Remember the recent news of a Paris bag gang that used actors to purchase Hermès Birkins and Kellys from the Faubourg St.Honore boutique and then resold them in private showrooms for triple the retail price? Gang Accused of Buying Up Half of Hermès Supply. This story seemingly struck a chord in so many Hermès fans.
In fact, folks are still talking about it and asking questions. How did it go on for so long? Are Hermès employees implicated? Where’s the crime since bags were purchased legally? Why can’t you sell your bag at any price a buyer wants to pay? And so on…
As details continue to emerge, a fascinating account by one of the hired actors published in the Inspired Traveler. Leo, as he is called in the article, is a 28 year old actor in French movies and television who acted as a “mule” for the gang – acting as a “false customer” to convince Hermès sales associates to sell him the difficult to get handbags. Leo says
“The network hired foreigners because they can pay for bags in cash,” recounts the young actor. For my part, what pleased them was that I corresponded perfectly to the profile of the chic client: white, from a bourgeois background, well educated. As an actor, I could easily fit into the character and resist stress. “
And the ringleaders helped the actors get into character. Per Leo, the “mules” dressed in headquarters on rue du Faubourg Saint Honore, 100 metres from the Elysee Palace. Women were given high quality fake Birkin bags. Leo was clad in BCBG clothing and accessories. He was instructed as to specifics on quota bags to request. He says 35cm bags needed to be black, gold or gray, with gold hardware in Togo or Epsom leathers. For the even more difficult 30cm and 25cm sizes, any color would do. In terms of payment, the actors were given bank cards or money was transferred to their accounts.
Once in the store, Leo provided purchasing scenarios, much like what regular shoppers recount to sales associates: a gift for mom’s 60th, for a girlfriend etc. Although in contact with the gang during the store visit, he had to be careful to seem legit at all times, even when alone, as there are cameras. They had to purchase smaller items like perfume as well.
Interestingly, according to Leo, out of 30 buying attempts, he was successful only four times. However, and we apologize for burying the lede, but . . . on two of those occasions Leo claims the Hermès sales associates were embedded in the scheme. In other words, by Leo’s account, this was, in part, an inside job by Hermès employees!
“On two occasions, I also had to deal with salespeople infected with the network,” continues Léo. I was shown pictures of them before the missions and they too knew how I was dressed. We still had to play the sale game for the cameras, except that in the end I had the perfect bag. One of the accomplice sales assistants had worked for Hermès for 20 years and was tired of the others making money and not her. I also saw by their attitude in the stores that a lot of other customers were wrong, like me. “
As for moral questions about his role, Leo admits:
“I knew that the problem behind what I was doing was money laundering, the mafia.” However, “[e]thically, I was comfortable. It was also a way for me to denounce the absurd and inhuman commercial policy of Hermès which operates arbitrary selection in its customers and creates scarcity for material. This shocks me personally.“
So, what surprises you most about Leo’s account? The elaborate ruse concocted? Involvement of Hermès employees? Or something else? Let us hear from you.
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