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When Fake outwits Original

Posted on Trivia – The Spice of Life on 12/03/2022

About a couple of years ago, I went to a shop in Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar looking for export rejects of children’s garments. I was looking at a branded jacket for my daughter. For an eye which is not discerning, it is difficult to fathom why the garment has been rejected. Even after an extensive examination, there was nothing amiss as far as I could see. I asked the shopkeeper the price. The price he quoted was unbelievable; I wondered how it was available for a pittance, notwithstanding the fact that it was an export reject. Looking at my expression, the shopkeeper admitted with a poker face that the label that the jacket sported was actually fake. But what he said later made me chuckle. He said that this was the first copy that was made after the jacket was launched by the international brand. It was almost as if it was the first among equals!! It was then that I realised that there was a hierarchy even among fakes.

This is perhaps the same story with almost every consumer good. The FMCG sector in particular has been a victim of fakes. I again learnt it the hard way. When I shifted to Mumbai, I started going to the Crawford Market regularly for buying odds and ends. Anyone who has been in Mumbai or has even visited it as a tourist will realize what a happy hunting ground it is for those who love the traditional bazaar. There was a footpath vendor selling branded cosmetics at throw away prices. Extremely gullible and foolish that I was, I bought quite a few of them. I was rather pleased with myself at having struck a good deal. When I came home and started looking at the labels carefully, I realised that I had been duped royally. All the products were fake. There were innumerable spelling mistakes and the font too suggested that these were fake. I had learnt my lesson after paying through my nose.

Books too are not spared. Counterfeit books are a big menace now. The other day, I went to a place that sells second hand books. I was amazed to find a bestseller being sold as a second hand book for a song. Just as I started reading the back cover of the book, I noticed that there was a glaring spelling error. That was an eye-opener. Unfortunately, the fake looks so original – in fact more original than the original. The temptation to save a little money is what makes us fall victim.

If so many sectors are hit, can the pharma sector be behind? Who can forget the fake COVID-19 vaccines that many a citizen got when the vaccination drive was in its fledging state and there was a shortage of vaccines? In this case, what drove this trickery was not low price but a shortage in supply. There were jokes on social media about how the fake vaccine manufacturers were ready with their vaccines and were just waiting for the real one to be launched. Regrettably, this turned into reality. In Mumbai, salt water was administered as the COVID-19 vaccine in several upscale housing societies. Those fishing in troubled waters were completely insensitive. They did not mind playing with others’ lives.

The emerging sector for peddling counterfeits is news – especially with so many social media platforms. So much so that several news portals carry a separate section on fake news. Painstaking efforts are made to establish why the news item is fake.

I am sure all of us have come across such ‘too good to be true’ deals. Some play with your beliefs, while others with your mental and physical well being, money and trust. Some of us would have fallen for them too and learnt lessons the hard way. The human tendency of trying to secure a good deal often leads to getting the rawest deal possible, as you end up buying a fraudulent imitation (or version!!) than the real one.

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