August 04, 2014

Checking Out Istanbul's Knockoff Marketplace While It Lasts


Walking through Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar reveals a treasure trove of counterfeit goods: fake luxury watches, poorly stitched designer underwear, plastic headphones labeled "Beats by DJ Eric," and a few boxes of counterfeit Cialis are all available and much more. 

I recently caught up with some vendors to find out about their sales technique. 

A 22-year-old ring leader and his two compadres stood on a street corner just south of Taksim square, the epicenter of downtown Istanbul. Gaudy necklaces, tchotchke bracelets, and oversize rings were laid out on tables in front of them. The technique consists of yelling at tourists as they pass by. 

“Beautiful jewelry, best price.” 

Before long, blue and red lights flashed on the horizon, and the oldest of the group signaled to the other two with some head movements that it was time to beat it. They quickly picked up the tables and crab-walked around the corner, hiding in the shadows until the cops passed. I followed them. 

The ring leader cobbled together a little bit of English to explain his actions: “I’m too poor for an education. I wanted to do something fun, and I like selling things.” 

He looked over his shoulder and saw that the cops were gone. He waved farewell to me and went back to making sales. I resumed my shopping. 

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