The Fake Market

During a walk around the French Concession looking for a copy & print shop, Melinda and I came across a courier with a familiar blue & orange logo on his scooter, but something was amiss, instead of FedEx, it read FedXe. This was not a typo, this was a courier that was like FedEx in the same way Stephen Colbert is truthy, like Fox News. China is a land of copycats and jiade, a place where they can take something and make it cheaper, but not better. There is little evidence of originality, or innovation. It is a deeply ingrained cultural phenomenon, reinforced through the educational system where teaching is through rote memorization and rewards are given to those who can perfectly regurgitate an answer, but  nothing is done to encourage risk, innovation, or creative thinking.

It's cheap cheap, so buy it all!

It’s cheap cheap, so buy it all!

Nowhere is this more clearly laid out before you than at the AP Market, in Shanghai, where merchant after merchant clamors to sell you a Rolex or Omega watch, a Louis Vuitton satchel, or a Mont Blanc pen. And none of it is rea, it’s all jiade. And the fake comes in three levels of quality: A, B & C, each with its own price point and its own life expectancy. A ‘C’ grade watch might be 100 RMB (~ 16 USD) and it could last a week, or two; ‘B” grade gets you a month or two for 50% more money and ‘A’ grade is twice the price but can last for 6 months, or more.  And then there is “The Good Stuff.”

A vendor directs Melinda to a 'secret room' concealed behind the shelves and controlled by an electronic lock.

A vendor directs Melinda to a ‘secret room’ concealed behind the shelves and controlled by an electronic lock.

This is the A+ stuff that looks and feels like the real thing and the vendors work hard to sell that idea complete with designer prices, but the buyer has to go on the assumption that it’s all jiade and bargain accordingly; that 2500 CNY ( $412 USD) watch? Don’t pay more than $80. The 1800 CNY designer handbag can be had for $50 USD.

Young girl reads while mom works at a shop in Shanghai's underground AP MArket

Young girl reads while mom works at a shop in Shanghai’s underground AP MArket

In addition to the fake goods for sale the market offers the usual assortment of Chinese chopsticks, tea sets, silk robes, NY Yankee hats, prescription eyeglasses in 20 minutes (we passed and went to a real optical store) and shop after shop of custom made suits, cashmere coats, and silk dresses. I think I’ll return to get a tuxedo made for the Shanghai Irish Association’s St. Patrick’s Day Ball.

4 thoughts on “The Fake Market

  1. :…A ‘C’ grade watch might be 100 RMB (~ 16 USD) and it could last a week…”
    I’m a terrible shopper, but over the course of our 2 week+ visit to China in 2003, the relentless pressure led me to seek one thing, for the entertainment: a fake Movado watch. I worked on the assumption that everything was C grade, and was willing to pay as much as $5 (~ 40 RMB then, but the dealing was in $). The battery lasted 3 months? or so, and the watch worked fine on a new one, and for as long as I cared to wear it. Don’t much need a watch, for one thing, but mostly the “stainless” band had whatever it had been flashed with wear off, down to a copper-tinged underlayer. That was a nice enough look (if not stainless), but it occurred to me that the flash probably had cadmium in it, and decided it wasn’t worth the risk to have that rubbing on my skin.

  2. My favorite has to be the food places, whether they are meant to be replicas of Western brands (there is a Starbucks look-a-like around the corner from where I work) or the Chinese brands (have you seen the KoKo Bubble Tea shop on Zhoajiabang Lu that is supposed to be just like Coco?) Too funny! Great insight into the markets and all very interesting perspectives.

  3. Thom, This stuff is awesome. I was thinking of how Venice Beach vendors kinda have the same look. keep your stuff coming… its my cultural adventure of the week.

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