we have bigger problems to solve than this. These people sell this stuff for a reason. It’s the way they feed their family. At the end of the day the buyers are choosing to purchase the bags. It’s not like they’re being forced to. If they could afford the real deal, don’t you think they would buy it? hello *rolls eyes* smdh

  • LaTigresse

    I think that people who can’t afford the original bag in their everyday lifestyle shouldn’t buy the fake either… most of the time those knock offs look cheap and therefore you show the world you got a fake one. Or if your clothes, shoes and car do not look to par with the brand your wearing, people will assume it’s a fake also (even if it’s a real).

    There are plenty of really nice brands of bags out there much less expensive than the original bags and looks as good and fashion forward. I’m satisfied with theses bags since I can’t afford a luxury bag now, but hopefully one day I will be able to get that 2000$ one without having to think of my budget :) Oh! it’s not only the police that controls fakes, you should watch out for the customs!!! Btw I’m canadian, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same in the US…. When I came back from europe (I had also spent some time in Asia before), the customs agent asked me if I did a really big purchase, I was like no… like what? He said: well a luxury bag for exemple like chanel or louis vuitton. I answered: I wish! The customs agent started laughing and let me go hahaha.