An Undercover Look At The Billion Dollar Fake Goods Market Of Chinatown

chanel bag

[credit provider=”Business Insider”]

For a certain breed of New York tourist, picking up a knockoff Chanel bag in Chinatown is a trip highlight.But that could soon change.

The city councilwoman whose district includes Chinatown recently proposed making the purchase of counterfeit goods a crime, punishable by a $1,000 fine and a jail term of up to a year.

The legislator, Margaret Chin, says the law is necessary to deter counterfeiters, and that buyers of counterfeit goods cost the city around $1 billion in tax revenue annually.

Unsurprisingly, the backlash from Canal Street shoppers has been huge.

We decided to venture down to Chinatown for ourselves to survey the counterfeit scene.

Bottom line: it was sketchy, the knockoffs kind of sucked, and we came away empty handed. But at least we learned the right way to score an “A quality” Chanel bag for 1/50 the sticker price of the real thing.

[slideshow]
[slide
permalink=”we-ventured-down-to-chinatown-on-a-sunny-sunday-afternoon-to-see-what-fake-purse-shopping-was-all-about-1″
title=”We ventured down to Chinatown on a sunny Sunday afternoon to see what fake purse shopping was all about.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed373ccd1d55f55020000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”our-first-stop-was-a-sketchy-looking-storefront-with-rows-of-fake-bottega-veneta-purses-the-proprietor-insisted-they-were-real-leather-and-that-this-bag-was-worth-210-it-didnt-smell-like-real-leather-and-it-didnt-look-like-it-either-2″
title=”Our first stop was a sketchy looking storefront with rows of fake Bottega Veneta purses. The proprietor insisted they were real leather and that this bag was worth $210. It didn’t smell like real leather and it didn’t look like it either.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed1c149e2ae4259270000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”but-it-didnt-look-bad-from-a-distance-this-is-the-real-version-which-retails-for-1980-at-saks-fifth-avenue-3″
title=”But it didn’t look bad from a distance. This is the real version, which retails for $1,980 at Saks Fifth Avenue.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dc06a6a49e2ae231b120000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”so-off-we-went-determined-to-find-the-good-stuff-we-were-quickly-approached-outside-this-store-by-a-man-muttering-under-his-breath-i-have-chanel-chloe-gucci-louis-vuitton-we-stopped-intrigued-4″
title=”So off we went, determined to find the good stuff. We were quickly approached outside this store by a man muttering under his breath, “I have Chanel, Chloe, Gucci, Louis Vuitton.” We stopped, intrigued.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed1bbcadcbb6c4f050000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”he-told-us-he-could-get-us-an-a-quality-chanel-bag-for-200-a-quality-is-the-real-thing-he-said-like-it-fell-off-the-truck-5″
title=”He told us he could get us an “A quality” Chanel bag for $200. “‘A quality’ is the real thing,” he said. “Like it fell off the truck.””
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dc06bbeccd1d5ff7c060000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”we-said-we-were-interested-and-he-told-us-to-sit-in-this-sbarro-and-wait-he-even-offered-to-buy-us-tea-6″
title=”We said we were interested and he told us to sit in this Sbarro and wait. He even offered to buy us tea!”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed453ccd1d562530e0000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”we-sat-in-sbarro-anxiously-waiting-for-about-10-minutes-this-definitely-felt-pretty-sketchy-7″
title=”We sat in Sbarro, anxiously waiting for about 10 minutes. This definitely felt pretty sketchy.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed23b4bd7c876640a0000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”he-finally-arrived-with-the-bag-in-a-black-garbage-bag-and-handed-it-over-for-a-look-8″
title=”He finally arrived with the bag in a black garbage bag, and handed it over for a look.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed1d549e2ae505c160000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”he-let-us-examine-the-bag-and-try-it-on-he-even-put-his-lighter-to-the-leather-to-prove-it-was-the-real-thing-we-think-it-was-real-but-not-the-best-quality-but-when-we-lifted-the-bag-too-high-he-made-us-put-it-away-so-the-cops-wouldnt-see-9″
title=”He let us examine the bag and try it on. He even put his lighter to the leather to prove it was the real thing (we think it was real, but not the best quality). But when we lifted the bag too high, he made us put it away so the cops wouldn’t see.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed1da49e2ae5859240000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”the-lining-was-red-suede-which-he-also-insisted-was-real-when-we-said-we-didnt-want-to-pay-200-he-dropped-the-price-to-100-and-then-to-80-but-we-still-said-no-and-hightailed-it-out-of-there-10″
title=”The lining was red suede, which he also insisted was real. When we said we didn’t want to pay $200, he dropped the price to $100, and then to $80. But we still said no and hightailed it out of there.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed1e1ccd1d5924f200000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”heres-the-real-thing-it-would-cost-you-around-4000-at-a-chanel-boutique-11″
