This image was lost some time after publication.

Is it possible the NYPD is wasting its time by cracking down on counterfeiters? The retail industry has railed against rip-offs for years, but faux merchandise may not actually be such a bad thing, according to a researcher at MIT:

While MIT Sloan School of Management professor Renee Richardson Gosline does not condone the illegal activity in any way, she said more than 40 percent of participants in a recent study eventually purchased authentic merchandise, due partially to the inferiority of fakes. Aside from determining counterfeit goods are not substitutes for the real thing, she said the fakes are sometimes viewed as "low-risk trial" purchases, but once compared with the actual branded product, consumers realize they do not measure up.

"People originally think the counterfeit will be a substitute for the real thing, but they find out the real thing is better," Gosline said of her two-and-a-half-year survey, "Rethinking Brand Contamination: How Consumers Maintain Distinction When Symbolic Boundaries Are Breached."

Naturally, critics aren't convinced that women who pay $50 for a fake Louis Vuitton handbag on Canal Street soon realize that they'll get so much more if they rush up to Midtown and purchase the real thing for an extra $2,000 or so. Says one: "I would definitely find it a bit suspect."

The Real Fake Thing [WWD via The Cut]