Shanghai: Fake it 'til you make a good buy

By Amelia Wade

Amid the hubbub of haggling stallholders, Amelia Wade finds standing her ground pays off at Shanghai's Fakes Market

Fake Converse Chuck Taylor shoes at The Fakes Market in Shanghai. Photo / Supplied
Fake Converse Chuck Taylor shoes at The Fakes Market in Shanghai. Photo / Supplied

The rush of blood after a good haggle is like nothing else - the adrenalin spikes and the heart races while the store owner pouts.

They say victory is sweet, and it is.

The Fakes Market in Shanghai can be daunting - it's a three-storey mall crammed with stores manned by owners desperate to sell you their knock-off wares.

Before entering, we are schooled in the ways of the market.

You must look without looking, because then the sellers will latch on; then if you're interested in something, let the games begin: laugh at their first price then offer them a fraction of it and don't be afraid to walk away.

Trained, cashed up-and eager, we enter.

"You need watch? I sell you watch, best price," a teenage girl calls straight off the bat.

I had barely glanced at her stall and was clearly already wearing one. She got a shaken head and dropped gaze response.

Flickering fluoro bulbs light rows of cubby-hole stores filled with so-called designer handbags, sunglasses, Chuck Taylor sneakers, watches, scarves and Westerners giving locals their all.

In 2010, Louis Vuitton decided it was sick of fakes markets undermining it and selling imitations of its goods for so much less and tried to sweep the streets of the knock-offs by threatening stall owners with court action.

And in July this year, the China division of the luxury brand slapped a number of stores selling fakes with lawsuits claiming 500,000 yuan ($100,000) in damages.

But don't think that's stopped the cunning locals from stocking cheap knock-offs. You only have to ask.

If you linger in a stall long enough, the conversation changes from: "You want bag?" To: "Louis Vuitton, Chanel? I can get you Louis Vuitton." A simple nod is enough. The shop owner grabs my hand and takes me out the back, leaving her shop unguarded.

A key hidden in a plain bag hanging from one of the shelved wall of purses is taken out and, after she does a quick manoeuvre, the wall reveals itself to be a hidden door.

"Louis Vuitton," she says, though she needn't bother.

Bags and wallets covered in the brand's distinctive pattern line the secret cupboard from floor to ceiling, with a few Chanel and Gucci bags thrown in for good measure.

"See? Louis Vuitton, Chanel!"

I select a Chanel bag and I'm told it's latest season. Apparently, when worn, it can "go day or night".

"So pretty, like you. And long chain which is good because you so nice and tall," she says trying to butter me up.

But there's a white line along the stitching and I point it out. The woman grabs a cloth out of nowhere and starts rubbing furiously.

The guilt sets in because I'm not sure that I even really wanted it and now she's breaking into a sweat trying to please me, so I walk away quickly shaking my hands, feeling even worse.

But the interaction was enough to bolster my confidence and, with head held high, the courage is finally there to barter for a pair of Chucks I spotted earlier.

Conveniently there's already a pair on my feet, so gesturing to my shoes then pointing to a maroon pair on the shelf along and giving a size is enough to get past the language barrier.

Out comes the calculator and the young store worker taps in "400".

The training kicks in and I laugh, shaking my head before I tap in "50".

He laughs again and drops the price to "350".

More laughing as I keep my bid at 50.

And after what felt like at least five minutes of calculator swapping, laughing, him saying, "good shoe" and me replying, "knock-off" he reaches his "best price" of 100.

I know he can go lower and so walk away before strategically passing his stall a couple of minutes later.

He recognises me, grabs my wrist, pulls me into his sneaker-lined store and thrusts the maroon Chucks into my hands.

"Fine. 80. You tough, lady."

MARKET TIPS
* The Fakes Market can be found at 580 Nanjing West Rd.
* The vendors take only cash, but there are eftpos machines in the mall.
* Carrying a fake wallet with less cash in it is recommended, so the vendors can't see how much you really have.

* Amelia Wade flew direct to Shanghai from Auckland courtesy of Air New Zealand.

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