Shopping in NYC
April 14, 2004 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be in New York City next Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. While I'm there, I'd like to piss away some money on a knockoff watch and a handbag or two. Where and when should I go?
posted by Kwantsar to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (14 answers total)
I recently had class a trip to NYC, and we stopped in Battery Park during the afternoon, which has a bunch of those vendors. They're not licensed, so they could run off at any second.
posted by ALongDecember at 3:22 PM on April 14, 2004

I had a lot of trouble on Broadway, but it wasn't too hard to find a Vuitton knockoff in Chinatown, if you're willing to put up with some cloak and dagger nonsense. Don't give them cash until you see the merchandise! That's what everyone seemed to want from me. I guess I look like a sucker. Or a cop? That would be cooler.

Have they cracked down on that sort of thing down there? I felt really guilty looking, as I probably should.
posted by loquax at 3:24 PM on April 14, 2004

I bought matching mens and womens watches in Times Square for $10 total. A coworker of mine asked me why I apparently spent so much money on a watch before I told him how much it really cost. On the flipside, I had to get the wristband adjusted when I got home. So when I took it to a legitimate watch dealer, he glanced at the watch and gave me a look indicating that adjusting the wristband would cost more than that watch... it did.
posted by graventy at 3:28 PM on April 14, 2004

Essex or Ludlow on a Sunday afternoon (can't remember which). Between Houston and Delancey. Fun neighborhood to knock around in anyhow.
posted by adamrice at 3:34 PM on April 14, 2004

I havent lived in manhattan for a couple of years but I cant imagine its changed much. For the bags I would also suggest around Broadway from around 8th down to Houston, mid to late afternoon seems to be when they're out the most. Also midtown around Rockefeller center, but I would stick near the NYU/Village/SoHo area. Chinatown is a great place to buy cheap shit but I wouldn't count on a watch working for more than a few blocks.

With the unlicensed street vendors, its all about attitude. Walk around some, dont buy from the first guy you see (at least not right away). You can usually get them down to half their asking price or less. Act like you are interested, maybe flash a $20 or something, but then start to walk away.

IMPORTANT NOTE: a lot of these guys have a scheme going where they have a partner that watches where you put your cash then they try to rip you off after you buy. Have a bill or two ready in your pocket but keep the rest of your cash & valuables hidden and secure.
posted by headless at 3:39 PM on April 14, 2004

I can't tell you much about the knockoff watches, but as far as handbags go, I've had great success on Canal Street in Chinatown. There are some street vendors, but also be sure to go into the tiny, cramped shops. That's where I have always found the best fakes. Headless' advice is spot on - definitely don't buy the first one you see, and *definitely* bargain. Have fun!
posted by boomchicka at 3:48 PM on April 14, 2004

Canal Street/Chinatown is the best place to buy knock-offs, because you are dealing with stores, as opposed to Midtown, where it seems that independents are selling the bags.

However, if you are in Midtown: You can find the bag vendors every couple of blocks. They set up those folding tables mainly on corners. Just walk around, and I'm sure you will stumble onto one. In midtown, a good place to find these vendors is by lesser tourist attractions, such as Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, etc. Or, you can find the vendors by known shopping areas such as Lexington & the 50’s - 60’s. Specifically, there are dealers frequently set up around the temporarily closed MOMA on 53rd between 5th & 6th Ave.

Unless you want a Coach/Prada/Gucci/Murakami knock-off bag, can I just advise you that the value of these bags is really poor? The quality of the bags is not worth the money, and the vendors overcharge by a really high margin. So seriously bargain with the vendors. If you walk away after a heated negotiation, they almost always follow you!

As for watches in Midtown, look for guys carrying large garbage bags or white burlap sacks. If you approach them walking, they will stop and show you what they have.
posted by naxosaxur at 4:12 PM on April 14, 2004

Canal Street--no question. After shopping you can eat in Chinatown too : >

Also Orchard St., for a better class of knockoff, and even some originals.
posted by amberglow at 4:27 PM on April 14, 2004

it wasn't too hard to find a Vuitton knockoff in Chinatown, if you're willing to put up with some cloak and dagger nonsense. Don't give them cash until you see the merchandise!

If there's any cloak-and-dagger action, then you are on the verge of being ripped off. You should be able to buy these knock-offs out in the open. If you can't, then move on. Hidden or secret merchandise is a signal that something shady is going on, so get out. There are no secret deals in the back, under the counter, if you come back later. I've spent huge amounts of free time in Chinatown and have always bought my bootleg goods on the street, in the light of day, with zero risk to money or member. (Of course, I am a biggish fellow, and I live here and look like it; however, the three-card monte players have sometimes mistaken me for a cop, so I dunno if being a big doughy white guy makes it easier or harder to buy this junk).

If you're spending so much money on a knock-off that you're worried about being ripped off by them taking the money and not giving you then merchandise, then you are being ripped off even if they do give you the merchandise. The stuff just isn't worth enough money for them to take the risk to rip you off, so if there is enough money in play to make it worth the risk, then you have agreed to pay way too much money. If you do get ripped off this way, you've got to be the biggest rube on the planet, and I say that out of the kind of love an older brother has for a younger sibling: I just want to make sure you go into the deal with a little knowledge. I want you to like the seamy side of New York City.

