Counterfeit Goods Often Gateway Drug for the Real Thing

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A real Louis Vuitton bag. Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton.

Seems like every week brings a fresh police bust to the noisy, colorful counterfeit shops on Canal Street, where a "Prada" clutch can run you less than a taxi trip uptown. Perhaps the fact that the sale of some of these fashionable fakes funds terrorism and other unhealthy pursuits is reason enough for Mayor Bloomberg to go all Giuliani on New York's bootleggers — but, according to a freshly minted study done by MIT Sloan School of Management professor Renee Richardson Gosline, the actual brands copied may have less of a reason to fear copycats than you might think. Gosline's survey reveals that 40 percent of all of those who snap up faux Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Versace goods wind up buying the high-priced originals anyway, switching to the real thing when they gain firsthand experience with second-rate manufacturing. The suggestion here is that the fakes allow consumers to "test drive" their favorite white alligator-skin hobo bag before plunking down serious change on it, making counterfeiting a valuable, if illegal, element of the luxury market. Food for thought next time you find yourself in the vinyl jungle of Canal.

The Real Fake Thing [Portfolio.com]