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For the last three weeks my cell phone has become a unitasker. I’ve gotten bad at checking my text messages, returning calls (just from my mom, no one else calls me) and my Instagram numbers are way down. When I pick up my phone in the morning, at the end of the day and a million times in between, I’m only looking at one thing.

Fake bags.

I’ve gotten sucked deep into the world of replica (or fake or counterfeit or knockoff or whatever word feels more comfortable to you) designer goods. From Diane Von Furstenberg dresses to Tiffany earrings to Balenciaga sneakers, I’ve been browsing obsessively and bookmarking things like my wallet is as big as my eyes. While I’m drawn to… literally everything (I want the Saint Laurent Opyum heels and the Cartier Juste Un Clou bracelet and every piece of Zimmerman “inspired” clothing I can get my hands on), nothing has me checking my bank account and making some hasty calculations quite like the mountains of fake bags that fill my phone screen.

The fact that I could get a Celine Box bag for $300-ish (which retails for $4,400) or a Chanel Boy bag for $400-ish (which retails for $4,000-$5,000) or a YSL shopping bag for $60-ish (which retails for $995) is almost intoxicating. For someone who really only carries a purse on the weekends, I’ve been intrigued by luxury bags since I bought my first Kate Spade bag out of college. After years of daily use, it’s stained, falling apart and looks like a nightmare if you get too close, but I can’t find anything I like as much in the same price range. The new Kate Spade collection isn’t doing it for me, I’ve heard bad things about Rebecca Minkoff’s quality and Michael Kors over the top branding (at least in their mid-tier options) are a huge turnoff. I want something structured, sleek and minimally branded, which is apparently impossible to get unless you want to spend thousands of dollars… Or go with the knockoff.

But, I haven’t pulled the trigger. It’s clear from the get go that buying a quality fake bag isn’t as easy as throwing something in your Amazon cart. The best reps, the ones made with real leather and an eye for detail, require you to work with a seller who will purchase your bag directly from a factory in China. This means using a combination of WeChat (to contact your seller), Western Union (or, in slightly rarer circumstances, PayPal) and one of the popular shipping companies (DHL, EMS, etc) to get your bag. It might take weeks, it might take months, and at the end your bag could still get seized by customs.

Even if your bag does make it to you, it might not be exactly what you hoped for. Many sellers will send pre-shipment photos (also known as PSPs) of your bag so you can highlight any issues and request a different bag, but photos can be misleading, even if that’s not the intention. Lighting can change the color of leather and you can never know what a bag feels like until you have it in your hands.

Although, the impressive research and understanding needed to successfully purchase a good fake bag is also appealing to me. This morning I spent 15 minutes reading LASIK surgery reviews. My vision isn’t great, but it’s certainly not bad enough to require LASIK. I just love doing research. Digging into the acronyms and understanding the codenames for certain replica factories is appealing to me. I could spend hours reading bag, seller and factory reviews. I probably already have.

It’s easy for me to get wrapped up in how “cheap” everything is ($300 is still a lot of money, even if it is much more reasonable than $4,000), but I’m still not sure if I’ll ever make a purchase. Would I care if someone called out my fake bag? I don’t know. Do the moral implications bother me? I don’t know. Do I like what it says about me as a consumer? I don’t know. Buying counterfeit products isn’t illegal (selling them is a different matter), but every time I seriously start to consider it the “YOU WOULDN’T DOWNLOAD A CAR?” commercial plays in my head. I may never buy one of these bags, but I’m not going to stop reading about them (and living vicariously through the people who do buy them) anytime soon.

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