The 6 Strangest Bootlegged Items


Bootlegged and counterfeited items are commonplace. Wherever there's a profit to be made, there are sure to be people bootlegging and counterfeiting in an attempt to make a quick buck. Our food supply, our history, our safety, and even where we shop can be bootlegged by committed criminals. Here are six of the strangest things to be bootlegged.

1. An entire Apple store

In 2011, 22 Chinese Apple stores were discovered to not actually be Apple stores. They were just convincing bootlegged fakes, right down to the decor and posters. The geniuses manning the store wore the same blue t-shirts legit Apple employees wear, and many of them didn't realize their store wasn't affiliated with the Cupertino, California-based company. The fake stores still keep running, with new ones popping up all the time, taking advantage of China's lax intellectual property laws.

2. Maple syrup

Last August, 2.7 million kilograms of maple syrup, worth $17.5 million, disappeared from Quebec’s Global Strategic Maple Syrup reserve. Twenty-three people alleged to be involved in a stealing-and-smuggling ring have been arrested, the last of whom was caught this month, accused of siphoning off the syrup and delivering it under their own terms to customers.

3. Olive oil

Maple syrup isn’t the only liquid foodstuff that gets bootlegged. That prime Greek olive oil you fill your supermarket cart with every week? It may well not be Greek—and it may well not be olive oil, either. Unscrupulous traders often pass off lesser oils as olive products, and take the profits, as one journalist discovered.

4. Baby milk formula

Maple syrup and olive oil bootlegging is criminal, but ultimately, it hasn’t yet harmed people. Some bootlegging of food items can harm, though, as evidenced in China. Chinese supplies of baby milk formula have been tainted and bootlegged with melamine—a chemical used in plastics and adhesives.

5. Dino bones

Cast a skeptical eye over any fossils you see displayed in exhibits. An awful lot of them were sourced from China (because its present-day landmass was a locus of dinosaurs in prehistoric times), and an awful lot of people got rich. And where there's the opportunity of profit, bootleggers often step in. In the 1970s, fakes began entering the market, and now it can be difficult to trace what's a true fossil and what is a whittled chicken bone.

6. Bomb detectors

The ADE 651 bomb detector was sold worldwide to 20 different countries. At $60,000 per detector, it wasn't a cheap investment, but in places like Iraq, its proven detection ability—finding bombs buried up to 1 kilometer below ground—was worth it for safety. The Iraqi government spent $85 million on them. Problem was, they were fakes—and they didn't work. The British businessman who willingly sold the bootleg devices to governments, armies, and police forces was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this year.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


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