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Do You Spell Gucci with a "K"?

If you’ve been to NYC then you know you can find them, the vendors in Canal Street and set-up near subways selling “designer” merchandise.  Coach, Louis Vuitton, and Kate Spade styled handbags and accessories can be purchased for a bargain price if you don’t mind a modified label.  And who hasn’t sported, seen or at least been tempted by a “Faux-lex”?  After all, these fakes allow one to have the cachet and still keep the cash.

The practice of selling designer knockoffs is illegal but often labels are altered so that the merchandise doesn’t appear to be copying the designer brand, allowing the seller to sidestep any illegal action.  And if the buyer who owns an expensive-looking coat for a discount price doesn’t mind wearing “Kashmere” then it’s all good, right?  Well, maybe for the seller and the buyer but what about the designer?

The purchase of these replicated designs damage the original brand and cheats the designer out of income.  Many happy customers toting their “Kate Spaz” bags would retort that the purchase of fakes wouldn’t be necessary if the original designs weren’t so exorbitantly priced.  Perhaps these buyers have a point.  And the point is that they know they are purchasing a fake.  But how would these same buyers feel if they thought they were paying for a certain item but received another?  Probably the same as these designers whose creations are copied...tricked, cheated, scammed.

Although I don’t own “Prata” and I don’t wear “diamondesque” earrings, I never really believed imitations were wrong.  After all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery? This was, of course, until the fake Fendi was found in my field.  That’s right, it isn’t just designer handbags and wallets being copied and sold as something else, now it’s—gasp—books.

Until recently, if you typed “Fifty Shades of Grey”, which is the No. 1 selling book on Amazon into the site’s search box, you may find “Thirty-Five Shades of Grey”.  Both books are written by authors with two first initials in their name and both are about a young girl and an older man who engage in a sadomasochistic relationship.  And there are many other books on Amazon bearing similar titles to much more popular ones, such as “I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Twilight New Moon”.  And most likely, these aren’t the books for which you are searching.

What is notable is that Amazon doesn’t just sell the books; it helps these authors create them.  All of these copycat books were made through CreateSpace, a division of Amazon which helps authors to design and self-publish their own books.  The books are then sold on Amazon and the proceeds are split with the company and the authors.   

So the question becomes, how is Amazon any different from the vendors on Canal Street?  Both are hawking products, which are cheaper, lower quality versions of the real thing.  The big difference is the buyer often knows what the street vendor is peddling but can’t be so sure with a company like Amazon.  Besides a buyer’s expectation of a product being sold by a man whispering, “Fendi, Coach” under his breath is different from a reputable company.  So I guess we should all take the advice of Mike Brady, patriarch of that famous family, who said “caveat emptor” unless of course you spell Gucci with a “K”.