I think it is interesting that people often get angry with counterfeiters. The only reason to counterfeit anything is if there’s profit to be gained from doing it. In the case of FiveFingers, I think Vibram is really ‘shooting itself in the foot,’ pun INTENDED. Vibram’s are so expensive. So they’re worth counterfeiting. And people who can’t afford to buy the ‘real deal’ are the ones who are more than willing to buy knock offs, based on the idea, that ‘maybe they’re kinda the same?’
I myself am at a crossroads. I want Vibrams, I really do, BUT I can’t afford to drop 85 bucks for a pair o shoes, especially when they’re supposed to ‘mimic’ being barefoot. (why not just be barefoot?) I walk barefoot all the time, and I’ve read the literature on how unnatural shoes are and how they cause most of our ankle, knee, and spinal pains and issues. The only issue that I have is that in our insane culture we have to obey certain social conventions and wearing shoes is irritatingly one of these rules.
I can’t go to that consult barefoot. Resturaunts will not seat me without the proper attire, I.E. shoes. So my main concern in buuying a pair of Vibrams would really be more for cosmetic reasons than anything else. And this is what brings me to my dilemma. Why should I spend 85-150 bucks on a pair of shoes that claims to be ‘minimalist?’ Theres nothing minimalist about those prices. These ‘counterfeiters,’ these ‘bastards’ that make ‘fake’ Vibrams seem to be providing me with a public service.
What they do is only illegal according to the very confusing rules of our paticular social games. The fact is ‘these assholes’ are bringing fire to the people. They’re making these great products affordable for the common man. I can get knock off FiveFingers for about 20-30 bucks. That’s a 75% discount. That brings glove like, heelless foot wear into my financial realm of possibility, complete with all the podiatric health boons that come with it.
Now, why should I be against this? If I drop 30 bucks for a pair of knock offs and they’re half as good as the ‘real thing’ (as though these weren’t essentially the same damn thing) and they last me 6 months, I might spend $60 a year in FiverFinger(ish) footwear. If I compare that to the $100 pair of ‘authentic’ Vibrams that might last a year or even a year and a half at most, then it is far better for my wallet to buy the knock offs.
And as for the business practices of these ‘evil counterfeiters,’ it looks to me like they’ve just found another way to win the game. It is a very thin and very blurry line between ‘skill’ and ‘cheating,’ and the inferior intelligence will always accuse the superior intelligence of cheating the moment they use their brains. Vibram’s assault on these counterfeiters is essentially a philosophical pissing and whining. Vibram is saying, “We were having a business contest to see who could build the best shoe (and make the most money from it) and then you made shoes that are alot like ‘mine’ and sold them for less money (attracting more customers), and you’re not playing fair!”
Playing fair? What did you think Vibram? That you were the only one that could possibly concieve of a glove-like shoe for the feet? Did you really expect to have a monopoly on the intelligence and the tools that make ‘toe shoes’ possible? Of course you did. You did think you would have a monopoly, thats why you patented them; so that you could have that monopoly.
Using one of the very absurd (and progressively obstructive) maneuvers possible (patenting) in our complicated social game (litigation) you basically announced to the world that you have this great idea that could help everbody. You told us you had an amazing product that was going to be more natural, strengthen the human body, put us back in touch with the Earth and make use of the 200,000 nerve endings in the soles of our feet; a product that would ease and prevent joint pain and make us healthier and happier.
You told us all this and then what did you do? What did you do Vibram? Rather than share the idea that it may be collaboratively improved upon and bring about good health and a podiatric revolution, you instead decided to exclude the idea itelf from the common good and sell the product for an exorbitant price; forbidding and condemning anybody from attempting to make their own glove-like footwear and vilifying anyone who dares to sell a cheaper version of your product.
You have cheated the people.
Instead of bringing happiness to all (or even most) people, you like all the other greedy businesses of your ilk, have created a financial barrier to something good. You have engineered a social situation in which the only people who can have the kind of health benefits your footwear might bring are the kind of people who have enough money (or who want the product so bad that they manage to gather enough money) to drop 150 bucks on footwear.
So I say, good on the counterfeiters. Hooray, cheating counterfeiters, making a product that is very close to the original for a mere fraction of the price, thus begining to destroy the financial barrier to this type of product.
Vibram, the only way to stop the counterfeiters is to make your products affordable so that most people won’t have to seek out your competiton. Be content with lower profit margins, change your prices to match this acceptance of lower profit per unit, and watch your competition be snuffed out over night. As a consequence you’ll make more money than ever before as new customers flock to your doors choosing to buy ‘the real thing’ because it won’t break their wallet in half.
Your competition won’t be able to hold out, because at your new lower prices ‘the best deal they can offer’ will be about 10-20 bucks lower than your price, and people WILL pay slightly more money for the original, authentic design. But what they will most definitely NOT pay, is a price that is 60%, 70%, 80% higher than what they can get somewhere else, even if they’re not, ‘the real deal.’
So, you think about this Vibram and any company that operates under a similar methodology. Your greed is going to choke out your own business. Yes, you may be successful for a time, but it will not last, especially if this global economy continues to take a nose dive. People are going to start saving their pennies.
…It suddenly occurs to me that the failure of the business may actually be taken into account already. Perhaps thats the point, to start a business, sell a product with the intention to profiteer at the expense of the customer and even at the expen and eventual demise of the business itself (including all the employees counting on the business to stay open). Maybe the goal is to push product based on greed and when the profit dries up and the business’s failure is inevitable, the owners simply let the business die, take their money and move on; setting up a different business, selling a different product, but using the same formula.
And yet I wonder… Reader, your thoughts?