What­sApp or­ders re­place se­cret rooms

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Nawal Al Ramahi @nawal_ramahi

Fake goods sellers are turn­ing to What­sApp and home de­liv­er­ies to avoid be­ing caught out in a renewed crack­down by the author­i­ties.

Famed for their back­room col­lec­tions of high-end knock-offs, the shop own­ers of Karama say they are now re­luc­tant to keep hand­bags and watches on site.

The shift on­line comes as the De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment (DED), which reg­u­lates the sale of goods in Dubai, re­vealed that they have raided and shut­down about 100 apart­ments found to be packed with fake goods. Sellers caught flog­ging fakes face a Dhs15,000 fine for the first of­fence, Dhs30,000 for the sec­ond and have their shops shut down the third time.

In the past, sellers have in­vited buy­ers into back­rooms or nearby apart­ments where goods are stocked - which many say is now too risky.

“Po­lice are con­stantly check­ing our shops, it’s too risky to keep th­ese bags in the stores,” one fake goods seller, Saeed, told a 7DAYS reporter pos­ing as a po­ten­tial buyer. “Po­lice are al­ways around, it’s too much trou­ble madam.

“That’s why I now pre­fer to use What­sApp. Just give me your num­ber and I will de­liver the items later to your house. I will de­liver the bags to your home af­ter mid­night.”

Saeed was among at least 10 fake goods deal­ers that we spoke to in Karama. Some con­tinue to stock goods in nearby apart­ments but many opt for home de­liv­ery.

Sellers typ­i­cally send a snap of a wall of bags (pic­tured left) and ask prospec­tive buy­ers to choose. They then send close-ups, show­ing the

qual­ity. Most sellers de­scribe the bags as ‘first class’, the most ex­pen­sive at up to Dhs3,000. The ‘sec­ond class’ and ‘third class’ bags are the cheap­est knock-offs.

Sellers boasted of Louis Vuit­ton satchels for Dhs550, Burberry for Dhs850 and Chanel for Dhs1,500.

Ju­mana, a Jor­da­nian ex­pat, sells via What­sApp and de­liv­ers the goods in her car. Un­like the others, she only sells on­line.

Un­til re­cently she ad­ver­tised fakes via In­sta­gram, but re­cently shut her ac­count down af­ter the author­i­ties warned of Dhs25,000 fines. She said: “I meet my cus­tomers at beauty sa­lons and then I show them my items. Some­times, I carry th­ese items in my car and I keep pic­tures of them on my phone.

“I used to have an In­sta­gram ac­count show­ing pic­tures for th­ese items. How­ever, I closed re­cently.”

She added: “Women love lux­ury bags but they can’t af­ford them. I have been buy­ing coun­ter­feit goods, in­clud­ing bags, watches, sun­glasses and pens from a Chi­nese man. He im­ports th­ese goods from China and Thai­land.”

A spokesman for DED said it is aware of the What­sApp trend.

He added: “Sell­ing fake prod­ucts is il­le­gal, ir­re­spec­tive of whether it’s done through What­sApp or any other chan­nel.”

De­spite the risk, sellers con­tinue to lure shop­pers with ever higher-qual­ity knock-offs. When 7DAYS took a fake Louis Vuit­ton bag to the Dubai Mall store, the copy con­vinced staff. One as­sis­tant said: “I re­ally like your bag. Louis Vuit­ton stopped sell­ing this de­sign a while ago.”

ON OF­FER: Pic­tures of fake bags are sent to po­ten­tial buy­ers, who then send back their se­lec­tion and await de­liv­ery to their home or ho­tel

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