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Street trading, or what the Devil wears in Greece

24 March 2011 / 22:03:00  GRReporter
3209 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

During only a short walk in downtown Athens one can buy a watch, a bag, jewelry, sunglasses, CDs with music and films and all this just for a 100 euros. For a slightly larger amount a person can buy even the latest model of a mobile phone. Where from? From the street "traders" that stretch big white canvases along the sidewalks of the central streets and sell duplicates of global brands.

Black trade is apparently flourishing in Greece and is quite profitable. The "traders" who are mostly from Africa and South Asia have set up their small open air markets in some places. At least 30 of them had gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Law School today and awaited their customers. The arrangement of the goods and their enviable calmness meant that obviously the municipal police had not visited the area recently.

But the people, who sell duplicates on the street and run away with large bundles of goods on their shoulders upon the appearance of the police, are only the tip of the iceberg. Illegal trade is the curse of the branch worldwide, and it is almost devastating for the half-dead Greek market.

"I can not understand why the authorities can not handle this problem and expel all those people who literally sit in front of shop windows. Why should we have to compete with people who do not pay any taxes and make clear profits? Shopkeepers pay rents, taxes, bills, salaries and insurances while they pay nothing," is the view of the angry Mrs. Catherine, owner of an apparel store.

Yesterday the Greek police discovered and seized duplicates of world brands from three warehouses located in downtown Athens. In particular, a total of 25,000 pairs of shoes and 50,000 watches, all duplicates of world famous companies, were seized.

Just in the last six months the police and authorities who fight economic crimes found over 15 such warehouses in underground and ground facilities, the total value of duplicates confiscated exceeding 30 million euros. According to police data, 15,766 household articles were seized last year as well as 155,252 garments and shoes, 58,741 handbags, purses and watches, 33,985 sunglasses and other types of glasses, 84,098 CDs and DVDs, 16,027 tourist cards,  249,410 lighters and 15,989 different articles.

The goods were destroyed after being confiscated, but due to the huge numbers in some cases, census and inventory continue eversince.

What, however, are the people buying from the street? The 17-year-old Mary and Daphne shared that they often prefer the duplicates of otherwise expensive sunglasses and handbags. "The original handbags are very expensive and my parents are not able to give me the money. I can find a bag for 20 euros on the street, which looks just like the original. So, I'm in fashion for far less money."

The replica brands cost no more than 20-30 euros. Sometimes even chic ladies bargain for a lower price of a handbag, which can cost from hundreds to several thousand euros in the shop and then brag to their friends and colleagues. So, even The Devil Wears Prada.

Duplicates are sometimes so skillfully made that it is difficult to distinguish them from the genuine goods. A lady who bought a bag worth several thousand euros from a central shop in Athens some time ago found out that she had been cheated. She sent the bag for repair at the headquarters of the manufacturing company in London and they informed her from there that her bag is a fake.

Another category of street "traders" are young men who get close to passers-by and offer them glasses, mobile phones and watches, claiming them to be original. They usually say that sell them at lower than the actual prices, because they were taken from bankrupt shops, but in fact, they are either replicas or fenced goods.

Bargaining usually takes place "under the nose" of the municipal police and literally at the doors of the shops whose owners, sunk by the financial crisis, spend hours waiting for customers ready to buy something. Some of them protest, while others have simply accepted the fact that while consumer interest in cheap duplicates remains high, illegal trade will continue to exist.

Tags: SocietyIllegal tradeDuplicatesWordl known brandsPoliceSeizure
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