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Ask Asa: When Designer Deals Turn Into Disasters

T.J.Maxx Storefront (Credit: CBS 2)

T.J.Maxx Storefront (Credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Buying a designer label means more than just a famous name stamped on your pants or purse. There’s a cut, feel and quality that is evident.

But sometimes, designer deals turn into disasters.

Carole Tramutola of Staten Island recently took a close look at her Bottega Veneta bag.

Was it real or was it counterfeit?

That was the $950 question that Tramutola was trying to answer.

“I saw Bottega Veneta on the price tag and I thought I was getting a bargain,” Tramutola told CBS 2’s Asa Aarons.

Authentic Bottega Veneta bags sell for $2,000-plus in upscale 5th Avenue stores. And clearly, that’s far away from the T.J. Maxx in suburban Philadelphia where Tramutola found her bag secured in a special area reserved for high-end merchandise.

“I took the card out and I said, ‘OK, it has to be real because they don’t sell fake items here,” Tramutola explained.

Tramutola was so thrilled with her purchase that she bought another one for her sister. With nearly $2,000 of designer bags in hand, she arrived home to make some sad discoveries.

“They don’t feel right,” Tramutola said upon examining the bags. “They’re not soft.”

Bottega Veneta told CBS 2 that they only use materials from Italy when making their bags. There should be no “Made in India” lining, and the workmanship and missing threads indicated that the bags were not authentic.

T.J. Maxx then agreed to investigate and examine the bags, and they also concluded that the bags purchased by Tramutola were not authentic Bottega Veneta bags.

T.J. Maxx believes that the original bags were purchased from their store by someone who kept the originals and then returned cheap counterfeit versions — like those sold by street vendors. The fake bags then likely went undetected and entered the store’s merchandise flow.

T.J. Maxx added in a statement, “Unfortunately, retailers, and in this case, an innocent customer, sometimes fall victim to fraudulent return activity. We are taking swift action to tighten our return procedures to prevent this situation from occurring again.”

However it happened, the question remains for all of us.

“How many other things did I buy that are not real?” Tramutola pondered.

T.J. Maxx went on to tell Aarons that they are going to start a rigorous training program to help store managers spot fakes.

When you buy merchandise, the best thing to do is what Tramutola did. Once you have the product in your home, go online and compare its features with others. If it’s supposed to be made in Italy but it says “Made in India,” then obviously you’ve got a problem.

Whenever you encounter a consumer question, don’t hesitate to email Asa Aarons at AskAsa@cbs.com.

Have you purchased top-of-the-line products, only to find out later that they were fakes? Share your stories in the comments section below…