Buying a new racquet on the internet? Here’s a bit of news that may surprise you.
Fake sports products, including tennis racquets, shoes, apparel, strings and other accessories have invaded many sites on the world-wide-web. Unfortunately, this is an epidemic that we all try to believe does not exist. That is, until it happens to you.
Authorized dealers can never be sure how much money they may be losing to sales of fake products since it is only when a racquet is placed on a machine for restringing that they come face-to-face with a deception. And customers are often unwilling to admit they were taken in by too-good-to-be-true deals they found on the internet. No matter how many eyes are diverted from the problem, it does exist for tennis and the sporting goods industry as a whole. The tennis industry alone estimates, consevatively, that legitimate dealers are losing $30 million a year to fake racquets.
Racquet Sports Industry’s Kent Oswald has reported that steps have been taken to drive the counterfeiters out of the business. Last spring, the United States Department of Justice seized more than $1.5 million in proceeds as part of a crackdown on counterfeit merchandise codenamed Operation in Our Sites, begun a couple years ago to fight intellectual piracy on the internet. Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice “celebrated” Cyber Monday by taking down 127 domains selling bogus sporting goods. In both cases, tennis merchandise was part of the scam.
And in a critical development, top apparel brands have recently won millions of dollars against websites selling counterfeit products – and the courts awarded them the money from the culprits’ PayPal accounts. Previously, it was nearly impossible to recover money from defendants, but an initiative implemented by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement allows the Dept. of Justice to recover funds collected via PayPal as well as money transfered from PayPal accounts to bank accounts in other countries.
Additionally, the Tennis Industry Association’s Retail Panel has taken steps to bring the problem to the forefront with a “Counterfeit Racquet Alert” that includes the website https://www.tennisindustry.org/alert/index.cfm to help consumers, and to have retailers become “verified dealers.”
Despite all the efforts put forth by all of these agencies, there remains an explosion of internet shopping sites popping up, with the majority from China, that offer discounts and amazing deals, and these sites are illegal. They hurt the industry on every level as well as the unknowing consumer who just wants to play tennis with the best equipment available.
And because counterfeiters are becoming increasingly sophisticated, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of purchasing from an authorized, verified dealer. If you get a product that looks suspect, here are some things you can check...
Racquets – 1) Check graphics carefully for “mis-spellings”, questionable paint jobs, and other cosmetic miscues. 2) Compare published racquet specs as the weight and balance. 3) Listen for any rattles or loose parts inside the frame. 4) Poor quality grips – in material and application.
Clothing and Shoes – 1) Consider “hand feel” of the garment, of the “interior construction” and “comfort” of the shoe. 2) Look for shoddy stitching or missing, poorly designed labels.
Strings – 1) Look for manufacturer’s stamp on the string and make sure of correct brand name, model name and gauge. 2) If there is a question, check for industry updates or file a report @ “Counterfeit Racquet Alert”.
Posted by Steven White, Author and illustrator of Bring Your Racquet: Tennis Basics for Kids http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933794240