January 28, 2004
Perceptions of reality
One big advantage of living in Hong Kong compared to Australia is The Economist magazine arrives on a Friday, rather than a Monday. Despite it's name it's actually a darn fine current-affairs magazine. So when Chinese New Year meant my delivery was delayed until Monday, I was not happy.
Nevertheless an interesting article about something close to my heart in this week's edition: fake watches. I'm not sure if the link works without subscription so I've reproduced the article in the extended entry.
The main gist is something interesting about China - despite the proliferation of fake everything there is huge demand for the "real" thing. Quality is an issue but is not as great as you imagine. Let's stick with the article's example of watches. At the end of the day a watch's main function is to tell the time. They are also fashion items, an indicator of wealth. The fakes manage to do their job well - they tell the time and look pretty close (sometimes scarily close) to the real thing.
I've had many compliments on my watch and jokes about how much I'm overpaid (hang on, maybe they weren't joking). But it seems the overwhelming desire of most people is to buy the real thing as soon as they can. Hong Kong is the home of conspicious consumption. Telling people what you paid and where you bought it is more important than the item itself. The more ostentatious the display of wealth the better. Cars, watches, clothes. Poeple spend a fortune on these, even though they are (sometimes) prepared to live in tiny flats.
But somewhere in the back of my mind is the moral dimension. Fakes are effectively a form of stealing. The original creator goes through the effort and expense of designing, manufacturing, marketing and selling the product only to have it ripped off in a matter of weeks and selling at a fraction of the price. There are rationalisations - just look at the fuss over "free" music over Napster, Kazaa and the like. These fakes may stimulate demand for the real thing. People who buy the fakes may never buy the real thing. But let's face it, just like taking songs for free of the net or fake DVDs, these fake watches are just wrong.
But gee it looks nice of my wrist.
SELLING genuine watches in China might sound like a tough challenge. The country is one of the biggest and best producers of fakes, including reproductions of expensive foreign watches that sell for a tiny fraction of the price of the real thing.
posted by Simon on 01.28.04 at 11:45 AM in the
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Excerpt: Simon beat me to this one because I still haven't had time to read this week's Economist - that's the problem when it arrives on a Monday and you have to work for a living. He has noticed this story
Tracked: January 29, 2004 09:52 PM
The article is available to non-subscribers - there's a symbol that identifies articles that aren't.
I disagree with your conclusion, and I'll be following up on this when I have the time. I think I need to get a job in a bank so that I can spend more time on my blog.posted by: Chris on 01.28.04 at 11:15 PM [permalink]