Some of the phones were second-hand. No doubt some of these were trade-ins. Young people in Albania,like young people everywhere in Europe, seem to be obsessed with having the latest, smallest, shiniest model. Others, I’m sure, were stolen. But with no way to tell them apart I decided I wasn’t interested, even though the prices were good.
The new phones were definitely suspect. I had a look at a Nokia 6310i – a favourite of mine and one that I own. It felt too light and too loose. I suspect most of these new phones are far eastern fakes. It’s a shame. I would like to buy a couple of extra 6310s, but only the real thing.
The same day I visited the electrical goods/electronics marked near R. Elbasanit. Housed in a maze of old vans, stripped of their wheels, and shipping containers, the market sells everything from a light switch to stuff that looks like it came off a power station. The electrical goods looked genuine enough, but I wasn’t convinced about the provenance of many of the electronic gadgets on sale. Still, if I ever decide I want a cracked satellite card it’s probably the place to look. (Only joking of course).
The CDs, DVDs and PS games were definitely all fakes. And if the fraudsters ever want to expand their operation and convince people that they are buying the genuine article, the very least they will have to do is buy a decent laser printer.
I wouldn’t buy this stuff myself, but I can understand why people do. Given the often extortionate prices for the real things – especially CDs, DVDs, PS games and the like – its not surprising that people who don’t have much money go shopping for cheap copies. Human nature and the laws of the market pretty much guarantee that outcome.
I don’t know of any way round this. Businesses could try pricing their goods according to the financial resources of the market they are selling in. But human nature and the laws of the market being what they are, people would buy them up, smuggle them out and resell them in more expensive markets.
The state has an interest in ensuring that business is legitimate, since legitimate business generates tax revenues. But the Albanian state doesn’t seem to have developed to that point yet. This is partly economic – too many people in government jobs do too well out of illegitimate activity to want to crack down on it – and partly cultural – after years of communism and state failure there is almost no culture of public service or civic responsibility.
In the meantime I will just be thankful for the privilege of growing up in a Western society blessed with a culture of civic responsibility and public service, and thankful that I come from a society that has made me wealthy enough not to have to chose between going without or going illegal.
Sorry that I have no photographs, but given the nature of some of what was on display I wasn’t sure how people would react to a stranger walking around with a camera. I wouldn’t risk it at certain markets back home in Northern Ireland, so I though it better not to risk here either.