The Paradox of cheapness: Why buying cheap counterfeit products is expensive in the long run

When people perceive that times are tough economically, the immediate reaction is to institute austerity measures that will allow their households to survive the tough times.

Family budgets are substantially cut to size, the frequency of family trips and luxuries are reluctantly reduced, expenditure is consistently reviewed and scaled down, and as families go into financial survival mode, cheaper goods end up on the shopping basket to replace more expensive items that would have been preferred in better days.

End justifies means

When Kenyan families go into survival mode, cheap is prioritised over quality because the end justifies the means - the end being to save as much money as possible. The reactionary pressure to save more money which can then be allocated to meet other expenses makes cheaper products more alluring to the eyes of not just Kenyans, but anyone.

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But then, the allure of cheaper products drives the average Kenyan into the unscrupulous hands of counterfeit goods peddlers. This is perhaps why counterfeit products are increasingly finding themselves first in our shopping baskets then onto our shelves to be consumed regardless of the implications to our lives.

Arguably, the danger of counterfeit products has been understated. First, the consumption of such products, whose quality is often uncontrolled, has significant implications on our health. Imagine heading to the pharmacy with a prescription from your doctor for an illness.

At the chemist shop, the attendant pulls out from the shelf behind him the said drugs which unbeknown to you is a fake.

Now, the doctor’s intention was to restore you back to good health, and unknowingly, you put your trust into this product and carrying it home to religiously ingest it as per the prescription given by your well-meaning doctor.

My guess is, not only will you not get well, that counterfeit medicine might bring the onset of other health problems that will frustratingly drive you back to your doctor and then to the pharmacist in a vicious and unforgiving cycle.

Notably, health implications of counterfeit products are just a part of the overall impact of the same. At a time when the country is keen on boosting its manufacturing capacity in line with the Big 4 agenda, the influx of counterfeit products into our markets poses a huge threat.

Well-meaning manufacturers who focus on quality control and adhere to the laid down regulations that determine the quality of products that should be let out into the market do not stand a chance against counterfeiting giants who have found a way to go around such regulations to offer us much cheaper but potentially more harmful products.

Sh6 billion loss

The fact that the government loses up to Sh6 billion in a year due to counterfeits, not mentioning the private sector’s whopping Sh30 billion loss within the same period of time means that every counterfeited product that ends up on our shelves in our homes reduces the availability of job opportunities for the youth and therefore undermines the achievement of the manufacturing agenda of job creation and exclusive economic growth.

Every decision we knowingly or unknowingly make by picking a counterfeit product and putting it in our shopping basket is shattering the dreams of a young person traversing the city as we speak, with his resume tucked under his shoulder only hoping that today might be the last day he might have to tarmac for a job.

This is the paradox of purchasing cheap counterfeit products, that even though the decision to opt for cheaper products whose quality we are not assured of might seem smart at the moment, we might end up paying more in terms of our health and our economy in the long run.

As ethical and genuine brands are edged out of the market by popular and cheaper counterfeits and our economic progress is put on the line, ultimately, it is we the youth that will suffer the most as opportunities for our growth are snatched away.

The cost of a jobless youthful population is much greater than any amount of money we might save in purchasing counterfeit products that we consider cheaper.

We can therefore play our part as consumers by emphasizing the importance of quality assurance of the products that we purchase and hence we should hold vendors of the said products to account.

Mr Mokamba is Communication Consultant in Nairobi.

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