Just yesterday I was walking through New York's Chinatown, on my way to review a dim sum joint for my new guidebook, when a short woman slung with several purses sidles up to me. "Want to buy?" she asked in a low voice. "This real thing. Louis Vuitton. Chanel. Prada. We got it all."
I said 'no thanks', and kept on walking. But I noticed that she did manage to nab a tourist near me, and soon they were entering a storefrtont, presumably heading towards a back room where the goods are hidden.
Today, that tourist will probably walk out with a knock-off Kate Spade for $20, and she'll feel pretty pleased with herself. But in the not-so-near future, that $20 purse could end up costing her $1000.
The New York City Council is considering a bill that would punish the buyers of counterfeit goods with serious fines. In tandem with these arrests would be a public awareness campain (large posters on subways and busses) trumpeting the forgotten news that buying counterfeits is illegal.
It seems the authorities have decided that going after the sellers is not working. Raids periodically occur, but days later, the sellers are back on the streets, and as busy as ever. Targeting customers could be effeictive in discouraging sales of thie sort.
But I have to wonder whether this bill will also hurt NYC's overall tourist trade.
And as a practical matter, how will prosecutors prove that the buyer knew they were purchasing counterfeits? Without that proof, I don't see how they could levy a $1000 fine for a $20 buy.
What do you think? Is this an appropriate reaction to the scourge of counterfeiting or a waste of time and money?