The other day I was walking down the street in Yong In and I saw a coffee shop with the familiar green logo, letters, interior etc. that was unmistakeably Starbucks. They're taking over the world, Starbucks. Soon the price of coffee will be overinflated EVERYWHERE. But on closer inspection, no, it was Starbangs. I wish I had my camera with me so I could have taken a picture. However, I doubt I would have been able to post it here anyway.
The ubiquitous copywright infringement. Charmingly hilarious! Some of the better examples I can think of have been the Jurassic Prak night club I saw with everything stolen from the movie. My friend Kim collects things like this. She has a "Dorald Duke" t-shirt with Donald Duck silkscreened on and even the little circled C's and R's unwittingly copied with him. I have a whole collection of ties with Simpsons characters illegally reproduced. I have an animator friend who tells me that drawing muppet characters like Big Bird or Ernie and Bert, (without permission), is a lucrative industry. And one of my greatest regrets in Korea was the pair of "Ree" jeans with the flagrantly copied "Ree" branded leather patch on them that I didn't buy just because they were too small.
It's impossible to know when you are buying, for example, golf clubs over here whether you are getting an actual, legitimate, original Cobra driver or whether it's just a cheap immitation. Cheaply MADE, (by slave labourers in China), but not cheaply priced any more. Those "clever" Asians are starting to realize that people know it's fake if the price gets too low. I don't know how many times I've been accosted on the streets of I Tae Won, (a popular foreigner shopping and entertainment district in Seoul), with, "Rolex? Genuine immitation Rolex?" Last month I bought a pair of Levi's jeans there FROM a Levi's store ON SALE for only 85 bucks, but they're probably fakes. And so many girls have the, (fake), designer clothes and shoes and purses that I am starting to recognize some of the names and patterns, God help me!
Now you may think it's all harmless and you may forgive them because, (as they all seem to have convinced themselves), they HAVE to do it to feed their families. I used to believe this too. But both are wrong. There ARE a few people who cheat to survive in some Asian countries. I even find myself allowing myself to be cheated sometimes. And not so long ago in Korea I think the cheating would have been more respectable as well. But I have found that economics change much faster than social values and ideas. Korea's economy is now a world powerhouse, but they are STILL cheating because that's how their forefathers succeeded. Their forefathers had to cheat, they don't. But they are still respected, preferred as mates, generally favoured as if they DO. Ask a Korean or Chinese person if one can succeed in business without cheating and don't be surprised when they laugh at you. It's gonna be a while before this changes.
But how is this harmful to me? To you? I am certainly no expert so I can't speak knowledgeably about how countries that have enacted and enforced business laws to force business past this "cheating to succeed" phase seem to, with the new global economy, be the ones who are BEING influenced by, rather than doing the influencing to the countries that haven't progressed past it. But I can give a few examples of how I think it has negatively influenced MY life. Most recently, about half an hour ago.
Half an hour ago I got an email from my university in response to my request for sealed transcripts to be mailed to my new employer here in Korea. You see it's no longer enough to produce an original diploma from my university, it could be a fake purchased on Kaosan road in Thailand. It isn't enough that last year amidst a wave of foreign teachers found to have used phony degrees, (given to them by their Korean recruiters), ALL foreigners were forced to have their degrees verified at their local immigration offices. I have an original degree, on record at all the immigration offices as having been verified just over a year ago, but that's not enough. Now we also need to have sealed transcripts mailed to new employers directly from our alma maters. I have already done this once. A couple of years ago. It costs money and it's an extra hassle. But that's the price we pay for people trying to cheat.
It gets worse. I emailed my school like I did two years ago and made my request. I included my student number, my social insurance number, the address of my new employer, said hello to the worker who did this for me two years ago, but, nope, I could be a fake. Things in Canada are quickly changing so that we will never have to, and never be able to trust anyone ever again. You can't do anything in Canada without taking a thousand extra legal steps to cover your ass against fraud. A lawyer's paradise. Hell for Joe average. Why? We are being forceably protected against the dangerous practice of trusting people while at the same time being relieved of the difficult responsibility of being honest.
Back to my situation. The email stated that due to recent government regulations requests for transcripts will not be processed unless sent from your personal university email address no doubt only attainable through personal appearance, fingerprinting and d.n.a. testing. They also gave me a link to their webpage for alternate forms of transcript requests. It turns out that a request can be made by fax. Great. So I'll go into my new employer and give them the fax number and get them to fax the request. I figured I was out of the woods. How could I be so foolish?
I went to the part of the page where it lists acceptable forms of payment. Cash. That's out. I'm in Korea. I could buy Canadian cash here and mail it but that would be foolish and time consuming. Certified check. That's out too. Although they ARE available in this country, the majority of bank tellers will look at you like you have three heads if you request one. I've tried. Visa or Mastercard. That's out. I don't have either.
Last year I paid with an e-transfer from my Canadian account to the Lakehead university account. I guess some clever person has found a way in the last two years to defraud THIS system of payment as well.
In summation, I am going to have to go through a lot of unnecessary hassle, and waste a lot of time to do something in the slowest, most difficult way, that is totally unnecessary for me to have to do in the first place. All because of peole who can't stop lying, cheating and stealing! Grrrr!
On a lighter note, I'm tied for fourth place in the NFL.com playoff pool. First prize is two tickets to the next Super Bowl. Hotel and airfare included. I checked out the rules for the pool to see if airfare from Korea would be possible. After reading one of the twelve pages of Legalese written specifically to cover their asses against fraud because in the past somebody cheated, I gave up. I kinda hope I DON'T win now.