Sunday, September 14, 2008


Recently, I was perusing a web site which I hadn't visited in quite some time. This particular site is a shopping site which has some really nifty and attractive home items including the salt and pepper shakers pictured above called "Hug". They were designed by a New York design collective called Mint. They are clean-looking and cute without being too fussy. They are also a bit on the expensive side ($31 USD) for salt and pepper shakers.

When I ran across this particular item, I remembered that I had seen what I believed to be the exact same shakers in the local 100 yen shop. I had considered buying them before, but being very thoughtful about waste, I had passed on them many times. While 200 yen is nothing to spend, I don't want to buy things I might toss out later because they weren't as attractive as when I was first drawn to them.

Seeing them on the web site made me decide to give in and just buy them. I can't resist a good hug. (And I've found that they remind you to hug your spouse more often by providing a visual cue of what a nice thing such embraces are.) I figured it was also possible that the on-line store just had a massively inflated price because they're a designer boutique. When I brought them home and was able to compare the shakers pictured on the site to the ones I bought, I knew they were knock-offs. If you compare, the designer ones are a little longer and fit together better in their embrace. Mine are still cute, and I think that from a distance, no one can tell the difference. However, the "faces" line up differently such that theirs has more of a whimsical "face over the shoulder" look whereas mine looks like he's surprised because the "mouth" can be seen.

If you asked me if I feel good about paying so little for something that is 95% as good as something much more expensive, then I'd have to say "no". I feel bad about the fact that there are people out there who make very nice designer objects and then find that cheap knock-offs deprive them of revenues from those items. I always guess that the market that buys the knock-off isn't likely to fork over $30 for salt and pepper shakers anyway (I know I wouldn't), but that's probably just a justification.

In the end, I don't think it's the consumer who is ethically responsible for buying a knock-off, particularly when they do so and are unaware. I think that the person who imitates the design is ultimately responsible. If someone took my posts and slightly rewrote them to create content for a blog they were making money on, I couldn't blame the readers for reading it. I'd have to blame the thieves for stealing it.

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