Q And Answer: Should I Worry About Fakes On EBay?

August 24, 2011

Q and Answer: Should I Worry About Fakes on eBay?

Pat asks: I know that in many departments such as athletic footwear and electronics, there is a huge problem with counterfeit goods coming onto the market from people all over the world trying to bring in a high price on low quality fakes. Is this ever an issue in the realm of fine men’s wear? If I am going to spend $75 on a Drake’s tie or drop $300 on a pair of Vintage Ralph Lauren Double Monk Straps (if I was so lucky to find a pair) how am I to know that these are the real deal and not some cheap goods that were retagged and sold for a higher premium? – as a victim of poor quality fake Nike’s, I thank you for your insight!

My short answer is simple: don’t worry about it.

Here’s a longer answer:

Some luxury goods have extraordinary markups – purses are often marked up by a factor of ten or twelve. In these cases, what you’re buying is essentially a brand. When what you’re buying is a brand, you have to worry about fakes – because the temptation for the unscrupulous will be strong to add the brand to an inexpensive-to-make product so they can mark it up, say… five times. Same product, same brand, cheaper price = good business for an intellectual property pirate.

The explosion of mass-market luxury in the past twenty years has meant that this is a popular business model, especially in East Asia, where there’s lots of manufacturing and not much IP protection. But does that mean trouble for buying on eBay?

First of all, very few menswear items offer the kind of markup that a purse does. Sunglasses are one, though the market for men’s accessories is so much smaller and less brand-conscious than womenswear, it doesn’t crop up too much. Low-quality neckties with big-name brands are another, though that’s easy enough to distinguish once the item is handled.

There are some “faux” products on eBay – suits by Giorgio Brioni or Salvatore Ferragamite. These aren’t strictly fakes – just meant to give a completely uneducated customer a vague feeling of familiarity. Of course, this isn’t limited to eBay – you’ll find weird Italian names that sound sort of like big brands at the Men’s Wearhouse. Avoiding these is easy.

I almost never see out-and-out menswear fakes on eBay. If you see a fake, it will be of a HUGE fashion brand, it will usually be an accessory or small leather good (not a tailored piece), and it will usually be heavily branded. Hermes ties are sometimes faked. Ray Ban sunglasses. Collectible sneakers. Derek tells me he’s seen fake Tiffany’s money clips. If you buy something, and suspect it may be fake, you can take it to a retail outlet for that brand and have it verified.

Buy from reputable sellers in first-world countries and you really won’t have to worry about that stuff. Besides: if you get something, and it’s not right, eBay’s buyer protections now border on the absurd, so you will be fine.

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