Knock-off and Counterfeit Goods and the Difference

by Mike on June 24, 2012

Most unassuming people mistakenly interchange the word knock-off and counterfeit when they’re describing their $5 Rolex watch.

Let be explain the difference by stating:  It’s perfectly legal to produce knock-off $1 dollar bills while it’s highly illegal to produce counterfeit $1 dollar bills.

See the difference?

A knock-off good is a representation an item.  Monopoly money is a knock-off of the $1 dollar bill.  One can clearly see that monopoly money is fake and can’t be used for transactions.  The latter is trying to duplicate the item to pass as the real thing.  It’s a replication of the real thing to infiltrate and pass in everyday use.


Beijing China

Beijing China

In Asian countries, street vendors solicit tourist with knock-off goods.  But we know better because they’re fake and cheap quality and so we leave them be and ignore them.  Once in a while, they get a bit and make sale.  The question remains, How about the counterfeit stuff? Is that stuff any good?  We know that stuff exist because organization like the WTO puts pressure on countries like China to eradicate any counterfeit goods.

But still counterfeit goods must exist…

A few years ago, on my first trip to China for a graduate class.  Our female tour guide was sporting a Louis Vuitton handbag that impressed the females in our class.  Our tour guide explained it’s a counterfeit bag bought from a “back alley” counterfeit shop.  She then elaborated that the goods sold on the streets were of lower quality counterfeits or knock-offs and the place where she bought her handbag from was the higher quality stuff that isn’t operating openly in public.

The tour guide said she would take us to this “back alley” counterfeit goods store after our days activities.  So, the following day, a group of 10 or so of us hopped on the subway and road it a few stops from our hotel and walked to this “back alley” counterfeit shop.

Now when I say “back alley” it’s a just a figure of speech the tour guide was using to describe the secretive nature of the operation.  When we arrived to the shop, it wasn’t in alley per say, more like building serving as a working theater.  In the upper level of the theater, there were 3 adjoining rooms.  Each room had shelves surrounding the perimeter of the room with a couple glass showcases in the middle.


The rooms were stocked mostly with handbags.  The glass showcases had watches, belts and wallets.  There were some rollerboard luggages surrounding the glass show cases.


There’s a moral question of whether to buy counterfeit goods because who knows what these business support or what kind of conditions these goods were produced with(child labor, sweat shops).  But that’s a debate for another time and post.  In all likelihood, it’s probably not morally justified, but I bought a few items.

I bought an Omega watch for myself and bought a handbag for my mom.   I can’t recall the exact price I paid for the watch in Chinese currency, but after some negotiating, I paid $70-$75 for the watch and about $45 for the handbag.

I don’t have pictures of the handbag, but I still have the watch and yes, it still works.

Omega Seamaster Watch Counterfeit

Counterfeit Omega Seamaster Watch

Counterfeit Omega Seamaster Watch

Counterfeit Omega Seamaster Watch backside

From the pictures, it’s hard to distinguish that it’s a counterfeit(at least for me).  I have no intention of cheating anyone with it.  It’s simply a souvenir or artifact to remind myself how real counterfeit goods can be.

As for pictures of the “back alley” shop, obviously, with the covert nature of the store, pictures wouldn’t be welcomed, however, I did manage to sneak one picture.  One the left side of the picture is the handbag I bought for my mom, it has a bluish tint because it’s in a blue plastic bag.  I used that as a shield to hide my camera.   With the flash turned off and the anti-stabilization turned on, I was able to snap the following picture.

"Back Alley" Counterfeit Shop

The guy in the picture was a fellow classmate negotiating handbags for the females in the group.  I have to admit he was really good at haggling, probably one of the best haggling I’ve seen.  In fact, he was so good that he used “if I get this for such and such price, I’ll leave” as a bargaining chip.  The shop keep took to his offer and he got the handbag for the price he wanted.  I was impressed.

This sums my experience with counterfeit goods and not surprisingly it was from China although it’s pretty common throughout Asia.

Related posts:

A Quick Round the World Trip: How to Make it Possible
Being Able to Appreciate the Little Things
Movie Viewing at the North Korean Strategy Center

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Greek2me June 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Haha, wish I had that guys haggling skills!


Mike June 25, 2012 at 1:12 am

It was a sight to see, comical at times. Hmm, Perhaps I should write a post about haggling in other countries.


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