Since the spring of last year, Alibaba has been charming US markets with the kind of confidence and swagger of an ecommerce varsity player. But for the Chinese monolith, the other shoe has finally dropped.
A report released by the Chinese Government State Administration of Industry and Commerce Agency expressed concern that Alibaba was not doing enough to keep “counterfeit, fake and subpar goods” off of its Taobao shopping marketplace, and conclusively out of American ecommerce. The Agency claims these misgivings were discussed with Alibaba’s leadership in July of 2014, but were not released until much later for fear of impacting Alibaba’s ground-breaking IPO. The Chinese marketplace debuted to US markets at $21 billion – the biggest technology IPO in history. Alibaba denies claims that they were aware of this report last summer, stating that just like the rest of us, they only heard about it in January.
Though the report was only just published, to some online retailers, the saturation of counterfeit goods has been an increasingly frequent topic of discussion. In one thread on Amazon’s seller forum, a poster asked if it was possible to sell knock off or fake products, presumably on Amazon.com. One responder replied simply with two words – “try Alibaba.” And yet, not all Amazon sellers are opposed to the sale of counterfeited goods. One retailer shared with IB Times how he was able to order knockoff name brand items on Alibaba and sell them on Amazon, effectively duping the strict marketplace.
Allegedly, its not too difficult to find and procure quality knockoffs on Taobao. You have to “get familiar” with the site, find a supplier you like, and send them an email letting them know more or less what you’re looking for. Most respond quickly – within a few hours – and discreetly send you samples of their latest counterfeit styles.
Whether or not Amazon buyers purchase fake items knowingly doesn’t seem to be that great of a concern. “Most people don’t complain,” the Amazon seller anonymously shared with IB Times. When he did receive complaints, he would “immediately send them a message…apologize, and issue an instant refund.” In all cases, the buyer was able to keep the item, which often led to positive seller feedback. The positive ratings from buyers helped him stay under the radar from Amazon’s (understandably) strict policies regarding counterfeit items.
It’s possible that buyers don’t always care whether the item is counterfeit or not. If ‘fake’ is so gauche, Canal Street wouldn’t be the must-see attraction it is for New York tourists. Maybe for the right price, fake is A-Okay. I can tell you one thing – went I got my hands on that soft-as-butter imitation leather and chucked over $30 bucks to the women on Canal Street, not an ounce of me cared that my Louis Vuitton was an Eastern import.