Warnings printed on the inside of the box read: "Danger Contains Sulfuric Acid" and "Poison - Causes Severe Burns" - not the sort of messages that would normally accompany a product from one of the world's most iconic luxury brands.
But it sure looked real. It was dark brown, sported a braided strap with brass fittings and the Louis Vuitton monogramme stamped all across the bag.
I had ordered the bag from a website called www.ericwhy.com for this special report, which explores the growing problem of counterfeit merchandise sold over the Internet.
Reuters wanted to trace the problem from a consumer in Washington DC to the shadowy producers based in Guangzhou China, where my colleague Melanie Lee found the illicit workshops and markets.
Ericwhy, based in Guangzhou, calls its stuff "designer-inspired alternative to actual Louis Vuitton" in a disclaimer on its website. "We assume no civil or criminal liability for the actions of those who buy our products."
Yet, US law enforcement officials say this website and many others that offer a dazzling array of goods online - clothes, electronics, footwear, watches, medicines - are outlaws, and they plan to go after them hard.
Image: Fake foreign brand handbags are displayed inside a store at Baiyun World Leather Market in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, September 28, 2010.
Text: Doug Palmer and Melanie Lee, Reuters
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