Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dodgy geezers

When you see some of the ludicrous prices charged for designer goods, it's small wonder that poor-quality copies get knocked off in some sweatshop and offloaded on to the public at a fraction of the price. Dubai is full of them. I defy anyone, especially a westerner, to wander around the shops in Karama and not be constantly pestered by gentlemen offering "Copy Rolex. Handbag sir? (!) Gucci..." At least they're not being peddled as the real thing. No-one would believe a genuine Louis Vuitton bag for Dh50 anyway.

Now most fakes are dead easy to spot. Mutant spellings on the Goach handbags, for example. The small print on the sleeve of a dodgy DVD can be downright hilarious. And if you compare a real Rolex against a dodgy one the difference in quality is often glaringly obvious. So I'm told. I own neither a real nor a fake Rolex. It’s like getting behind the wheel of a Bentley after driving a Fiat Panda. Counterfeit goods are par for the course in downtown Karama. Shop there only with a dose of caveat emptor (Catering size).

Regrettably it's also par for the course in the Gold Souq. Here, dozens of blingmongers peddle high-value goods of precious metals and rare gems. Eighteen, or even twenty-two karat gold is commonplace. And it's all real. So, unfortunately, is the "copy watches" brigade.

While exploiting the recent drop in the gold price, I became utterly fed up with dodgy geezers offering equally dodgy merchandise out of suitcases in alleys next to Dubai's world-famous Gold Souq. "No thank you" fails to have the desired effect, and when I become rather more forthright I get a glare from Mr Fake Rolex as if I just kicked his puppy. Not that this puts him or his colleagues off trying again a few minutes later.

Why are fakes such a problem in the Gold Souq? Everyone in Dubai realises that the shops there sell pukka goods at appropriate and alarming prices, and only the back-alley bling-in-a-suitcase merchants will rip you off with counterfeits. But visitors to Dubai may well find themselves thinking that if fakes are on sale outside, they might also be on sale for high prices in the shops. And this is potentially harmful to genuine retailers, and to Dubai's reputation as a whole. Even news articles trumpeting that 291 tonnes of illegal products were destroyed seem to have little effect on the feculent flow of fakes.

Something ought be done. Dubai should clean up the Gold Souq. Alas, one of the news articles points out that the dodgy geezers melt away if the authorities show up. So it's futile trying to control the street vendors with inspectors who look exactly like inspectors.

What is needed is an army of Mystery Shoppers. The Police should perhaps commission deputies - Store Detectives, if you will - westerners who look exactly like tourists but who are in fact part of the constabulary.

"Fake watches, perfume, handbags, madam-sir?"

"Do you have Breitling or Rolex? Chanel? How about Louis Vuitton?"

"I have Rolex sir. Is very nice. Two hundred dirhams."

"One hundred only."

"OK. One-fifty last price."

"You're nicked, me old China! You have the right to remain silent. You have the right not to fall down the stairs on the way to the cells, You have the right to..."

Exeunt omnes, the Accused wearing jewellery by Peerless.

More selected references:

Rising tide of counterfeits.

PS: There is a reference to Dragon Mart in the above hyperlink. This rerminded me of the "Huan Qi" radio-controlled helicopter I saw on sale yesterday. Top quality, eh? It made me chuckle.



Mars said...

i've had one tell me "madam, you want bing-bling?"

Laurie said...

Do they really call you "madam-sir"? Or is that a term used for couples?


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