In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of counterfeit musical instruments and accessories on the market. With the ease of online shopping, musicians can research a variety of options, compare prices, and read reviews. The downside to this is that many consumers unintentionally fall victim to purchasing counterfeit products.
I spoke with François Kloc, President & CEO of Buffet Crampon USA about the rise of counterfeit clarinet products and red flags to avoid.
Here are a few warning signs he mentioned which could indicate a counterfeit product:
- Be cautious of suspiciously low prices. This is the number one red flag for counterfeit products. Fakes will be significantly cheaper than the real deal. I’m all for finding a good bargain, but if you find something too good to be true, it’s probably not a transaction you want to make.
- Buy only from authorized dealers. Check with the product’s manufacturer to make sure that you are purchasing from one of their authorized dealers to avoid any potential scams. (You can see a list of authorized Buffet Crampon dealers here.)
- Look at serial numbers. Ask the seller to provide you with the instrument’s serial number, which you can check to get an idea of when the instrument was made. If they’re reluctant to share the serial number with you, this is a warning sign.
- Examine the details. A lot of counterfeit products look fake to the trained eye. Check the finish, keywork, and other details to make sure they match the product’s description. For example, some counterfeit Buffet Crampon R13 clarinets have a stamp with an R13 mark…but real R13s don’t have this stamp. Also, some models which do include the model number (such as the E11) have a space between the E and 11 – real products don’t have this. Take a look at all the instrument’s details for anything suspicious.
- Be wary of quick deals. Buying an instrument is an important choice and should be approached with careful time and consideration. If the vendor tries to pressure you into making a quick decision, this is a warning sign of a shady deal. There is never a shortage of real clarinet equipment, so never be in a rush to make your decision because once you’ve given your payment information, it usually cannot be reversed.
- Make sure the product is still being produced by the company. Many “brand new” instruments are counterfeits of items which have been discontinued for several years.
- Read the brand labels carefully. For example, some counterfeit products might print Faris instead of Paris and try to make it look like part of the symbol has rubbed off.
How can we fight against counterfeit products? Although the prominence of counterfeit products only continues to grow, François reassures us that there are a few measures we can take to fight against counterfeits.
- Do your research! This is the single most important step we can take to prevent counterfeit scams. Information is power, so gather as much as possible. Look at the products on several other sites – compare prices, product description, and photos. (You can use Google reverse image search to find the origins of the product photos.) An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so take the time before you purchase to avoid dealing with expensive and lengthy legal ramifications afterwards.
- Get another opinion. The majority of people affected by counterfeit products are non-professionals, because they don’t have the specific expertise or network available when they purchase these products. Ask colleagues, teachers, manufacturers, and social media for a second (and even third or fourth opinion) if you have any doubts.
- Be skeptical and trust your gut. Don’t believe everything you see online, and listen to your intuition. If you have a nagging feeling that something feels off, don’t make the purchase!
So, what can you do if you already purchased a counterfeit product?
First of all, don’t beat yourself up. Everyone makes mistakes, so you’re in good company. One of the dangers of counterfeit clarinet products is that the victims of these scams are usually too ashamed or embarrassed to admit their mistakes, so these scams go unreported. Many counterfeit products are only a few hundred dollars, so most people cut their losses and proceed without taking any action. Many people do not pursue legal action because it’s too costly, so it becomes a vicious cycle of scam, shame, and repeat. Even if there are legal ramifications and one counterfeit manufacturer is identified and stopped, many more pop up and take its place.
If you purchase or see a counterfeit clarinet product, you should immediately report it to both the website and the manufacturer so all parties are aware. Amazon, eBay, and other websites have departments to deal with these reports, so your vigilance will be doing the clarinet community a favor.
It may be tough, but one of the best things you can do is to share your experience with others to prevent the same thing from happening to someone else. Social media is a wonderful resource to let others know about counterfeit products, whether you’d like to share your own experiences or report a fake product to warn others. Finally, if someone is brave enough to share their experience online, don’t berate them. Everyone makes mistakes, and negative comments will only discourage others from sharing their experiences.
Counterfeit clarinet products are a threat to clarinetists worldwide. By forming a unified effort, we can take a stand and commit to stopping counterfeit products!