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How I got schooled on counterfeit sneakers

The hunt for Red Octobers.

Sandra A. Miller

Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

The Nike Air Yeezy 2 "Red October" sneaker.

On Sunday, February 9, while sneakerheads were home recovering from their Tiffany SB camp-outs, the Air Yeezy 2 Red October dropped online without warning.

One tweet at midday from @nikestore and the sneaker world went crazy for these Kanye West-designed kicks. Rumors of the shoe had been swirling for months. The only certainty: They’d be worth a fortune on the resell market.

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The moment my 15-year-old son rushed my home office with news of their release, my inner hypebeast roared, and I jumped on Niketown.com. Too late. The shoes had sold out in 11 minutes. Next stop eBay, where lucky buyers were posting their $245 Niketown receipts and watching the wannabe buyers go wild.

As the bids crept toward $1,000, I looked at my son. “Should we buy a pair as an investment?” I asked. His face was Christmas morning times 10. And that’s when I did the unimaginable. Without knowing if the seller was legit, I pressed “Buy Now” on a pair for $750. Over the next hour, as I watched the bidding on other pairs reach $5,000, I planned a trip to Europe on the proceeds and walked with the swagger of an ’80s stockbroker.

Then the shoes arrived. They looked a little shoddy. A YouTube video on how to spot fakes confirmed my suspicion. Mine were counterfeit (see photograph). So much for the trip to Europe. I e-mailed my seller, demanding my money back. He reluctantly agreed, never arguing the shoe’s authenticity. Two weeks later, I finally received my refund.

Josh Luber at Campless.com warns that the number of good fakes is growing, and the best way to ensure that you get the real thing is to buy directly from an authorized retailer. “You’re quite lucky,” he told me when I said I’d gotten my money back. But that’s not how I felt.  

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