Saturday, March 17, 2012

The evil counterfeit Canada Goose coat

I’ve been working in northern regions of Canada for over 22 years, and currently work in the high arctic.  For all this time, I have never had a really good parka. 

My first, and really only parka was from the Sears Men’s department, it was the only thing warm enough in my price range when I was starting out in my early 20’s.  I still have it, and have worn it as recently as 2 years ago.  However, it doesn’t fit well and is really heavy.  I have a down jacket from MEC which I usually wear.  It’s halfway between jacket and parka, and it’s warm enough, but doesn’t really have good face protection.

I’ve always coveted a Canada Goose parka, but could never really justify the expense when I already had an ugly but serviceable parka.  I’d heard rumours that sometimes, rarely, they had sales, but I’d never managed to catch one.

Until this year.  This year, I saw an ad on Facebook (I know, I know).  Canada Goose parkas, 40% off!!!  What luck!  I was getting ready for my current trip north, and I was really dissatisfied with my old ugly grey men’s parka.  Finally, a chance to get something that, while not exactly fashionable, would be warm and attractive, and fit properly.

I clicked the ad and went to the Canada Goose site.  No, really, it is the Canada Goose site.  The only thing is, it’s been copied and lifted from the Canada Goose internet address and placed at a similar-sounding one.  I didn’t suspect I was on a counterfeiter’s site.

The price was not outlandishly cheap, the coat was still $350, a bargain for a Canada Goose coat, but well within the realm of what a decent down coat would go for, especially on sale.  I wrote to the customer service department for help in choosing a style for extreme cold conditions.  They promptly replied and said all the sale coat styles were suitable, I could just select the one I liked best.  I did so and paid with my credit card.

The coat arrived promptly via Canada Post.  I took it out of the mailing bag… it was a little loose in the stuff sack.

I took it out… I’m not new to down clothing, so I found it to be not as puffy as I would expect.  I consulted with a friend though, who said “GOOD”, as overly puffy is, well, overly puffy.  I thought maybe they’d invented a new slim-line Goose, like how computers and TV’s and everything get skinnier and skinnier every year.

The coat came with a “free gift”, I found this a bit unusual, but hey, maybe they have a good sense of humour…

I tried it on and felt hot almost instantly, so it was warm, at least in an Ottawa apartment.  I had my coat!  There was no invoice inside, so as I was throwing away the packaging I took out the waybill from the exterior of the package expecting to find it there.

It was written in Chinese.  Uh oh.  I don’t think it should be written in Chinese.

I went to the website handily written on the stuff-sack, which actually is the REAL Canada Goose website.  There, I examined the handy page they have there that lists over 200 counterfeit websites.  I compared that with the e-mail I had from when I corresponded with what I thought was their customer service rep… uh oh.  A match.  The e-mail’s domain name matched one of the counterfeit ones.

I’d been duped!  I’m usually pretty good at not getting screwed like this, but these criminals are REALLY good at what they do.  The construction of the coat is mostly really good, high attention to detail.

Except this hood... this hood is a little on the scruffy side, I had thought when I first tried it on.  Not the quality fur you usually get on a Canada Goose.

But the tags!  The tags and labels are so authentic looking:

Your assurance of quality, the "downmark"...

The arm badge...

The reassuring little story about their 50 years of experience and the quality of their materials...

Oh, and no counterfeit coat would be complete without a certificate of authenticity!

Fake!  Fake!  Fake!  Fake!  FAKE!

I contacted Canada Goose who confirmed the coat was a fake, and then contacted Canada’s Anti-Fraud unit who confirmed they were already on the case of this particular counterfeiter.  They said the coat was filled with chicken feathers, which were probably not clean, and that it would be a health hazard for anyone to wear it.

I then contacted Visa, expecting it would be no problem to have this dealt with.  To my surprise, they insisted that since I had given my card number voluntarily to the criminals, that I was responsible.  They kept insisting, “this is not fraud”.  Uh, yes Visa, it is.  It might not fit the narrow description of what you wish fraud was, but it most definitely is fraud.

