Squint, and you might believe that China’s fake Apple stores are the real deal—same with “Stars & Bucks” cafes in Palestine and even a faux IKEA (we wonder if their products are easier or harder to assemble). Regardless of your thoughts on counterfeit goods, these full-scale store replicas of some of the world’s most famous brands are strange but fascinating. Here are six shameless fake stores worth checking out on your next trip.
China's Fake Apple Stores
Several years ago, the internet exploded when multiples sites reported about the existence of a fake Apple store in Kunming, the capital of China's Yunnan province. Other sites went on to speculate that as many as 22 fake Apple stores could exist within the Middle Kingdom, although most people assumed these would be short-lived, given the real Apple's ongoing penetration into the Chinese market.
It's unclear how many fake Apple stores you'll encounter on your next trip to China, or just how easily you'll happen upon them. Here's a tip, however: If you want to be sure to see a fake Apple store in China, make a stop in Shenzhen, a sprawling megacity just across the border from Shanghai, where only five of the city's more than 30 "Apple" stores are real.
Fake Supreme Stores in Spain
Many high-end fashion brands have the money (and lawyers) to prevent counterfeiting on a large scale, even though it's as easy to find fake Louis Vuitton bags in New York's Chinatown as it is on Qipu Lu in Shanghai. Smaller and less luxurious brands aren't so immunized. Exhibit A is the American skateboarding brand Supreme, whose recent foray into the Spanish market has been marred an inconvenient truth: Fake Supreme stores have been operating here, but with a twist—they're spinning themselves as legitimate outlets!
The Fake Ikea Store in Kunming, China
Being that China is the world's capital of fakeness (the Chinese, you'll recall, have a fake Pentagon and even a fake English town), it shouldn't surprise you that fake Apple stores are only the beginning of counterfeit retail storefronts in the country. Back in 2011, Business Insider reported that stores representing fake versions of brands as diverse as McDonald's, Nike and Disney were operating in China, although many of those copies seemed, at best, like half-hearted attempts that achieved only minor copyright infringement.
To be sure, it isn't clear whether the fake IKEA store (also, perhaps coincidentally and perhaps not, located in the Yunnan city of Kunming) is still in operation. What is clear, however, is that if locals feel comfortable walking into real IKEA stores and sleeping on their furniture, a little counterfeiting is probably not going to sway them in their quest for rest.
Fake Railway Offices in India
Did you know that India is almost as famous for scams as China? If you don't, it's best to accept this fact if you plan to travel there anytime in the near future. In particular, hustlers like to intercept Taj Mahal-bound tourists at New Delhi Railway Station, claiming that their tickets are invalid and taking them to one of the fake "National Railway Office" locations located near the actual train station.
An easy tip to avoid this sort of mix up is not to talk to anyone who doesn't have a uniform. Then again, if India can fake an entire railway office, how much more of a hassle is a uniform? New tip: Don't talk to anyone in India you don't deliberately approach. There, solved!
Stars & Bucks Cafe in Palestine
The existence of a Starbucks ripoff in the Palestinian territories is slightly more forgivable than other items on this list, if only because of the economic restrictions that prevent most international companies from advertising there.
Indeed, aside from the name and logo (which, to be fair, would be enough for most courts around the world to convict), there is little about this chain of coffee shops (they have branches in Bethlehem and Ramallah, and maybe more) that resembles Starbucks—certainly not the prices. Staff at Stars & Bucks also tend to take themselves a great deal less serious than actual Starbucks baristas, a sense of humor that will come in handy should they ever find themselves in court!
Vietnam's Fake Heaven
So-called "fake markets" exist all over the world, from Silk Street Beijing and Qipu Lu Shanghai in China, to the MBK Center in Bangkok, to many shops in Mong Kong, Hong Kong. Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, however, has been called "fake heaven" by visitors on more than one occasion, with the market's fake designer handbag selection receiving particular praise
Although some visitors to Ben Thanh market advise against buying sunglasses or watches here, it seems the food and drink or quite good. No word on whether or not those are fake, although it's theoretically possible. Heading back up to China for a moment, you might want to remember that Chinese counterfeiters came up with an entirely fake egg not too long ago.
Fake Salon Products in the U.S.
While completely fake stores might be unique to foreign countries, stores that sell large hauls of counterfeit products are all over the U.S. Big-name retailers like CVS, Target and Walgreens, for example, sell "salon" shampoos, conditioners and hair styling products for rates well below what you'll pay in an actual salon. If this sounds too good to be true, that's because it is.
As XO Jane reports, these products aren't all blatant fakes, even though many are. Some are so-called "gray market" leftovers, which big stores buy en masse than allow to rot away past their expiration dates, before putting their own UPCs on them and selling them. Perhaps most shameless about this scheme, which has been going on for years and is seemingly legal, is the fact that bottles say right on them that products are only good when purchased from licensed salons. D'oh!