For a knock-off woman's Cartier, you should pay less than $40. If you get it for $20, consider it a super steal. For a knock-off Rolex or Breitling, don't pay more than $50; $30 is a good deal. See below why those prices are still kind of high compared to what you might think they should be.

Chinatown is a great place to buy cheap shit but I wouldn't count on a watch working for more than a few blocks.

This is not necessarily true. I have a four-year-old knock-off Breitling—bought in Chinatown—which has a perfectly acceptable, perfectly functional Citizen mechanism in it. As long as it has a battery, it runs and keeps time like any other watch. It was worth the money I paid for it. That's the secret of these knock-offs: They're often perfectly good watches, just not the brands they're purported to be.

I bought matching mens and womens watches in Times Square for $10 total.

These guys are everywhere. I know that merchandise. You get what you pay for. It applies even for junk! Some junk is just better.

To increase your chance of getting a good deal when buying knock-off materials, do this:

-- Don't buy from people who have shills, touts, or a repetitive shouted pitch designed to get you to buy from them. They are desperate for business, which is not a good sign.

-- Don't buy from the guys who have handbags and watches spread out on blankets on the street, or on boxes across the top of handcarts, if you can help it. It pains me to say this, because I feel like those West Africans work damned hard for so little money, but their merchandise is usually junk, and a lot of times they are working for some Fagin upstairs who will rip them off when it comes time to split the cut, which means the salesmen are more likely to rip you off.

-- Do buy from people who have a lot of new merchandise, a lot of employees, or a fairly large display or shop. It shows permanence, and permanence is a result of being as above-board as possible. Cops do shut the scoundrels down. There are legitimate booths or shops which sell bootleg goods: your job is to find them.

-- Related, you are better off buying in a retail district than in an office district, meaning, buying in Midtown is a mistake because you'll pay more, you'll have a smaller selection, and because they guys are parked on a sidewalk (and not in a shop, booth, or stall like they are in Chinatown), you may never see them again if it comes time to complain, or if you want to go back for a second helping of a good deal.

-- Inspect the merchandise. Look for flaking color, scratches, repairs, weak or broken seams. Once something passes your inspection don't give it back! Hang onto it until you pay. They may not on purpose be too likely to swap the item you like for an uninspected unit just like it, but they might do it by accident.

-- Don't take a shrink-wrapped unit unless they let you open it and inspect it on the spot.

-- Don't take it if they won't show you that it works by putting a battery in it.

-- Don't take it if you're tired of shopping, or just tired. Just walk away and come back another day.

-- Don't shop with your entire family, church group, or high school. There should just be a couple of you, at most. Make some kind of effort to not look like a complete tourist.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:50 PM on April 14, 2004

You can also get a lot of stuff on Broadway around 27-31 St., I believe. But Canal's really the place to go. It's also great for (legitimate) perfumes and colognes, for what it's worth.

However, as Mo said, you do get what you paid for - graventy, if your watches don't/haven't broken in under six months, I'd be surprised. It's the same with sunglasses.

Don't think of it as a great deal on one item - instead, understand that yours will likely fall apart in 1/3 or 1/2 the time if you're lucky and factor in the cost of buying more.
posted by Sinner at 8:28 PM on April 14, 2004

To follow up, instead of buying one pair of sunglasses for $100, you can buy 10 $5 pairs, all the same or different. They're all going to be crappy and likely to fall apart, but it's harder to lose 10 pair than one and you get the variety, too., while still saving $50 or so.
posted by Sinner at 8:44 PM on April 14, 2004

Canal Street is the place, but there is more for sale than is visible sometimes. If you go into some of the shopping arcades and ask, you can see catalogs (normally kept out of sight) containing counterfeit bags, watches, pens and such that aren't sold out in the open. The actual merchandise will be in the back room of some nearby shop, probably buried under a ton of "I Love NY" T-Shirts, and someone will go get it once you've come to terms.

This is only recommended for the adventurous, though--there should be plenty of $10 watches and similarly cheap handbags available in the open. From time to time the merchants will recognize a hired detective, the word will go out on the radio, and all the Vuitton knock-offs will disappear behind steel shutters for a little while, but usually not for too long.
posted by hashashin at 9:10 PM on April 14, 2004

If you walk away after a heated negotiation, they almost always follow you!

Very true... but dealing with Chinatown shop merchants is very different from dealing with street hustlers. Like Mo said, look for the ones with lots of employees, but especially in Chinatown LOOK before you buy. There can easily be ten shops in a row that are selling the exact same item for ten different prices. Go back and forth. These guys will practically kill for your business.

And god only knows why I said Houston when I was thinking Canal.
posted by headless at 12:17 AM on April 15, 2004

Canal Street, Canal Street, Canal Street, and listen to Mo Nickels. Shop around. My wife and I bought a bag for our niece last fall and hit half a dozen shops before we found a vendor that would go as low as we were willing to pay. They all have similar, if not identical, merchandise and varying selections.

You can have nice luck buying an inexpensive watch on midtown streets where the tourists converge. As a kid I used to buy a faux fancy watch every Christmas by Rockefeller Center. These days the vendors are mostly by Times Square. Street vending laws have lapsed so you'll find more salesmen than in previous years.

Have fun and refuse to overpay.
posted by werty at 9:26 AM on April 15, 2004

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