This morning's comment thread on a routine Gilt blog post about an upcoming theme sale -- merch to make those New Year's resolutions a bit more palatable -- turned into a forum for concern about the alleged sale of a counterfeit handbag on the site. After Zun39 posted a claim that a previously purchased Cole Haan bag was fake, but that (s)he was keeping it anyway, other users responded with concern. After all, approximately 50-80% off retail is a tremendous bargain, but only if the product is real in the first place.
Gilt should be proud of its loyal member/customer base, however. Dozens of satisfied customers joined the thread to contradict the allegation. Many surmised that Zun39 was from a competing site, perhaps engaging in a bit of sock puppetry -- so last decade. By the time that Gilt CEO Susan Lyne weighed in to note that Gilt does not sell fakes and in fact deals directly with Cole Haan as a "brand partner," the extra assurance was almost unnecessary.
Nevertheless, the consumer anxiety apparently provoked by the post speaks to a real concern. It's one thing to spot fake merchandise on a street corner; it's quite another to figure out whether a website is selling the real thing or not. Gilt is an authorized discount seller of each brand featured on the site and posts a guarantee of authenticity with each product description. But the success of Gilt Groupe, its French predecessor Vente-privee, and other legitimate online discounters like Rue La La, Ideeli, and OutNet has spawned many copycat sites that only pretend to sell the real thing -- often at prices low enough to be irresistible but higher than those for admitted "replicas."
As always, Counterfeit Chic's rule for the cautious consumer looking for an online bargain is caveat emptor. But Gilt, like other established sites, really is golden.