March 23, 2008

I am not Calisto, and a cloned Callaway is not a bargain…

Last week, Vietnam News ran a good pic of Henrique Calisto on the back page and once again, my staff commented on the frighteningly similar resemblance. Just for the fun of it, I looked in the phone book for the area of the US where I was born and there ARE a few "Calisto" families, so perhaps I need to ask my mother some serious questions...

Actually, I’m glad he got the position because I thought he should’ve been picked earlier, and not just because it virtually guarantees me the best tables at crowded restaurants again.

Someday, he and I will have the opportunity to meet, perhaps at some diplomatic or sporting function and it will be fun to watch people get whiplash. But I sincerely hope that he’s a devoted family man and is not often seen out with many different women...

Because, my wife would never believe it wasn’t me...

All kidding aside, the problem of look-alikes affects almost every industry but naturally, I will focus on golf because this is a golf column (aw shaddap, I know I go off the path once in a while).

One of the most cloned clubs that I can remember was Callaway’s Big Bertha, which virtually revolutionised drivers. It was uniquely shaped, was easy to hit and quite user friendly and until Bertha came out, most professionals advised amateurs to tee off with a three-wood and not to even bother owning a driver.

Bertha changed all that and promptly fell into the gun sights of the knock-off artists.

Within weeks you could find Bertha clones with similar names such as "Big Bursar", "Big Betty," etc., but fortunately it was easy for real golfers to spot the fakes.

Nowadays, some knock-off factories make minimal, if any, attempt to avoid copyright infringement. For example, King Snake instead of King Cobra might confuse a few people and quite a few of those wonderful bargains you find on eBay are actually well-crafted knock-offs.

Some of these manufacturers are so brazen they even show up at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida, to either hawk their goods, or to photograph the latest new items.

In the past, most knock-offs came from Taiwan, but today, most come from factories in southern China, where, co-incidentally enough, most of the major brand-name clubs are now manufactured due to their technical expertise and cheap labour.

Only Ping continues to manufacture most of their components in the US.

According to the National Golf Foundation, US consumers spent $2.8 billion last year on golf clubs, some 70 per cent of which came from China.

The market for knockoff clubs, meanwhile, remains huge. One knock-off artist claims he sells a million clubs per month and spends $10,000 a month on lawyers' fees. Lawsuits from the legitimate manufacturers are just part of the cost of doing business.

Somehow, there’s something vaguely stomach turning about that concept.

When the first man drew on a cave wall, it’s a sure bet that someone copied it, knocked it off and soon was seen in caves all over the place. Since then, cheap copies of almost everything have become the "norm" rather than the exception.

Look at "designer items" in Vietnam, Thailand or Hong Kong...most are knock offs. You have to be pretty sharp to spot a fake from original nowadays.

Just the amount of advertisements in your inbox touting fake watches should convince you of the current level of demand from people who want to look like one of the "in-crowd" without having to spend the money.

The bottom line is that you get what you pay for.

You might fool some people into thinking you have a top of the line set of golf clubs, but they won’t play as good as the originals. That’s a fact.

Same goes for fake Rolexes.

In the old days, they had Seiko parts under the cover. But, what’s funny is that people now sell "fake Rolexes" with "fake Seiko" insides.

Even the clones are cloned nowadays.

If your ego is so desperate for recognition that you have to wear copies and knock-offs, then go ahead and have fun. But you get what you pay for and the proof is in the end results.

You can only fool some of the people some of the time...

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