When my brother, Mike, and I visited New York City last month, his friend asked him to buy her a Coach purse from a street vendor. Neither one of us being purse-connoisseurs, we set out on the journey together. We did not see any of the signature “C”s on any purses, so finally asked one vendor if he had any Coach purses. He had some hidden under the table, but would not bring them up for us to view – we had to crouch down. None we liked, but now we knew we had to ask for them.
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At the next table, we asked if they had any Coach purses. The guy looked around, and finally said, “Um, no.” We are now beginning to think it's not legal to sell Coach purses on the street, especially with NYC cops on every corner (remember, we are from Nebraska, not the big city). But his friend really wanted one.
We kept walking and saw men carrying big white sheets full of purses that they would spread out, sell a few, pack back up and move to another spot. We did a lot of “sheet” shopping (instead of “window” shopping) to see the selections and get the prices (that you could bargain down). Mike spotted some huge what-looked-like sheet bundles a couple of blocks away, so we proceeded to walk to check that out, only to find out it was trash. I got a good walk in that day.
Finally we found the perfect Coach handbag and asked for a better deal if we bought two (I decided I needed one as well after all of that research). We had to complete the transaction in a back alley, and yes, we were a bit scared. We went back to the hotel to check out our purchases. I pulled up the Coach website on my laptop, and my new purse looked exactly like the one on there. Mine even included a Coach certificate of authenticity and registration card (that I never sent in). And we only paid 10% of the retail price! Ok, I was beginning to think we just bought stolen goods. But that didn't deter me from buying yet another one (as I figured now I need a “big” and a “little” one). And with my bargaining skills sharpened, I got the next one even cheaper.
Once home, I did more investigating and now think the handbags aren't stolen, but just really-really-really good replicas. Consumer Reports did an article on counterfeit goods (January 2008 issue) saying that those aren't aspiring entrepreuners peddling products on city streets, but people involved in organized crime! So, could I be in trouble? The article goes on to say that it's not against the law to buy fakes, it is just illegal to sell them. Phew. I won't be re-selling mine. 😉
I have to admit that I've gotten a lot of compliments on my new purses. I even think I've been treated better in stores because of my “status” purse. So maybe it wasn't a bad investment after all. And my brother and I now have a good laugh thinking of our “adventure”.