After watching Brother Abdel’s clothing store get shut down and he and his son arrested, there has been some discussion about whether selling counterfeit merchandise should be considered a major crime or not.
I’ve gotten my hands dirty in knockoffs on more than a few levels and will share some of my experiences with you here.
It is a big deal to sell counterfeit merchandise. But when it's permitted to continue in the open for years you have to wonder how why. It’s alleged that profits from knockoffs went to fund terrorist organizations and other crime entities. If they were paying huge kickbacks to local governments to leave them alone, maybe that’s why they were left alone. I am not saying that happened in Chester. Read about NYC below.
Ask anyone who got caught with bootleg DVDs. They face more heat than if they were selling dime bags of weed on the corner. That FBI Warning at the beginning of a movie is for real.
You should not be okay with buying or selling counterfeit goods. If you're ok with knockoff Polo, then you're ok with knockoff prescription drugs made from crap, knockoff tires that could blow out in an instant, knockoff cellphone batteries that can blow up in your ear, knockoff meat butchered from sick animals, and so on.
But it can be fun, too. I’ve purchased knockoff books that people I know in the publishing business would wonder how the manuscript leaked and they usually end up making changes to the final copy that hit Amazon and Borders. Harry Potter books were huge on the knockoff market. I own a knockoff Babyface CD that was never released. A couple songs ended up on his Grown and Sexy CD but none of the others were ever released.
Many of the knockoff clothes are the same clothes they're selling in the big stores. Just like food folks sell stuff to the dollar stores at a discount, sweat shops sell clothes to the black market...the same clothes they send to Macy's and Foot Locker. Trust me!
I lived in NYC from 1999 to 2001 and was introduced to the area around 29th and Broadway. It was the largest knockoff enterprise zone in the country. When the rest of you were taking bus trips to Canal Street to by knockoff purses, those in the know would hit Broadway for the real bargains. That's where the Chester merchants were getting their stuff from - I saw them there.
NYPD would be right on the sidewalk among the people selling knockoff tee shirts watching tens of thousands of people come and go in and out of these shady buildings where you’d go up and down elevators to floor after floor of everything knockoff. It was crazy. You have to see it to believe it.
There’s nothing funnier than watching people enter a store with empty luggage and walk out with them filled to the brim. Some folks would purchase knockoff luggage because they couldn’t carry all the knockoff clothes they were buying. Many Africans and folks from the Islands shopped there to send cheap clothing across the oceans.
Around 2007 they finally started shutting down those shops (although some still do exist but it's risky to shop with them now). Little by little the Feds are coming around and shutting down all the knockoff shops they can find. All someone has to do is let them know of one and they'll be there. Someone ratted on Brother Abdel to the Feds.
If you really want to know the real deal on the counterfeit market worldwide, read ‘Illicit’ by Moises Naim. I think there may be a documentary on the book somewhere.