Legal or not, shopping for fake bags, shoes and other designer gear is well trodden path by tourists in Hong Kong. Naturally, because they're breaking the law, many people are nervous when shopping for fakes and while we don't condone it, here we answer some of the most common questions we find in our inbox.
What are Fakes?
Also known as copies, fakes are basically imitations of high priced designer items sold at cheap prices. They will often sport names that are close to the brand they are trying to imitate such as Praada or Luis Vutton while the more brazen fakes will actually display the real name. How realistic are they? It depends, some are convincing knock offs that would fool Paris Hilton others look like they were made by a kindergarten class.
Are They Good Quality?
No, usually not, although they have been getting better. Knocked together in a few hours in Shenzhen, most are made from the cheapest materials available and in the past handbags couldn't hold your purse without bursting their stitches and watches would stop ticking before the hour hand had made it to 12. Today, quality has improved and you might get some wear out a product, however it will – in the not so distant future – fall apart.
What Are the Most Popular Fakes?
Handbags, shoes, clothes and watches are all popular buys, as are electronics such as imitation I-Pods and copied computer software.
Where Can I Buy Them?
Obviously, there are no shops selling fake goods – at least not in broad daylight. Instead, most sales are under the counter or via flying market stalls that set up for a few minutes in markets before melting away again. You'll usually have no problem finding fake goods around market areas such as The Ladies Market in Mongkok or Temple Street Market, where there will a constant line of suitors await whispering copy watch/handbag/shoes into the ears of wandering tourists. You may be asked to go into a back room just off the street to look at a catelouguie of goods. Yes, even bootleggers in Hong Kong have catalogues. For electronics the Golden Shopping Arcade is the premium hunting ground although police raids have made fakes much harder to find here.
Is It Illegal to Buy Fake Products?
Yes, it is; period. However, the reason why so many people continue to do so is because the chance of getting caught is remote and the penalties light. If you are caught by police on the street or at customs, you'll likely have the product confiscated and be given a slap on the rist. Of course, this assumes you are buying a single item or two for personal use, not a suitcase stuffed full of fake handbags; for which the penalty will be far stiffer.
Is It Dangerous to Buy Fake Products?
No, not really, but it's worth knowing that many products are produced by triads so in buying items you will be funding organised crime. The man you're buying off on the street won't be a triad but he also doesn't do exchanges or refunds.