Shopping. You can’t get around it. If I’m not shopping for groceries, I’m paying for gas, or buying a lottery ticket. And I must admit I love to shop. But lately it hasn’t been so fun. Something has changed and I don’t like it.
Every time I go to pay for something, whether it be at my local King Kullen supermarket, or picking up drycleaning or paying for a drink at a bar, I get stopped. Not because I’m being carded, or that I have bad breath…but because the shopkeeper is doing something that never usually happens. They are checking my money…not once, but looking at it up in the light for the watermark, highlighting the money with the yellow pen, and trying to feel Benjamin’s jacket for those special grooves. It’s like getting a strip search. I mean, I’m trying to do my part to help stimulate the American economy and all of this is happening right in front of me – in slow motion – while 10 other people are waiting to pay for their eggs and bringing home the bacon (no pun intended).
The first time I was “strip searched” was at my local hardware store. Within 2 seconds of my taking my Benjamin out of my green wallet, I could see the shopkeeper’s body language completely change from friendly to something out of a crazy Jim Carrey movie. Eyes popping out, nose flared and arm raised, she declared loudly after grabbing the Benjamin from my hand, “we have to check this… wait right here…don’t move”. I nearly had a hive.
She darted out to a small glass windowed room and didn’t come out for at least five minutes. In my mind I was thinking that I really didn’t need to buy those insect traps, and maybe I could work around the leak in the bathroom and caulk at another time. But before I escaped hardware hell, the shopkeeper returned and looked relieved…“it’s okay…we’ve just have had a lot of counterfeit bills come in here this week and we had to check it.”
I don’t know about you, but other than feeling mildly relieved, I was also really annoyed. I had read about incidents of the $100 dollar bill being counterfeited, but like most people, waved it off as something that happened to other people. I can’t even order a filet-o-fish at McDonalds as they have just installed a big sign that says that they do not accept $100 bills because a large percentage of those bills are counterfeit. Detection of counterfeit bills is serious business…if an unsuspecting shopper attempts to use a fake bill, federal law requires that the note be confiscated by the Treasury Department. Unfortunately, the discoverer is not reimbursed for the value of the phony bill. Talk about putting a damper on one’s shopping spree!
And it doesn’t matter if its Abe, Andrew, William, or good ole Benji, the amount of checking and cross-checking, and running around lately has escalated and it has really curbed my personal use of cash to buy things… anything! So I did some internet sleuthing (as one does in their spare time), and discovered not only are Benjamins the banknote of choice for counterfeiters due to its broad circulation, but in recent years “supernotes” are so authentic that even currency experts can’t tell the difference… troubling indeed.
It is ironic also that the very item that needs the most counterfeit protection … is the very thing that gets counterfeited the most. And even more ironic, the person who coined the term “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”… was Benjamin Franklin!
If you purchased any “Angry Birds” or Disney-themed gear in New York City recently, there’s a chance you got less than your money’s worth. In late June, an alleged counterfeit ring that supplied fake “Angry Birds” and Disney merchandise to stores around the city was broken up, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office. Unauthorized knapsacks, watches, umbrellas, pencil cases, caps, toy cars and action figures—with an estimated retail value of up to $500,000—were among the loot purchased in an undercover operation by a private investigator.
Three individuals, Ying Jiang, 38, Deqiang Luo, 49, and Haiwei Chen, 54, were charged with first-degree trademark counterfeiting, a crime that could net them up to 15 years of imprisonment. “Such trademark counterfeiting defrauds the toy industry of millions of dollars in worldwide revenue,” said DA Richard A. Brown in a statement, “and rips off honest consumers who purchase these fake and typically shoddily-made toys.”
Poorly manufactured toys—those that incorporate toxic paints or plastic, for example—can harm children, while inferior flame-retardant fabrics can even put a child’s life in danger. According to AOL’s Daily Finance website, which places counterfeit toys at number 10 of the top ten counterfeit items seized by authorities in the U.S., some counterfeit toys “are made with poisonous materials, such as lead, and others can malfunction and hurt children, such as electronic toys that overheat or even explode. “ Clearly the counterfeit market in toys is not child’s play.