Eco

Why I'm Boycotting Nike Print

Nike has a large counterfeiting problem.  Unscrupulous companies manufacture goods using Nike's logo and sell those goods wherever they can—swap meets, on the streets of New York, etc.  Admittedly, this is reprehensible and I support prosecution of any exporter and/or importer that is knowingly involved. 

Nike doesn't think Customs is doing enough to interdict counterfeit goods.  Customs devotes a lot of time and money to inspection and data mining in pursuit of counterfeiters, and Customs does, in fact, seize a fair amount of stuff that is counterfeit.  But crooks are resourceful and continue their game.

The shipment method used by these firms is usually DDP, meaning delivered, duty paid, so the bills for Customs clearance and duty are billed back to the supplier in the foreign country.  The counterfeiters usually use obscure, foreign-based forwarders who contract with smaller Customs brokers for the clearance, giving the brokers a power of attorney for a fictitious company and documents that deliberately show false descriptions.  For example, running suits and shoes may be described as pots and pans. 

The Customs broker clearing the goods has no idea what is really in the containers, because brokers never actually see what is in the containers they are clearing.  They have to rely on the documents provided by the importer—or in these cases, the supplier.  This has been the case since time began in the container shipping business.

Anyone with a smattering of knowledge about the Customs broker industry knows this.  Importers also know this—or at least should know this.  A company Nike's size should absolutely know this.  And yet Nike, frustrated by the continuing counterfeiting of its goods, filed lawsuits against six Customs brokers this year because the brokers cleared shipments of goods that turned out to be counterfeit Nike merchandise.

In the lawsuits, Nike alleges that part of a Customs broker's responsibility is to verify that what is in the container matches what is shown on the invoice.  There is no legal basis for this allegation, the Customs regulations do not stipulate any such responsibility, and it is, in fact, impossible for Customs brokers to do so.  Not only is this point of view asinine, it's egregiously ignorant.  The Bureau of Customs & Border Protection, by its own admission before Congress and the world, cannot examine all the containers arriving in the USA.  That Nike opines--perhaps "whines" would be a better word--that brokers should do so is chutzpah at its most extreme.

Nike sued only small brokers, who do not have the means to defend themselves well;  I suspect part of Nike's  motivation was to get quick settlements and establish precedent of broker responsibility for goods verification, notwithstanding that there is no legal foundation.

To me, this demonstrates that Nike is a self-important bully that is picking on the little guy instead of continuing to deal with its problem.  Given its size and scope of business, it should know better.  I dislike people who behave this way, and I dislike even more any company that behaves this way.

It's especially galling when you realize that these lawsuits against Customs brokers do nothing--absolutely, positively nothing--to disrupt the flow of counterfeit Nike products.

Some years ago, Vanity Fair published an article about Bill Mauldin, the famed World War II cartoonist and creator of Willie and Joe.  He hated what he called the "chickenshit" officers who contributed nothing of benefit to soldiers on the front lines.  (General George Patton, for example, ordered his men to shave and wear neckties, even in combat.)  The article contains a definition of "chickenshit" from Paul Fussel's memoir, Wartime:

"It refers to behavior that makes military life worse than it need be:  petty harassment of the weak by the strong...  It can be recognized instantly because it never has anything to do with winning the war."

So, let's see--petty harassment of the weak by the strong;  never has anything to do with winning the war--hey, Nike--the shoe fits!

And I will never again buy any Nike product.