Sold right under your nose

IT'S years since I went to Whitechapel in the heart of London’s East End. I suppose the last time was to look at an alleged bullet hole left by the notorious Kray Twins in the woodwork of the Blind Beggar pub. That was a genuine piece of criminal folklore, but walk along the road in Whitechapel High Street these days and there is nothing genuine about what’s happening there.

The most obvious crime being committed is the selling of counterfeit cds and dvds. The latest films all being touted by gangs of Chinese men and women in full view of market traders.And when we went to Pizza Hut that same evening in nearby Leyton, some four miles or so away, the same Chinese gangs were there too openly offering “good quality copies” of top films.

At five for a tenner there was no shortage of people wanting to buy and the gangs anxious to sell quickly, always having one eye on the money and the other eye on Old Bill coming round the corner.But what is happening every week in Whitechapel and Leyton is happening every day up and down the country. The films are never great quality and you’ll often find someone getting up in their seat and walking across the screen or coughing during the screening of the film. So you’re only getting what you pay for - bad quality copies. And illegal one’s too.

Counterfeit goods are everywhere and not just dvds and cds. Copies of Rolex, Cartier, Dunhill, Omega and other top watches, even clothes made to look like a top fashion house, can be found in high street’s, in markets, at boot sales and even in pubs.It’s that old nudge, nudge, wink, wink attitude. “Wanna buy some cheap perfunme” or “fancy a nice watch for the wife”. They will tell you the articles are genuine and are so good with the patter you’ll believe them.

But they are about as genuine as a politician’s speech. Even respectable, legitimate businesses can be taken in and end up selling dodgy items without knowing it. Go to any market or boot sale and you will find Louis Vuitton bags - probably the most-copied of them all - Cartier watches, Nike trainers, Adidias sweatshirts, Boss perfume all at ridiculously cheap prices, far too cheap to be the real thing.
 
Many small market traders carry items like that, or knock-off football and rugby shirts. It's part of their stock in trade, although the cleverer ones won't have them on obvious display in case Trading Standards come around. Go to any outdoor market in the country and you can probably find something that's fake, be it clothing, trainers, foodstuffs or even a Dyson vacuum cleaner. The things people wouldn't normally imagine being faked, even brand-name toilet paper, are there. The rule of thumb is that if it seems too cheap to be real, then it's almost certainly fake.

To be fair, you won't find too many designer knock-offs at car boot sales. But in amongst the junk you can often find pirated trading cards, CDs, video games and DVDs. They're usually very easy to spot - the DVDs will often have photocopied covers, and they'll generally be titles that are still on general release in the cinema rather than in the shops. The CDs won't have the full printed booklets, and the games might well only have the title handwritten on the CD. With trading cards, though, sometimes the production and presentation is very professional indeed, and it needs someone familiar with the items (generally someone who's an avid collector) to tell the real from the fake.

Online auctions like e-Bay are a haven for the counterfeiter. It's easy to convince with a description and a photo (generally of the real thing), so it's only when the buyer receives the goods that they see it's a fake - and by then they've parted with their money. If the item is convincing enough, they might not even care, as long as they've snagged a bargain. Unfortunately, in spite of all they say and the user guides they publish, auction sites often do very little to battle counterfeiters. A good rule of thumb is that those D&G glasses, or any other expensive item that's supposedly new, with a starting price of a penny, is not going to be the real thing.

There are also those shops that spring up overnight then vanish a short while later selling suspiciously cheap, supposedly brand-name merchandise. The odds are that it'll be fake - if they were truly legitimate they wouldn't leave as quickly and as quietly as they arrived. So if you want to get the real thing go to a long established shop that sell the genuine article all year round - and not just an overnight fly-by-night.

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