Last winter my friend sent me a link to a website which sold (usually) expensive and branded jackets at a very low price. However, the more I thought about it the less I believed that a jacket which sells for around £200 in a shop was available for the low price of £30. Even if it was an outlet, that price was too good to be true. So, I did what I am best at and did a Google search of the website and looked for possible clues. It turned out that I was right — the site was created only very recently and there was no customer service or business emails associated with it. I decided to skip this purchase and save myself some money. When I checked back on the site a couple days later, it had been removed and there was a scam warning going around after its takedown.
Little did I know that the world of counterfeits would be a huge part of my internship just a few months later at Snapdragon with the Saltire Scholar Programme. Snapdragon is a company who are experts at brand protection and searching for counterfeits and intellectual property infringements and removing them from online marketplaces. I had no idea about brand protection and although as a law student I was aware of the importance of intellectual property, the scale of online fakes was unknown to me.
As a student who is often tight on money or would like to look good on a budget, I know that I am more susceptible to scams or fake products. Social media does not help either, since it can portray a very unrealistic image of wealth and luxury, pressuring me and other active social media users to spend more money so we can attain what is shown online. One of the reasons I was really excited about those discounted jackets was because I thought I would look cooler, and who doesn’t love a bargain for an otherwise expensive item? I was almost willing to risk ‘looking cool’ by buying from an illegal source.
The problem with buying counterfeits is that you have no idea what is happening behind the scenes and where your money is going. Is it an illegal business with sweatshops who abuse their workers and pollute the environment? In addition, you never know what goes into your products, especially when purchasing beauty items from shops that do not test their products.
Customers should be vigilant and responsible with their purchases, but it can be unfair to put all the blame on them. Young or vulnerable people, such as students or people in difficult financial situations, can be easily influenced or pressured into buying counterfeit items because they saw influencers promoting them, however, they cannot afford to pay full price for the item.
It is really interesting to see at Snapdragon how widespread the issue of counterfeits is and how many areas that copycats impact. Revenue, workforce, quality, health and safety, reputation is all affected. With bigger brands and global corporations, the main problem can be the supply chain and safety and quality of the products. However, for smaller brands or independent/family-owned businesses in addition to these issues, counterfeits risk the livelihood and revenue of the original sellers and creators.
I am glad that Snapdragon selected me as intern because apart from the obvious skills I have implemented, such as communication, teamwork, and taking responsibility, I have learned about counterfeits which are a part of our everyday lives but often aren’t of interest until we become directly affected by them. I will never forget to double check each product before purchasing them and making sure that I am supporting the person who worked hard for their product to be on the market.