Have you ever scrolled through your online shopping app and felt tempted to buy a pair of $10 Fila shoes because they look like the real thing? Well, you are not alone. Earlier this year, the South China Morning Post reported that the global market for imported counterfeit goods accounted for 3.3 per cent of all trade.
While we all understand that counterfeit goods infringe on a brand owner’s copyrights, many still decide to purchase these goods, which range from luxury products such as Balenciaga shirts or Off-White jackets to electronics like Apple AirPods.
We explore the reasons for the appeal of counterfeit goods, despite the risks of poorer quality control and the fact that we’re kind of breaking the law.
#1 Counterfeit Goods Are Often Available At A Fraction Of The Cost Of Brand Name Goods
Real luxury products can burn a hole in your pocket. The solution to this is to buy a much cheaper version of the luxury product, also known as a counterfeit. A genuine Kate Spade chain shoulder bag costs about $737 on the official Kate Spade website, but a fake sells for less than a $50 on Chinese websites.
According to Psychology Today, the lure of luxury goods is the feeling it confers on the user. The article explains that consumers like to buy luxury goods to evoke a sense of status, wealth and exclusivity – both to themselves and others.
People often buy counterfeit goods because they want to enjoy the benefits of wearing a pair of Yeezys or a Supreme cap, but cannot, or do not want to, pay full-price for it. This applies to items like shoes or bags, because it is hard for the public to differentiate real from fake, especially with increasingly high-quality, realistic-looking fakes.
#2 People Just Want The Utility Of Products, Whether Its Real Or Fake
For ordinary counterfeit products such as Apple AirPods, Xiaomi charger, Liverpool jersey, or Samsung phone cases, people buy them not because they want to show off to others, but because luxury or not —the item serves its purpose.
These people do not care or mind if the item is fake. The lack of authenticity and low price could even be the reason they buy the counterfeit version. They may not want to spend hundreds or even thousands to buy an authentic product when the fake still allows them to listen to music, charge their phone, get dressed, or protect the exterior of their phone.
#3 Ease Of Acquiring Counterfeit Goods
Do you still remember the chaos that occurred outside the Adidas store at Orchard Road in 2016? People were queuing for more than 36 hours to get their hands on a pair of Adidas Originals x Bape NMD R1 shoes that cost $229. According to interviewees, the situation was “messed up” and irate customers were pushing to get to the front of the waiting crowd.
For those who do not want to queue or can’t afford to queue because you must work the next day, what do they do? Some turn to counterfeit goods — which are aplenty — with a click of a button.
In Asia, counterfeit goods are usually mass-produced in factories in countries such as China, India, and Vietnam. Because they are manufactured in large quantities with no limits, they are cheap. You will never have to worry about not being able to buy a pair of counterfeit shoes.
With so many websites available today, simply key in the name of the product you want in Google and there will be many suppliers to choose from, and no “limited edition” quotas.
#4 Pressure To Keep Up With Appearances
Do you feel envious when you see your friend wearing that limited-edition Supreme shirt or a relative using those highly raved Samsung earphones?
Some people buy fake goods because they feel pressured in following the latest trends. With the advent of social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, it is not easy to miss out on these trends. These pictures you see online can even promote a lifestyle of extravagance among users.
Another Psychology Today article shares that advertisers do not have to persuade consumers that a product is good – they only need to show that others think so. If a product was advertised as “highly rated” or “first batch sold out within a day”, consumers are more likely to buy those products, so they don’t seem like they are losing out to everyone else who bought the same item. This is also known as the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
But if people are unable to buy the real thing due to long queues or other constraints, counterfeit goods can be a strong temptation.
Potential Problems With Buying Counterfeit Goods
We buy counterfeit products primarily because they are cheap. With such large cost-savings especially for luxury goods, who wouldn’t be tempted?
However, it is important to remember that with cost savings come risks. There is a higher possibility of receiving lower-quality goods which lack consumer protections. For counterfeit products such as batteries and appliances, they pose a serious health and safety risk to you and your loved ones. They are also mostly not covered under warranty so if do they not work after a short time you will just have to deal with it.
Socially, buying counterfeit products could mean indirectly supporting the sweatshop labour industry, or worse, illegal organisations which exploit children for cheap labour. There are also economic consequences for legitimate brands and even countries that are affected by counterfeiting.
By patronising sellers of fake goods, we’re directly fuelling the growth of the counterfeit industry, which can harm the innovation by original brands.
With so many associated risks and problems, will you still choose to buy counterfeits?