My sister, Linda, and her daughter, Tori, had heard rumors. They were in New York City for a week to see some Broadway shows and do all the normal touristy things. But most of all, they were there to shop.  According to rumor, diminutive Chinese women stand on the sidewalk in front of their shops in Chinatown, whispering furtively to passers by, offering to sell brand-name purse knockoffs.

Hoping for the best, they walked around Chinatown, slowing their pace and listening very closely whenever they passed a shopkeeper lingering on the pavement. Once, twice, three times their hopes were dashed. Just another rumor with no substance, they decided. They were headed back to the hotel when Tori stopped in her tracks.

“Did you hear that?”she asked her mother? “I’m sure that woman whispered the word purse.”

“Purse?” the woman whispered again. They turned and made eye contact. “Coach purse?” a little louder this time. Linda nodded. With a slight head tilt of her head, the woman motioned for them to follow her. Without another word, she led them through two interconnected stores. In the rear of the second store she stopped at a blank wall and pressed a cleverly hidden button. A hidden door flew open to reveal an enormous room filled with purse knockoffs of Coach, Louis Vuitton, and other brand name handbags.

Half an hour later they retraced their steps to the street, laden down with four purses and a tote bag that looked like the real thing, yet had cost only $100 total. “I think I died and went to heaven,” said Linda. Chinese purse heaven. Only in New York City.

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