title=”Here’s the real thing. It would cost you around $4,000 at a Chanel boutique.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbff72e4bd7c8cb47210000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”after-that-we-browsed-around-there-were-tons-of-lower-quality-knockoffs-in-plain-sight-including-fake-coach-fendi-and-betsy-johnson-bags-but-we-got-yelled-at-when-we-tried-to-take-pictures-12″
title=”After that, we browsed around. There were tons of lower quality knockoffs in plain sight, including fake Coach, Fendi, and Betsy Johnson bags. But we got yelled at when we tried to take pictures.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed24a49e2ae4361020000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”so-we-hit-the-streets-again-and-it-wasnt-two-minutes-before-we-were-approached-handbags-you-girls-want-handbags-the-seller-rattled-off-a-bunch-of-designers-and-told-us-to-follow-him-13″
title=”So we hit the streets again, and it wasn’t two minutes before we were approached. “Handbags, you girls want handbags?” The seller rattled off a bunch of designers and told us to follow him.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed1ce4bd7c8a260220000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”we-followed-this-guy-for-three-blocks-down-canal-street-he-bolted-ahead-of-us-and-we-had-to-elbow-a-few-tourists-out-of-the-way-so-we-wouldnt-lose-him-14″
title=”We followed this guy for three blocks down Canal Street. He bolted ahead of us and we had to elbow a few tourists out of the way so we wouldn’t lose him.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed1fb49e2ae5859270000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”finally-he-turned-onto-baxter-street-a-chinatown-sidestreet-filled-with-vendors-15″
title=”Finally, he turned onto Baxter Street, a Chinatown sidestreet filled with vendors.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed1b34bd7c8a2601b0000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”another-man-handed-us-this-six-page-laminated-catalog-and-told-us-to-take-our-pick-there-were-dozens-of-styles-imitating-louis-vuitton-gucci-coach-and-other-designers-we-picked-a-90-a-quality-louis-vuitton-handbag-and-he-told-us-it-would-be-a-five-minute-wait-16″
title=”Another man handed us this six-page laminated catalogue and told us to take our pick: there were dozens of styles imitating Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Coach, and other designers. We picked a $90 “A quality” Louis Vuitton handbag, and he told us it would be a five minute wait.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed221ccd1d59a4f350000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”within-seconds-we-were-approached-by-a-woman-whose-arms-covered-in-fake-tiffanys-bracelets-she-insisted-the-jewelry-was-sterling-silver-and-even-clasped-one-on-our-wrist-she-was-super-pushy-but-eventually-wandered-off-when-she-saw-we-werent-biting-17″
title=”Within seconds, we were approached by a woman whose arms covered in fake Tiffany’s bracelets. She insisted the jewelry was sterling silver and even clasped one on our wrist. She was super pushy, but eventually wandered off when she saw we weren’t biting.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed1caccd1d59a4f2f0000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”finally-our-bag-seller-returned-with-the-fake-louis-vuitton-in-a-plastic-hm-shopping-bag-and-took-it-out-so-we-could-give-it-a-feel-18″
title=”Finally, our bag seller returned with the fake Louis Vuitton in a plastic H&M shopping bag and took it out so we could give it a feel.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed20549e2ae825c1e0000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”again-the-quality-was-decent-but-not-superb-it-was-obviously-not-real-because-the-lv-logo-insider-the-bag-was-stamped-on-plastic-y-fake-leather-19″
title=”Again, the quality was decent, but not superb. It was obviously not real, because the LV logo insider the bag was stamped on plastic-y fake leather.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dbed21449e2ae445e110000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”the-real-version-of-this-bag-would-set-you-back-710-at-the-louis-vuitton-store-20″
title=”The real version of this bag would set you back $710 at the Louis Vuitton store.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dc073184bd7c8ee16240000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”we-came-back-empty-handed-but-maybe-next-time-we-wind-up-in-chinatown-well-pick-up-counterfeit-luggage-perfume-scarves-sunglasses-or-watches-theyre-all-readily-available-21″
title=”We came back empty handed. But maybe next time we wind up in Chinatown, we’ll pick up counterfeit luggage, perfume, scarves, sunglasses, or watches. They’re all readily available.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dc00562ccd1d52550150000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”that-is-unless-buying-counterfeit-goods-in-chinatown-really-does-become-a-crime-22″
title=”That is, unless buying counterfeit goods in Chinatown really does become a crime.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4dc078094bd7c86a220c0000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”counterfeit-electronics-are-also-pretty-common-23″
title=”Counterfeit electronics are also pretty common.”
content=”Check out this knockoff iPhone 4 from China >
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4d24ae2fccd1d597650e0000″
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[/slideshow]