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Albania's Arthur Daleys

Last week I visited the mobile phone market here in Tirana. I didn’t know there was one, but I came across it while I was looking for the Post Office off R. Kavajes. On the pavement, small tables or glass fronted cases held all makes and models of mobile (cell) phones. Lined up against the edge of the pavement, a row of cars, boots (trunks) open displayed more of the same. Other stalls sold interchangeable covers, leather phone holders, batteries, rechargers and SIM cards.

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.


ITS said…
What? You mean they have no fake-item markets in Ireland?

In New York's Chinatown the fake purse marked covers over 20 city blocks.

I have the collection of Louis Vuittons to prove it. And you can find anything fake you desire, Fendi, Gucci, Prada, and the lots of fake DVD/CD/PS2 games.

I wonder where New York's civic responsiblity has gone? Down the East River?
olli said…
Read more carefully ITS. I said specifically at the end that I would not take a camera to some markets in Northern Ireland - precisely because what is going on is illegal.

Regarding civic responsibility my comment was made in the context of a comment about the role of the state.

You are surely not going to try to tell me that the state authorities in Tirana pursue and prosecute those who deal in fakes and forgeries in the same way the authorities do in New York, Belfast or elsewhere in the West?
Joni said…
It is true that they did not... until today. Now our master-idiot Sali Ram Berisha decided he will have talks with Bill Gates and will stop piracy (true story from last week). Now piracy is wrooong, dead wrong, but imagine this situation: A generic teacher with no illegal activities (including private courses :D) in Albania has a state-wage of 100Euros. The newest, shiniest PC Game costs 30Euros. Should a teacher spend 1/3 of her wage to buy a pc game for her child? In canada a teacher is paid somewhere in the 8k$/month, so she can definitely afford it...
adfjkaj said…
In NYC, the problem is too many fraudsters and not enough boys in blue to catch them. But, ITS is correct in a sense that in New York city or elsewhere in the U.S.A, they should try harder because it's embarrassing.

In Albania, I would cut them more slack since they have bigger fish to fry than catching small time hoods fencing fake phones.

But, I understood your point Alwyn and not disagreeing with ya but mainly just adding another angle.
olli said…
Fair point Scruffy as long as they are just small time hoods. BUt I'm sure at least some of them have links to organised crime - they do everywhere else in the world - and they are the big fish.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ITS said…
I always wonder what deleted comments were. Was it so bad you couldn't tolerate it? Was it profane?

olli said…
Four reasons for deleting comments:

1. Offensive language

2. Comments about another person rather than the subject of the post

3. Comments that have no relationship to either the post or the blog

4 Comments I have made and later correct (spelling, grammar etc.)

The deleted comment in this post came under reason three. As you will see from reading my comments I don;t always apply reason four.
Anonymous said…
Will you now delete this comment for violating rule # 2 after I say that ITS comments violated rule #3 and his comment gets to stay. Or will you amend the rules to make an exception?

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