It’s been three years since China started a crackdown on the $80 billion counterfeit market. But it’s still pretty much business as usual. Merchants who specialize in counterfeit designer items such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci were spotted in many cities, including Jakarta, Sydney, Taipei, and Bangkok, selling fake goods from bike-share parking racks to subway poles. (In Taiwan, a popular vendor smokes a cigarette while swiping items onto a new fake bag sold by a bike-share app. After 15 minutes, the $50 pants are less appealing.)
On the streets of Jakarta, a vendor displays counterfeit handbags, wallets, and iPhone covers in a plastic bag. (Photo: Jefri Tarigan/WWD/REX/Shutterstock)
In many cases, vendors with zero criminal history are using methods like wifi to operate bicycle-share programs, so they can quickly scour the neighborhood, and their initial purchases to resell elsewhere. In Hong Kong, one vendor allegedly took bribes of $10,000 to help traffic police track down peddlers who resold counterfeit makeup.
Traders who take precautions against detection, including putting windows and doors between the product and people, have trouble, especially in prime locations. In Taipei, Chinese peddlers were seen in SoHo carrying boxes of fake Louis Vuitton goods to hidden warehouses. (Although one vendor was seen with an electronic GPS locator on his bicycle.)
There’s also little regulatory control. In Hong Kong, authorities fined a vendor for having fake Louis Vuitton and Gucci bags in his bike-share racks, but he simply changed the color scheme.