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Smart Buying

Just Say No to Knockoffs

Knight Kiplinger answers your questions about knockoff accessories and nonprofit vendor policies.


I attended a home-shopping party recently where the hostess was selling fashion accessories that were knockoffs of designs by Tiffany and Gucci (she boasted of it). I was apparently the only guest who felt uneasy about this. I didn't say anything, but I didn't buy. The hostess, a friend, seemed slightly miffed. Should I tell her of my qualms?

Consider sending a tactful note that seeks to educate rather than scold. Tell her how lovely the goods were, but say that you're troubled by the damage done to the U.S. and other developed nations by the global epidemic of intellectual-property theft, including patents and copyrighted designs, books, music, movies and the like. Tell her you're sure she didn't think about this when she selected products to sell.

I'm on a nonprofit charity's board that has a policy prohibiting its trustees from doing business with the charity. But my small company could provide a service for a lower price than the charity is now paying another vendor. How should I raise this issue?

Many nonprofits allow a trustee's firm to provide this service, if there is full disclosure -- in board minutes -- of the trustee's interest and if his or her firm wins in competitive bidding. Try suggesting this more-flexible policy to your board. Then recuse yourself from discussion of the policy change and the bid process.