Faux Show

How to buy knockoffs in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

April 16, 2010

Illustration by Christopher Lee


Cash — preferably a couple $20s wrapped in one-dollar bills.
Really, all you need is cash.

  1. Pick any storefront that features merchandise resembling the item you want. These will be the “obvious fake” items, no doubt, since America’s gone all “anti-counterfeiting” on Chinatown. Jerks.
  2. Glance around for undercover cops.
  3. No one around? Good. In a hushed voice, ask the salesperson for the item you want.
  4. The salesperson will pull out the worst fake you’ve ever seen — a Gacci wallet, maybe a Looey Vitton bag — and assure you it’s the best available. It is not.
  5. Look at the seams. Are there gaping holes? Perhaps the pattern doesn’t quite line up? Does it smell like plastic? Is the glue holding the handles together still wet?
  6. Ask if there’s anything in the back. If you’ve come this far, you deserve the best that a shady import operation has to offer.
  7. You’ll be led on a trek — à la Billy from The Family Circus — out of the shop, around the corner, down a flight of stairs, through the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant and, finally, to a secret closet.
  8. The closet will contain heaps of quality AAA fakes. The absolute best fake will be practically indistinguishable from the authentic — a layperson would need a microscope to spot the differences. (It’s best to avoid hanging out with experts, who will only kill the joy of your triumphant discovery.)
  9. You may feel pressure because you are in a secluded, converted refrigerator locker. Do not let this feeling stop you.
  10. Pick your item. Ask for a price.
  11. The salesperson will name an absurd price.
  12. Counter-offer with half that amount.
  13. Continue to haggle.
  14. When offered something close to your target price, start to walk away.
  15. You’ll be grabbed by the arm and told you are crazy. Do not freak out. This is the lead-up to locking in your price.
  16. Pay cash. Flee.
Magazine Section: