An Hermès Birkin handbag priced at less than $10,000 can be a bargain, but a shopper who bought one from a Mount Kisco charity shop depicts the find as more of a rip-off.
Erica C. Fink of Newport Beach, California sued The Benefit Shop Foundation Inc. and its founder Pam Stone, Oct. 23 in Westchester Supreme Court, claiming that the coveted handbag she bought at auction was not the real deal.
“The handbag actually delivered,” the complaint states, “was a counterfeit ‘Birkin’ of nominal value.”
But Stone said in a telephone interview that Fink wanted a refund while the Birkin was still in her possession. Stone said she offered to put a refund in escrow until the bag was returned.
“She wouldn’t return the bag,” Stone said. “From where I come from, that’s called theft.”
Fink gave no details in the complaint as to how she knows the bag is a fake.
According to Stone, Fink said “she just knows.”
Hermès Birkins were inspired by British actress and singer Jane Birkin, who, as the story goes, was seated next to Hermès’ chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London.
Birkins have developed a cult-like status, known for exquisite craftmanship and exclusivity enforced by limiting the supply.
Prices range from about $10,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on size, type of animal hide, color and fixtures.
High demand and high prices also have emboldened counterfeiters.
The item in dispute was listed on Liveauctioneers.com as a Hermès Birkin Handbag in orange togo (the vibrant color of the Toco Toucan’s huge bill).
“Hermès Paris Made in France” is embossed in silver-toned writing above the clasp. “Consigner believes it to be authentic,’ the description states, “received as a gift from luxury department store in Japan, never been used and comes with Hermès logo dust cover.”
Fink says she wired $9,711 for the bag on Aug. 20. She claims that an authentic, unused bag of this type is worth at least $15,000.
Fink was never told that the bag was worth $15,000, Stone said, and the bidding began at $1.
She said Hermès advised her that it does not authenticate after-market bags and that the only way to know is if you have the original purchase receipt.
The auction site included 20 photographs, including closeups of the stitching, hardware and underside, Stone said, for people to see if they can determine authenticity.
Stone said Fink accused the shop of sending a bag different than the Birkin depicted on the auction site.
“I said send it back,” Stone said.
The Benefit Shop’s auction policy states that all items offered at auction are sold as is, with no refunds, no returns and no recourse. Descriptions of condition, authenticity, measurements and origin are opinions and are believed to be accurate, according to the policy, but the shop makes no warranties as to value.
Shoppers also are encouraged to preview items in person or contact The Benefit Shop for more information.
Fink accuses The Benefit Shop of breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation and negligence.
She is demanding nearly $10,000, plus interest and unspecified punitive damages. She is represented by Glen A. Kurtis of White Plains.
The Benefit Shop touts itself as the secret source for the best interior designers in Westchester and Fairfield counties. It takes in donations “from the finest estates in Bedford and beyond,” and showcases them online and in Mount Kisco.
Donors get a tax deduction. Buyers get a great deal. Local charities get a share of the profits.
In 2017, the organization made grants totaling $17,075 on revenue of $656,029, according to its public tax return.