Bogus goods such as Rolex watches, Gucci handbags, Tiffany jewelry or Windows operating systems are all the rage these days, especially in China, where copyright infringement is king.
But whoever would have thought that fake laundry soap, (Tide detergent, to be specific) would be a big seller anywhere?
Last September in Seattle, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized 5,000 boxes of the counterfeit laundry detergent from a ship that had arrived from China. It is estimated that shipment would have generated a $4,000 profit, which may not seem like a lot for pirated goods, but ever little piece of booty is ill-gotten and adds up.
“A detergent does seem a little weird, but you have to understand that it’s 300 or 400 percent profit. The fakes could have ended up in mom-and-pop groceries or maybe some outdoor market…the counterfeit detergents were found because the technicians saw something in the import manifest on their computers that caught their attention,” says Judy Staudt, supervisory import specialist with the CBP.
The CBP now is the largest law enforcement agency in the country, with about 58,000 employees. Nationwide, 95 percent of overseas cargo moves through Seattle’s ports and it comes in a million 40-foot metal containers, all of which have to be inspected.
Counterfeiting costs American businesses $200 billion to $250 billion annually, according to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition and oddly enough, the same techniques employed to search for terrorist weapons after 9/11 (detecting radiation through transported containers via a portal monitor) also detect counterfeit detergent.
When a sampling of the detergent boxes was opened, agents noticed that all the boxes had the label “Made in USA”. Each box also listed the weight in kilograms, not pounds, using a comma as in “3,6 kg,” which is how weights are listed in many countries. In America, however, it would read “3.6.” From a distance, the color printing looks much like the original, but a closer look reveals a fuzziness, such as that which occurs when one takes a picture of a picture, which is exactly what happened in this case.
The boxes of detergent are now stored in a warehouse and will remain there until the investigation is finished. The shipment may well end up in a landfill.
It would seem that keeping clean has only a little bit to do with one’s choice of detergents.