Bootleg items sold street side in Rome are ubiquitous. It’s unlikely that you’ll cross a bridge without being pitched the latest 100% authentically fake Prada handbag, Gucci sunglasses, or Panerai wristwatch, a scourge for the “Made in Italy” fashion, design and luxury good companies.
At the retail level these items are sold by street vendors (young West African and Bangladeshi men for the most part) who are engaged in an ongoing low-impact game of cat and mouse with the already over-extended authorities. In other words, a tough face is occasionally shown but the practice is essentially tolerated. The real money, and the bribes that are generated from it, is made by organized-crime at the wholesale level.
A few days ago, the French Guinean neighborhood bootleg CD and DVD salesman was by his makeshift cardboard-box display-stand adding mayhem to the madness of the already too narrow sidewalk by the entrance of the grocery store hawking his wares as usual. On this morning however I heard him shouting “Promozione speciale!” to an interested small crowd. Out of curiosity I leaned in and asked “Djalo, allora?” (Djalo, well?).
Like the best of salesmen the world over, with a smile and a wave, he pointed at his goods and said, “Oggi se compri un CD o DVD, ti offro un caffé!” (If you buy a CD or DVD today, I’ll treat you to an espresso!)
Needless to say he was doing brisk business.