Criminalizing Shopping

Councilwoman Margaret Chin is in charge of the Chinatown district, and she’s hoping to pass a law that would prohibit the buying of counterfeit goods with the threat of a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.   She said that “More needs to be done to crack down on counterfeits, which cost the city $1 billion in annual tax revenue.”

It costs the city nothing for, if I didn’t buy my $20 fake Rolex watch, I certainly wouldn’t buy the $34,000 authentic Rolex watch.  The state lost nothing and at least my $20 supported some person who probably couldn’t find a job otherwise. 

Bargain hunters from around the world flock to Manhattan’s Chinatown for bags, jewelry, perfume, electronics and other accessories bursting onto sidewalks from storefronts along Canal Street.  While tourists are there, they are spending money on other products, food, transportation, hotels and entertainment.  Margaret Chin is criminalizing shopping and does not take into account the innocent bargain hunter who doesn’t know they are buying a fake and simply thinks they are getting a great price on an item.  Buyer beware.

Margaret Chin’s legislation will only hurt the city, hurt Chinatown and fill their already overcrowded jails with grandmothers, unaware shoppers and poor people.  I would imagine that the police have bigger fish to catch than naive little old ladies or people who can’t afford to buy the overpriced real item and is willing to settle for a fake at a fraction of the cost.  At least the fakes are not made by underpaid third world child labor. 

I know a priest who purchases a fake Rolex and cologne each year.  He knows he is getting what he pays for and doesn’t mind.  He also can’t afford the real thing.  Nobody is losing anything by his purchase but his trip to the city does provide other forms of revenue. 

Of course we want to protect the innocent person who thinks they are buying the real thing at a too-good-to-be-true price but, carnival games, casinos, lotteries and horse races are designed to take your money, too.  Nobody seems to mind if those people are ripped off and taken advantage of by impossible odds.

When is Margaret Chin up for reelection?  Chinatown should make a statement.  Maybe instead of spending money on the undercover cops it will take to scare off and entrap unwitting shoppers, she should put up an information kiosk educating people on the difference between fakes and the real thing.


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