I was very surprised, shocked to say the least last night when I attended a Free Ladies Night bazaar sponsored by a reputable Garden here in town to see counterfeit purses being sold. Granted, I really wanted to buy one of the purses until the ladies who were trying to sell it to me started “ripping” me off – first, by adding a shipping charge and then by removing my 5% discount because I was paying with a check instead of cash. For a moment, as I was haggling with these women, I felt like I was in India or the streets of China or Korea, buying counterfeit goods for half the price. Then, I realized, if I was in India, China, or Korea, the same purses would be way cheaper – perhaps even 1/3rd of what these counterfeiters were charging me. As I decided to pass on buying the imitation Coach purse, it started to occur to me that I felt very weird. I started to think to myself, “where am I?” Am I in the United States of America? Isn’t trademark infringement illegal, especially when sponsored by a major business like this one? They gave these women a booth to sell their counterfeit, gray market goods. Oh my God! I thought, I wrote a paper on this exact topic not too long ago. I cannot believe I was about to purchase a counterfeit item at a Ladies night event which was lauded as quite the event.
I was thinking about how the other vendors felt about the counterfeit goods. There were several vendors there who were selling their own work of art, or their crafts. A few vendors made their own jewelry and were selling it. A few cosmetic companies (not counterfeit) were also present. Another lady was selling scrapbooking items. A gentleman who represented a reputable knife company was displaying his products. How did these artisans and businesspeople feel about the counterfeiters? It seemed like most of the people who purchased items were buying the counterfeit purses or just standing around for free food and drink. I am not sure what bothered me more – the fact that the counterfeit purses were being sold in the first place or the fact that this garden was permitting them to do it in their establishment with consent and full endorsement. It seemed … well, it seemed… wrong! In this day and age, when gas is $4.00 a gallon, and carrots are $3.00 a bag, it is often hard to forget the difference between right and wrong but this just seemed wrong considering it was not in a private home but rather in a publicly announced event where over 200-300 ladies were present. More than anything, I wanted to call attention to this but I did not know how. I look for blog fodder daily and this to me was blog fodder. In the end, I went home to my family but I could not forget what had just happened. In the future, I wonder, it is the right thing to say something or just bury my head in the sand? I do not want to cause trouble for people who are doing legitimate business but to me, selling counterfeit purses at a public event does not seem like a legitimate business. The ironic thing is that if I did report this, would anything have even been done? Interesting research … for the next time this occurs.