The elite of human society has, down the ages, always worn expensive goods to signal their status to others of their class, discreetly but clearly, "I am a high net-worth individual, and I want you to know that". I am not a member of the elite, which is perhaps just as well, as I really wouldn’t know what to be looking out for! The designer label is just not on my radar, I'd far rather have a week’s holiday walking the Wales Coastal Path than a Gucci handbag! However, pride before a fall: I recently fell prey to a rip-off website which purported to sell authentic UGGS, the famous Australian brand of sheepskin boots.
I work in a small office that has been converted from an out-building and in the winter months I suffer with cold feet. This year I thought I would treat myself to some sheepskin boots. Having looked round a few shops and not found what I was looking for, I spotted a reduction on the Debenhams web-site. I bought a pair of black sheepskin boots, and when they arrived I buried my face in the beautiful soft cuff - they were gorgeous! Sadly, though, they were a bit too small, and after wrestling with my wishful thinking, 'Oh I'll manage, they'll be alright', I realised I'd have to return them.
When I went back on the internet, I was, frankly, in a bit too much of a hurry. I found a bargain pair of UGGS on a website which looked like a UK based seller of discounted boots - maybe old stock, I convinced myself. I didn't take the time to look closely at the site, always a good idea. I hit that 'to buy' button impulsively, without taking the usual wise precaution of showing it to someone else in the family first.
I should have known something was amiss when there was no acknowledgement of my order in my email inbox, and should have become even more suspicious when a few days later I got an email in badly-spelt, wrongly-punctuated English. I've binned plenty of spam and phishing emails in my time but on this occasion I was ignoring those little mental warning flags going up - I was in denial.
It took over a week for the boots to arrive, (in retrospect, I see that they were not despatched until the payment had been taken, in Shanghai, my bank informs me) and the package was suspiciously light for genuine sheepskin knee boots (just under a kilo). When I opened it I found inside a pair of boots with suedette outers, plastic soles, and the lining - well, if that's sheepskin, then it's a sheep in teddy-bear's clothing! This would be funny, if it were not for several things:
Firstly, I have a modest budget for clothing, and the £73 I spent on these actually hurts - so I'll just have to take this as a salutory lesson, and get on with wearing my other footwear to work this winter.
Secondly, when I went on to the official UGGS Australia website I was horrified to read the following information, which made me feel bad that I may have inadvertently contributed to financing the activities of any of these people:
"Infamous terrorist groups, organized crime rings, and gangs such as the Crips, Florencia 13, White Fence, MS-13, Yi Ging Organization, Lim Organization, Big Circle Boys, 14K, Sun Yee On triads, Camorra, Los Zetas, Gambino family, La Cosa Nostra, Chinese triads, Japanese Yakuza, Italian Camorra, Russian Mafia, Al Queda, and Hezbullah finance their operations—including terrorism, drug, sex, and arms trafficking—through the sale and trafficking of counterfeits."
Lastly, as I've written before on this blog page, I feel quite passionately that cheap goods are not without their cost - in sweat-shop labour, pollution issues, and in undermining the valid good work of designers, craftsmen and honest tradespeople.
I hope that by writing this blog I can possibly head off some other folk from making the same error I did. Incidentally, when I googled for the above-mentioned website for this blog, I discovered it has now been shut down: http://gbcinternetenforcement.net/15-153