How on earth do I avoid buying fakes and counterfeits? What are counterfeit sellers on ebay doing to steal your money from you?
I write this to inform the wider ebay community about what I have discovered as I too have bought and thankfully, (due to Paypal's great Buyer Protection) have recovered my money from all these transactions*.
*it's true - you only lose your return postage cost as you have to return the item, but it's better to avoid this in the first place!
FIRSTLY, DO NOT BUY FROM HONG KONG OR CHINA.
No matter how good the deal seems, it is only as good as a fake as the item is actually fake.
Think about it. A lot of goods are made in China. A lot of goods are 'manufactured' in China. That means the moulds, presses, dies, actual manufacturing machines and processes that are used are in someone's possession in China. Who can stop those people and others who might 'borrow' those tools from secretly copying and making items 'additional' to the orders for the real item?
In reality, as there is a plethora of cheap manufacturing tools/processes in this part of the world plus the cheap labour to boot plus the added perceived financial gain when they can pawn their $5 copy as a $150 genuine article, no wonder they all get into it.
Some spot checks to tell if it's a fake/counterfeit:
Leather vs Plastic.
Leather smells like LEATHER. Plastic smells like PLASTIC! With purchases I have made, the plastic looks like leather as it is easily stamped to have a leather grain feel and look, but the tell tale sign is that it smells manufactured. Go ahead, do it now - get that (genuine!) brand name leather bag and give it a good smell. Okay, it might not be fresh, but that's real leather. Plastic smells like chemicals mixed together and usually has a 'non-organic' or 'non-living' and even 'artificial' smell. If you aren't so cool with your nose, get someone who has a good nose to try it.
Another good way is to google product images on the net - just search the images under google and compare A LOT OF THEM. There can be subtle differences, but a good starting point is the stamping on the item - things like 'MADE IN FRANCE' - the genuine article usually has a very good quality stamp using a sans-serif font with a very straight baseline. Copies are pretty much stamped letter by letter so the baseline (the imaginary line the letters are all resting on) is actually crooked (even by a bit! - don't be fooled - these are fakes too!). Counterfeiters seem to prefer serif fonts for some strange reason - all the better for us! Be very careful here too though - on one recent google search, I uncovered a Japanese (!) electronics review website who unknowingly reviewed and posted pictures of items that were COPIES!! I have informed them and they have taken action on it.
My favourite! I like electronic products. So too do counterfeiters. Look at the Barcode Label. SONY, for example, only use stickers as barcodes. Most counterfeit sellers will post a photo of their product where you can easily see the barcode of the product, but lo and behold, it is actually "printed" as part of the packaging (of course - why would counterfeiters bother with SERIALISING the barcodes when they can just print thousands of identical ones! - right onto the packaging) Ask the seller is the barcode a sticker or printed on the packaging. If they reply that it's NOT a sticker, (or even, NOT reply) steer clear away from them.
Postage Fee Ridiculousness
Postage from Hong Kong and China is ridiculously cheap. Counterfeit sellers are sending their items REGISTERED for as little as USD$6 and charge you USD$30 for it. For those living in western countries, $30 may seem fair, but is it really? Look at the postage stamps/cost used when you get your item and calculate the postage yourself. If you are satisfied that the item is indeed genuine, I recommend you report them as overcharging on postage fees and give them a negative feedback. The seller will winge and cry to a stupid degree, and tell you stories like 'we had to drive to the post office' - complete RUBBISH! They probably live next door. And extremely likely don't own any vehicles - think high rise apartments, dense population, no need for own transport! For actual postage of USD$6, it should only be max USD$10 for postage - REMEMBER - the packing material is MADE IN CHINA TOO!!! So why would the postage be USD$30???
I am glad the Paypal Buyer Protection scheme works well to protect buyers. All the sellers from Hong Kong and China I have dealt with say they won't refund the initial postage but are happy to refund the price of the product itself. Of course they are! The cost of the product is already paid by you in that ridiculous postage you paid in the first place. IGNORE THEIR PLEAS. Paypal Buyer Protection pays back the ENTIRE amount you sent in the first place. So that's why you only lose return postage should you be required to return the item.
How can I avoid this in the first place?
I search worldwide by using 'Preferences, Location' and set it to Worldwide, but when I search i add "-hong -china" (or similar) in my search field so that as much from those countries can be disregarded from my search.
e.g. if i was looking for "panasonic cd player", I would type
"panasonic cd player -hong -china"
Some items still show up, but at least you have been spared that ones which return your search results as 6,000 or so items - this usually brings your search down by HALF at least!!
If you need more powerful searching, go to the advanced search options and tick "Search including, Title and Description". This is will narrow it even more down.
If you have any queries, please feel free to contact myself. If something you are interested in isn't covered here, I am more than happy to tell you my knowledge to avoid buying a copy/counterfeit/fake item.