Shanghai's Fake Markets

Fake Louis Vuitton Wallets being sold on the street. March 29, 2010
xPACIFICA/Getty Images

The most famous fake market in Shanghai was the Nanjing Xi Lu market also known as Han City. However it closed its doors in July of 2016, likely the result of increasing regulation of the retail industry in the city. The four-story market, formerly known as the Fengshine Market but also by the nickname Tao Bao City, sold an array of Chinese souvenirs, as well as handbags, luggage, watches, shoes, clothes, sports jerseys, electronics, toys, and gifts ranging from nearly indistinguishable counterfeits to cheap knockoffs. Foreigners especially combed the rows and rows of stalls in search of cheap pirated DVDs, fake Gucci bags, and imitation Rolex watches. While Nanjing Xi Lu market is closed, there are still other places travelers can go for the same experience.

Other Shopping Options

For the widest selection of cheap goods in the city, you should now head to the Yatai Xinyang Fashion and Gift Market, an underground mall at the Science & Technology Museum subway stop (Shanghai Metro Line 2, stop: 科技馆 | Science and Technology Museum). The maze of a market, also called APAC Plaza, is easy enough to explore, but be forewarned, all the merchandise on sale is likely fake, despite sellers' claims otherwise. For more information, read our complete guide to Yatai Xinyang market.

Visit Qipu Lu, which translates to "Cheap Street," for the widest knockoff selection of sportswear and women's fashion brands. The street is crowded and sellers tend to be aggressive. For a slightly calmer shopping experience, time your visit for a weekday morning.

Bargaining at Markets

No matter where you are shopping remember to bargain. It is an accepted and even expected practice in Shanghai's markets. Decide on your maximum price for an item ahead of time and stick to it. Multiple vendors carry the same products, and one may be more flexible to secure a sale. Keep your negotiations good-natured and fair, and it should be a positive experience for everyone involved.

Dangers of Fake Markets

The folks selling products at these markets tout them as "real" or "a quality." However, many fake products rip off international brands with cheaply produced imitations that often pose health and safety or environmental risks. Be careful with consumer electronics; buying something that looks like an iPhone charger for pennies at one of these markets can result in damage to your phone, your outlets, or yourself. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals can lead to illness and even death; even cheaply produced clothing and personal care items such as hairdryers can be dangerous, causing skin irritations, catching on fire, and otherwise malfunctioning.

Differences Between Counterfeits and Knockoffs

Knockoffs copy an established brand's product but do not falsely advertise with that brand's logo or label. For example, the Adidas Yeezy Boost, a sneaker developed in collaboration with Kanye West, quickly reached icon status upon its release in 2015. A knockoff would attempt to imitate the style of the sneaker but would not try to market it as a Yeezy.

A counterfeit, however, would display the Yeezy name and logo, attempting to pass it off as an authentic product. Some counterfeits look enough like the real thing to make it difficult for someone with an untrained eye to spot the fake. Counterfeiters have gotten so good at their trade that even trained professionals have been fooled before. A widely accepted general rule of thumb to remember when purchasing branded goods overseas: A deal that seems "too good to be true," usually is.

Ethics of Fake Markets

While someone could argue that purchasing knockoffs hurt legitimate companies, no laws prevent you from buying or possessing them for your personal use. However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents may seize counterfeits goods from your luggage, and you could face civil or even criminal penalties for transporting them across the border.

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