Saturday, 24 December 2011

How I Became a Louis Vuitton Bag Mule

I arrived in Paris at 5.30am on a Friday morning. After checking into the apartment, I started exploring the city.

Since the apartment is a stone's throw from Champs Elysees, I thought I'd explore the famous street where everything is glamorous and pricey. Moreover it's only a long straight road and I didn't have to use my navigational skills which were still jet lag at that time.

The Louis Vuitton boutique (known as LV amongst fashionistas) is located along Champs Elysees, but I didn't go in. So I just snapped a photo of the boutique from across the street.

As I was walking away, a Chinese lady stopped me. I could see a Chinese guy standing a little towards the back behind her, looking at us anxiously. She introduced herself in broke English and asked if  I could help her buy LV products from the boutique. 

Immediately I asked why can't she buy it herself. Apparently Chinese citizens have a limit to the number of LV products they could buy. And this lady wanted to buy lots.

After listening to her, I was thinking since I can't afford LV products myself, why not help her, just for the experience and fun of it.

So I agreed. Instantaneously she whipped out a catalogue (colour printed from the computer), pointed to the items she wanted (5 in total) and I keyed-in the product codes into my mobile phone. She then handed me € 2,400 in cash which I quickly stuffed into my pocket. She told me that she would be waiting behind the magazine stand opposite the boutique.

You must be wondering how come this lady trusts a complete stranger with so much money (in cash!), what if I walked away with the money, what if the cash turned out to be forged notes, etc. Well, I've got an answer for all those questions because I had them too and weighed my risks before agreeing to help her:

  • What if I walked away with the money - she probably has some thugs waiting at the corner to beat the crap out of me. She may also have used face reading techniques on me and my face screams honesty ;-)
  • What if the notes were forged - She wants the goods badly and why would she want to get at a complete stranger? 

So I got into line (yes, you have to queue) and soon I was inside the boutique.

The shop was full of Chinese customers choosing and buying like there's no tomorrow.

In case you're not aware, branded goods from Europe like LV, Salvatore Ferragamo, Longchamp, Lancel, Gucci, etc. are more expensive in Asia because of tax. In Malaysia, these goods are like 30% higher. So whenever you see Asians on a buying frenzy in boutiques in Europe, you know why ...

I also realised why LV may have imposed this limit on Chinese citizens - they don't want these Chinese fellas to buy in bulk and resell in China. It would make the brand look cheap. What do you think?

Now back to the story.

The shop assistants were so busy handling the customers that I had to wait for someone to attend to me, which turned out to be a Chinese lady. She had been living in Paris for almost 10 years and could speak fluent French. But we spoke in English, of course :-0

When I gave her my orders, at once she asked whether someone had asked me to buy the items. I think the sales assistants are well aware that many Chinese fellas are lurking outside the LV boutique waiting to pounce on any unsuspecting person to help them buy LV products. I told her that family and friends have ordered the items since I was coming to Paris (I seriously need to go for confession).

Some of the items were out of stock and so I took the Neverfull MM Damier and Westminister PM Damier which the boutique had. They got the items wrapped nicely, I made payment (had to show my passport too) and headed to the magazine stand.

When I returned the change to the lady and informed that some of the items were unavailable, she asked whether I could help her again by going to another LV boutique on Avenue Montaigne nearby. She was that desperate.

I agreed and got a Neverfull PM Damier and Zippy Wallet Damier for her. When I met up with her to hand over the goods and change, there was another Chinese girl with her. The Chinese guy had disappeared. I wonder whether these ladies are online shop owners or boutique owners who are going to resell the items back in China.

Things I learned from this incident:
  1. LV bags do not have serial number to ensure authenticity. The sales assistant in the LV boutique personally confirmed that.
  2. There's another LV boutique on Avenue Montaigne which is approximately 10 minutes walking distance from the Champs Elysees one.
  3. The Chinese are crazy for LV stuff. Personally, I prefer Gucci and Ferragamo :-)


khengsiong said...

Chinese can't buy as many LV bags as they like?

When iPhone 4S was launched, Chinese tourists in the U.S. lined up at Apple Store to buy the new phones. But they would resell them in China for a profit. Apple set a limit of how many phones a customer can buy, but that limit applied to everyone, not just Chinese.

khengsiong said...

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays :-)

Queen of hearts said...

Hahaha! You're so funny :) Did that lady give you anything as a token for helping her?

Julie Lim said...

Kheng Siong,

LV has that restriction on the Chinese probably because they are the ones who tend to buy in bulk, whereas Apple had that restriction on everyone because everyone tends to buy iPhone in bulk. An iPhone is more laku compared to a branded bag mah ... :-)

Happy New Year 2012 to you too!

Julie Lim said...

Hi Queen of Hearts,

The only thing the lady gave me was a smile whilst saying thank you :-)

JIPP said...

Wow. That was quite an experience. I wouldn't have dared to do it. At least you get to experience how it is like being a rich shopaholic. :-D

Julie Lim said...

Hi Jipp,

You're absolutely right! As I walked out the boutique holding those nicely wrapped boxes, I felt like a rich, glamorous lady :-) And the experience was worth enough to blog about ;-)

Anonymous said...

I don't like LV too, never quite liked the design. Personally I prefer Prada, and recently, Coach as well.

Happy New Year, by the way, albeit a belated one!

Julie Lim said...

Hi Juphelia,

Thanks for the New Year wish. You have a great year ahead!

Anonymous said...

this happened to me recently too! do you think that LV has a blacklist of people (with their passport ID) who helped these Chinese buy stuff? I'm kinda worried...

melvin said...

this is really an interesting post.i'm surprised she didnt give you a reward,a wallet ungrateful!you should be careful next time.that was really risky especially that youre doing it in a foreign country.

Julie Lim said...

Hi Grace,

LV will have your details because you have to show passport when making purchases. But I don't think they would know who you're buying it for.

If you're worried about getting blacklisted, make sure you don't bring any fake LV into any LV boutique in Paris, cause you will definitely get into trouble!

Julie Lim said...

Hi Melvin,

Yeah, a few people have commented too that she should have given me a thank you gift. Oh well ...

And trust me ... I have weighed the pros and cons before deciding to do this lady a favour. This experience is what makes travelling interesting.

jakeson taylor said...

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debbie MAXWELL said...

Yeah, that is true, Louis Vuitton purse are not only beautiful but also well made that they can last a lifetime and continues to innovate, turning out new colors, styles and designs.

Melodee May Dinh said...

i got the Louis Vuitton handbags for this new year in online.

Drew Makepeace said...

I had the same experience in Paris back in 2000! Here's an account of my trip to the LV store:

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