I first read E. Michael Johnson's excellent Golf World story on club counterfeiting with great interest and even sympathy for the buyers who were duped. But upon further reflection and a closer reading of a few key graphs, I decided to sit down with this tragic tale, dimming the lights, burning candles and setting up an continuous Itunes loop featuring Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly With His Song.
Why? Well, apparently now that the big four have outsourced all manufacturing to China and sold out the club pro first to non-green grass accounts and now the Internet, guess what? There are big consequences. And naturally, it's all someone else's fault.
Check out this:
At a typical counterfeit operation in China, it is not unusual to see young women sifting through castings while other individuals constantly work on grinding wheels, moving through the heads at a rapid rate. Another floor might contain those doing the cosmetic work, including paint filling, shaft painting and packaging. According to Golf Digest, the typical worker has five years experience and makes about $250 a month -- a better wage than at a legitimate foundry.
Yes, that's right. The counterfeiters pay better than the legit operations. And the counterfeiters are charging a lot less than the brand names.
Oh there's more:
The owners of such shops, some a front for organized crime, others no more than a mom-and-pop operation, can make upwards of $750 a week selling the counterfeits -- a much better life than grinding the toe and heel of the latest batch of 100-to-a-tray sand wedges for 10 hours a day. Although it would be easy to label China as an ever-expanding pit of deceit where no good brand is safe, the sad fact is counterfeiting offers a better way of life for those involved -- especially when the threat of being caught or prosecuted is minimal.
Again, isn't this the price of doing business in China?
This bit warmed my heart:
In an effort to stem the supply of phony golf products, the Golf Manufacturers Anti-Counterfeiting Working Group -- consisting of Acushnet, Callaway, Cleveland, Nike, Ping and TaylorMade -- was established in 2004. That golf's largest companies and fiercest competitors would come together speaks to the industry-wide dilemma. According to Rob Duncanson, moderator for the coalition, the group was formed to petition governmental authorities in the U.S., China and other countries jointly to enforce laws against counterfeiting of golf products.
Because they surely have nothing better to do!
Some headway has been made, including several raids and criminal prosecutions, but it is a case of winning some battles while the war still is being lost.
I have an idea. Don't outsource and maybe this stuff won't happen?
Oh I forgot...those precious margins...