Yes, I admit– I should have seen it coming. After six years of importing from across the ocean, it was nearing my time to get burnt– oh, so crisply burnt. At the beginning of March, I was searching around online, looking to snatch up all the great games of the past two years that I haven’t had the time to play yet for bargain-bin prices. Typical conservative behavior, right? True, but my problem lied within. I was looking for the easiest route possible. I wanted to please my hungry wallet; and when I stumbled upon a brand-new copy of Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story for a mere 15 bucks with deliciously free shipping… well, let’s just say I was exuberant.
But when the game arrived at my door, this glee would quickly plummet.
I watched in horror as my brother picked the suspect package marked “From China” out of the mailbox and brought it into our home. Being the internationally-conscientious cynic that he is, he felt it necessary that we let the package air out from any foreign contaminants or alien symbiotes on the back deck before unwrapping it in the presence of valuable human life. Better safe than sorry, I guess. And the worst part was I could already feel the morning’s breakfast playing soccer in my stomach, as if to foreshadow the mockery of which I knew in my heart I was destined to feel the moment my brother stepped back out on the terrace.
My instincts proved correct. The small yellow package from hell contained three things: a creepily translucent DS case, an English instruction booklet that had clearly been printed (in full color!), and an over-sized, bestickered Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story cartridge that would only through sheer force fit into my Nintendo DS. When I turned it on, it was indeed Bowser’s Inside Story, but the DS start-up screen read the cartridge as Alex Rider: Stormbreaker, thus confirming everything we had feared. It was a genuine bootleg. Our pocketbook had literally been shanghaied.
The migraine that triggered at the revelation of this atrocity proceeded in typical fashion– a twitching eye, a palpitating heart, a sickening thud. My world was coming to an end, and for a moment, I was okay with that. Only after a few hours of reflection did I breathe a sigh of relief and take in the humor of it all. The next day, we simply reported the seller to eBay (with only a few harsh words, mind you), and he thankfully, perhaps even against his own will, refunded us entirely.
This is not to say that all Chinese sellers are bootleggers. I have personally bought several legitimate items and games from China. But they did not come cheap. Low prices from across the seas are more often than not a guaranteed sign of a scam. A sign I now know for sure.
Though I must say, for the story I now have to tell, and the lesson I learned about the seriousness of importing, it was all worth it. Of course, my story had a relatively happy ending, but still…