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I’m disgusted that state resources are being used to protect the corporate interests of CHANEL and GUCCI.

A while back, I was summoned for jury duty and found myself being considered a case against a young Latina with a court translator. She was accused of selling counterfeit GUCCI and CHANEL purses on the street in L.A. After introducing the case, the judge asked: “Is any reason why you could not objectively apply the law?” My hand shot up.

I said: “I have to admit, I’m kind of disgusted that state resources are being used to protect the corporate interests of CHANEL and Gucci.

Then I gave a spiel about corruption in the criminal justice system and finished up with:

“I think that society should be protecting its weakest members, not penalizing them for trivial infractions. There is no way in good conscience to give that girl a criminal record, and I don’t care if she’s guilty. Some things are more important than the rules.”I was summarily dismissed.

The people who buy bags that cost thousands of dollars will not try to save some pennies by buying a knock-off.

Criminal prosecutions are one way to decrease counterfeiting and, yes, protect corporate interests, and there is one more shame. You are a fake person, a liar, a hypocrite. You are insincere and pretentious. You are an impostor. But, honestly, why does anyone care?

Policing counterfeiters is a response to a much more intangible concern protecting cultural capital.

Criminal prosecutions are one way to decrease counterfeiting and, yes, protect corporate interests. And there is one more: shame.

I suspect that counterfeits don’t cut into CHANEL’s profits. The people who buy bags that cost thousands of dollars will not try to save some pennies by buying a knock-off. Or, to put it the inverse way, the people who are purchasing the counterfeits wouldn’t suddenly be buying the originals if their supply ran out.

Instead, policing the counterfeiters is a response to a much more intangible concern, something Pierre Bourdieu called “cultural capital.” 

The main reason why people spend that kind of money on handbags is to be seen as the kind of person who does. The luxury designer bags signal to others that they are “that kind” of person, the type that can afford a real GUCCI. The products, then, are ways that people put boundaries between themselves and lesser others.

If the phony masses can do it, it no longer distinguishes the elites from the rest of us.

But, when lesser others can buy knock-offs on the street in L.A. and parade around as if they can buy Gucci too! Well, then the whole point of buying GUCCI is lost! If the phony masses can do it, it no longer distinguishes the elites from the rest of us.

In this sense, CHANEL and GUCCI are very interested in reducing counterfeiting; the rich people who buy their products will only do so if buying them proves that they’re special.

The article was adapted from the article “Why the rich are afraid of counterfeit goods” by Lisa Wade.