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How to Spot a Fake

The increased prevalence of counterfeit products only heightens the need for everyone to communicate better and inform each other about the misconceptions out there.

By MIKE SCHMIDT, Associate Editor, Industrial Distribution

Mike_SchmidtThere exists a major difference between trying to avoid the purchase of counterfeit products and actually avoiding the purchase of counterfeit products.

The product may pass “the eye test.” It may be listed at full price. But that doesn’t make it genuine. When it comes to counterfeit products, perception isn’t reality. Not even close.

According to Randy Bowen, vice president of distributor sales for SKF USA, there are several common misconceptions about counterfeit products. Many think they are easily identifiable and quite rare. That’s hardly the case. Furthermore, many assume that customers buy counterfeit products knowingly and that they are sold at a much lower case. Again, not true.

Counterfeit products can be difficult to identify and aren’t usually discounted. They are usually no-name products made of substandard materials, but they look like and are marked as genuine premium-brand products. Furthermore, the packaging also looks similar — if not identical — to legitimate product packaging. These factors make it extremely difficult to spot a fake.

“You think you know, but you have no idea,” says Bowen.

Counterfeit products pose two potential problems. First and foremost, they don’t offer the same performance as legitimate products. Second, in some cases, they could pose a danger to operations, finances or employees. One bad purchase could cost an end user dearly.

However, what’s more disturbing is the fact that this is a trend on the rise. Bowen and SKF USA have certainly seen an increased prevalence of counterfeit products in the bearings market. It’s no surprise, considering the money to be made from selling a substandard product at almost the same price as a legitimate one. It doesn’t help that purchasers try diligently to seek out the best possible deals — which opens them up to risk and sometimes means they’ll end up buying a counterfeit product.

If 5 or 10 percent can be saved on the purchases of bearings, says Bowen, “people are trying to jump all over that.” But a little bit of savings does not excuse reckless purchasing decisions, such as buying from unauthorized distribution channels.

There is no doubt self-education is one of the most effective ways to guard against purchasing counterfeit products. Simply being aware of the possibility of being taken advantage of is a sound first step, but gathering as much information as possible about the distribution channel is the best way to go. In fact, according to Bowen, the most effective way to avoid counterfeit products is to buy through authorized channels. This rule of thumb makes it all the more important to remind customers and potential customers that not every vendor can offer them value.

But education and increased awareness isn’t enough for SKF USA. The company has taken additional actions to prevent its customers from being victimized by counterfeiters.

SKF USA offers toll-free telephone numbers to address customer questions, as well as local sales representation to help further ease concerns. It is clear this is an issue the company takes very seriously.

The increased prevalence of counterfeit products only heightens the need for suppliers, distributors and end-users to communicate better and inform each other about the misconceptions out there. SKF USA stands to benefit from their fight against the sale of fake SKF-branded bearings, as the company wants to protect its relationships with its customers, as well as its reputation from being sullied by opportunistic counterfeiters.

Their efforts are a prime example of how companies should address the problem of counterfeiting.

“We’re not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill here just for the sake of giving people something to do,” he says. “Educating the end-user is definitely time well-spent.”

What’s your take? You may comment below or reach Schmidt at [email protected].