This is the last in a series of articles on sex toy materials.
Click here for last Part 1, Intro & Why It Matters.
Click here for Part 2, Toxic Sex Toys.
Click here for Part 3, Porous Sex Toys.
Click here for last Part 4, Body Safe Sex Toys.
Note: links may be NSFW.
It’s time to finish our series on sex toy materials! Counterfeit sex toys are a thing, and they are becoming more of a problem in the industry. I’m sort of using an umbrella term here. Remember, this industry is unregulated. It’s worth noting that in the process of writing this piece, a counterfeit manufacturer approached me about putting whatever brand I wanted on their toys, made in Pakistan. Some of these appeared to be identical to Njoy.
What Are Counterfeit Sex Toys?
I’m going to use “counterfeit sex toys” to encompass traditional fake items that are sold as the real thing, designs of small companies stolen by large companies and produced in materials of lesser quality, real items that are stolen or procured illegally, and “refurbished” sex toys that are really used toys repackaged and re-sold.
Who Sells Counterfeit Sex Toys?
Amazon, eBay, and other “marketplace” sites are by where the bulk of the transactions happen. You can also sometimes find these things direct from shell websites by overseas knockoff factories. They may not even copy any particular design. They may just make sex toys out of whatever, call it silicone, and make a website to sell them, complete with “secure” credit card authorization provided by unscrupulous nationalist banks, like these ones in China.
They can even be found in retail shops. Sometimes one manufacturer will rip off the design of another, and use cheaper/unsafe materials, and slap a low price tag on it. Retailers may not know better, or may not see any problem in selling a cheaper item that looks similar to the original, especially if it sells.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Them
There are several risks involved. I’m not saying each of these is 100% going to happen to you, but I want you to be an informed consumer. It’s up to you to whether you want to risk it. These are just a few examples, and this list is in no way comprehensive.
Warranty problems. Most reputable sex toy manufacturers offer at least a 1-year warranty on their products, especially if it’s a vibrator. Should you need to warranty the item, the company will ask to see your proof of purchase to replace it. If it’s fake or you bought it from an unauthorized retailer, they won’t honor the warranty.
They Don’t Last. Something interesting I discovered while researching this topic is that impure steel cracks due to its impurities. I’m also learning more about the annealing process of glass, and how cheap glass toys should be avoided. As for anything with a vibrator, any fly-by-night overseas can sell you a vibe and change their name the next day whether your toy works or not.
They don’t work. Some are never intended to work – they’re only made to get your money.
They Cause Harm. You think you’re buying a silicone dildo, but you get a PVC one and it gives you a chemical burn. There are also “steel” toys, which may be made with a cheaper nickel alloy, which can cause hives in those allergic to nickel or just turn your vulva green. Glass toys could be painted with lead paint or made with cheap, fragile glass.
They’ve been used. One Amazon reviewer openly says she’s received these.
Raises Prices and hurts honest companies. Quality toys are going to cost you more money, but what drives prices even higher is counterfeiting. That seems counter-intuitive, but because these companies have to get into legal battles, it tends to raise prices across the board.
Amazon & eBay Sellers Aren’t Usually Authorized/Licensed
People say “but I know someone who got a real one when they bought from there!” Here’s the deal: most reputable sex toy manufacturers do not allow the sale of their products on these sites. However, the prevalence of fraud is so widespread they have trouble controlling it. Add international law to the mix, and you have a legal machine that’s very slow to remove fake products. Amazon is even slow to remove illegal drugs from their marketplace, and has pushed back against regulatory bodies trying to pin them with facilitating the sale of illegal merchandise. eBay is just as bad, with some auctions lasting just hours.
Further, Amazon uses something like a “bin system” they call pooled merchandise in their warehouses so they can get items to you fast. They order the items from all the sellers selling what appears to be the same thing, since they want to get your order to you in two days. They stick them all in a bin together, again, buying from multiple sources. Regardless which merchant you buy from, the warehouse worker just grabs one from the bin.
For example, Amazon sells LELO products, even though they’re not an authorized retailer. Amazon has SKU slots for each toy. When you order, an Amazon warehouse employee grabs the first one out of the bin for that SKU. Meanwhile, one of the places Amazon bought that bin of toys from sells fake. That worker could grab a fake out of the bin. It doesn’t matter if you do your research – you’re going to get whatever “LELO” out of the bin they grab.
LELO has tried to stop them many times in the past, but it’s not an American company. Removing their products from Amazon has been a slow process. Some Amazon marketplace sellers get their toys from real adult product distribution companies and don’t know they aren’t allowed to sell on Amazon; others do so and just hope they don’t get caught. So, some of the LELO toys are real, although they’re unauthorized. But some sellers are selling knockoffs that aren’t real LELO vibrators. These get mixed in the bin with the real ones. That is the danger.
There is proof this bin system sends out counterfeit toys, besides the article I linked. Investigative sex writer Dangerous Lilly encountered this while researching glass toys. She purchased two different toys, from two different Amazon retailers. They both came in the same packaging, even thought they were from two different shops. Suspicious of one that didn’t fit in its storage case properly, she purchased another from a reputable shop and discovered the first one was a fake. These aren’t even high dollar toys to begin with.
How to Identify Counterfeit Sex Toys Before You Buy
How can you spot fakes?
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t buy vibrators under $40, maybe $35 if you catch a sale. The Njoy Eleven should always be over $300. I’ve seen knockoffs on Amazon for less than $100. That’s definitely not the real thing.
Look for original packaging as the retailer advertises on their website. Look for any misspellings in the name of the company, any signs of tampering, or if it just looks like it’s not in its original packaging.
If you’ve ever opened a fresh razor cartridge, you’re familiar with the smell of the alcohol vapors they use to sanitize them, but it washes off. Your toy may have smells from the warehouse, which will disappear with a good wash with soap and water. If your toy smells like a shower curtain or new car and that smell doesn’t go away after you wash it, be suspicious.
Safety Symbols on Vibrators
If your toy plugs into a wall, it should have a UL rating, and if it can be sold in Europe all electronics will have a CE symbol. If it’s missing these, it’s fake.
Missing Instructions or Warranty Registration Numbers
If your toy comes without an instructions/warning pamphlet, a serial number, or warranty registration card, it’s likely fake. Reputable sex toy manufacturers instruct you to register the device on their website. If you can’t register the product, you’re SOL if it doesn’t work.
Your best bet is to go through an authorized retailer and spend the extra for the peace of mind. Your pleasure is worth it. My shop is authorized for all the brands we sell, but there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other authorized retailers who also care about your health and pleasure. We work hard to make sure you get the right product for your body, your relationship, and your budget. If your budget is super small, let me know and I’ll point you where there are real toys that you can afford.