Is It Real or Fake

Is It Real or Fake?
 When friends and or clients visit from America, they will invariably ask about shopping in China. Some looking for great deals on electronics, others looking for name brand garments, while still others are look for treasured antiques.

I should tell you that number one; I hate shopping, especially in China, but often have to go through the process to appease friends. Basically, yes, you can buy name brand products at very low prices, but understand, these are “knock-off” products, not the real thing. Concerning electronics, forget it, they are by far less expensive in the States and anything you find in China will be out dated and perhaps a “knock-off”. As for “antiques”, again, forget it. There are strict regulations as to what you can legally remove from the country, that is if you could actually find a real antique, but most likely you will find only copied goods, which are sometimes difficult for even experts to identify, the real from the copy.

Looking for that Rolex watch that is just too expensive in the US, well good news, you will find a wide assortment from which to select, and each for around $20 US dollars, often less, of course these too are copies, but sometimes the quality of these “knock-off” items are really good. They will ask, “what about pearls?” Sure you can buy them but you stand the risk of buying paste, rather than the real thing, so you really need to know what you are doing, and keep in mind, the Chinese are excellent at making copied goods, and often fool even the most experienced buyer.

Okay, so what can you buy, will be the next question…you can buy silk, either in bulk or finished garments, and the quality can be good, again, you need to know what you are looking at. It is also possible to buy very nice custom tailored clothes, but you need to select the tailor carefully, as well as the material. When the garment is finished, you need to inspect the seams and stitching, or it may not survive one wearing. By this time, many people become frustrated, shopping has turned into work, not pleasure, to which I reply, “this is China, what did you expect?”.

For those of us who live in China we know where it is possible to buy the most recently released DVD’s movies and audio within days of their release in America, for about $1  US dollar, and even though the quality may not be as good as a legitimate version, the price is right. The same is true for computer software, regardless of the product and you don’t need to worry about registration numbers, as they will be supplied when you buy the software. Again, the prices are typically less than one dollar for any software application, thus there is very little incentive for any Chinese company to use legitimate registered software, and they don’t!

Of course don’t get caught taking DVD’s out of China or try to sneak it in to the States on your return home, as the laws are VERY strictly enforced!

So you want to know what you can get in China and safely return to the States with? Photos, take lots of pictures, everything else you can buy at your local shopping center for much less than buying in China. Besides, you will never really know if you’re buying a genuine product or a copy.

Sure there’re exceptions, but few. The reason is the fundamental need for Chinese not to lose face, so even at the expense of a lie, it is far better than risking the loss of face, and so lying is not just tolerated, it’s the norm.

Even when buying medicine, you can never be sure that you’re getting the real medication or a fake. There are often reports, of people getting arrested for making, packaging and selling fake pharmaceuticals.

You also need to be careful when buying packaged consumables, i.e. food and beverages, even bottled water, as these are also often copied. From time to time, arrests are reported of people making fake baby formula. The symptoms are sometimes evident in the swelling of the infants head, often resulting death. Most often babies simply starve because there is no nutritional value in the fake formula and the parents are reluctant to take the baby to the hospital, until it is too late. Just imagine what kind of a low-life cretin would make and sell baby formula, knowing full well that it could kill a infant, and yet it happens, because the drive for money is far greater than caring for humanity, even when babies are the victims.

Cigarettes are often copied and sold as the “real thing”, and there is always the chance that if you buy a ticket for an event, it could also be a forgery.

A common practice in all transactions is for the person who receives payment to very carefully inspect each bill (currency), first visually and then using and electronic scanner to ensure it isn’t counterfeit. And when you consider the largest paper denomination is 100RMB (about $12 US dollars) paying by cash, can be a painstaking experience. Sure, money is counterfeited in all countries, but never have a seen such little confidence in the integrity of money than in China. The fact is, the Chinese simply don’t have any faith in their country to control currency.

An interesting side note is that typically, if an employee that accepts a counterfeit bill, needs to replace the money from their own pocket.

How bad is the counterfeit problem? Well, I was once chased by a taxi driver, through the lobby of a hotel, while he screamed that I was a thief, and that I had given him a counterfeit 10RMB bill, which incidentally is the minimum fare for a taxi ride in Shanghai. It was embarrassing to say the least, and drew lots of attention, in fact a crowd gathered around, I suppose because they were curious how a foreigner was going to handle the problem. After some translation, I explained I had no idea if the money was good or not and I immediately exchanged the bill for another, which was very carefully inspected.

A few days later, I went into a bank, and asked them to look at the 10RMB bill and check to see if it was actually counterfeit. After several people inspected the bill, I was told that it was NOT counterfeit. All this hoopla for 10RMB (about $1.20 US), but it illustrates how untrusting the Chinese tend to be. I mean when you think about it, what kind of moron is going to print counterfeit bills that are only worth $1.20 US?  But, the sad thing is that they also produce counterfeit coins, the ones I have been shown are valued at 1RMB, or 12cents US.

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