The most surprising thing of all is how good the evil counterfeiters were about responding to me.  They didn’t actually fix the situation of course, but they were attentive and replied to every e-mail.  Very gradually they admitted they weren’t Canada Goose, but “just as good”.  They just had a “superabundant” amount of product from the “Chinese outlet”.  They eventually offered me a 1/3 discount, but after many many e-mails agreed to take a return of the coat for a refund.

Trouble was, it would cost $256 to send the thing back to China with a tracking number, and I wasn’t paying that.  In fact, I wasn’t willing to pay anything to return the damn thing, these people are criminals, they lied about who they were, I would never have bought a fake coat from China, they were presenting themselves as Canada Goose, using that company’s own stolen webpages.

I eventually won my dispute with Visa, although it won’t be final for another 4 months or something.  I’ll take it to court though if they decide to reverse it and support the criminal merchant over me, I have proof that this is a counterfeit, even the Chinese company (that I eventually found out is really called Taitan Trading) admits to it.  I’ll never pay that bill, that’s for sure.  Visa knows this company is selling counterfeit products by misrepresenting itself as the authentic company, that can’t be legal.

So, after all that I’ve decided my MEC down coat will just have to cut it.  No more internet coat shopping for me.  I’ll have to hang onto the coat for a few months to make sure Visa doesn’t reverse the reversal, or that the evil Chinese counterfeiters don’t ask for it back (I’ll happily send it to them if they send me a prepaid label.)

And I know now not to trust Facebook ads!  I was actually under the very mistaken impression that they vetted their ads, they apparently do not.  There’s no way to even report an ad… Facebook has a dead-end form, it didn’t work, and it was buried under many layers and was almost impossible to find anyway.

So, that was my traumatic attempt to update my northern wardrobe.   I may look a little frumpy as I waddle over the tundra, and my eyelashes might be frozen closed, but the rest of me is staying warm.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

All flight paths lead to Hall Beach

I'm back in Grise Fiord since last Thursday, and re-adjusting to that crisp and clean arctic air (BRRRRRRR!)

On my way here, as is the norm for the past 2-3 years, the plane to Resolute stopped in Hall Beach to refuel.  It didn't used to do this back in the day, we used to get fuel in Arctic Bay, and the plane has enough fuel to get all the way to Resolute even when the weather would be down in Arctic Bay / Nanisivik.  I've heard several theories on why we need to do this, as I gripe about it with other passengers on each flight:

1) they have too much fuel in Hall Beach and need to use it up (but it's been several years now...)

2) fuel truck broken in Arctic Bay (sometimes it was, but not all the time?)

3) can't reach the fuel guy in Arctic Bay (it's a scheduled flight though... guy must know about it?)

4) plane needs fuel so it can still get to the alternate if Resolute closes in (good point, but this isn't a new standard, and Pond Inlet is up there too as an alternate if both Arctic Bay and Resolute closed in; and Hall Beach is not on the unbeaten path to Arctic Bay)

So, I don't know why they really do it, but it's a total pain as it adds at least an hour to the trip.

This year, it was a really big pain, as once we landed in Hall Beach, something with the plane's computers broke or wouldn't re-set or something, and we couldn't leave.  We sat for around an hour before they told us the plane had gone mechanical... and sat for longer while they decided what to do about it.  Finally they told us that the plane was totally flyable, but it would be around another 2 hours while a mechanic flew in from Pond Inlet to sign off on something and certify that is was OK.  Around an hour after that, after some phone calls, I guess the powers that be at First Air authorized us to proceed to Resolute, so they rounded up the passengers (many of whom had gone into town at this point), and off we went.

I felt bad for one guy on the flight... he had left Hall Beach that morning to fly to Iqaluit where he transferred to his flight to Resolute.  You'd think if they were going to keep the habit of stopping there, they'd at least let passengers fly between those destinations directly, rather than pretend there is no direct flight?  He was really good about it, turns out he'd forgotten something so he got a chance to pick it up.

I'm glad we didn't have to overnight in Hall Beach, it's not exactly the hub of the arctic, I'm not sure if they would have even had enough hotel space for us.  I really wish we didn't have to stop there all the time on flights to Resolute.  Maybe one day the present will catch up to the past, and they will figure out again how to get us there without a routine stop in the flattest little Hamlet I have ever been to.