A couple days ago a friend recommended I read this article on the New York Times: For DecorMyEyes, Bad Publicity Is a Good Thing – NYTimes.com.
I was appalled by what I read. The article profiles Vitaly Borker, the founder and owner of DecorMyEyes.com, a website which sells designer eyeglasses, contact lenses, and related products. A website by itself isn’t very interesting, but the way he generates business is -
Borker uses negative publicity to generate traffic to his site and increase sales. The owner allegedly sold products of dubious quality or authenticity, then threatened customers with violence and other actions if they put a stop payment on their credit card or refused payment.
Treating Customers Badly is Good for Business?
The age old mantra is, “the customer is always right.” But Borker takes the opposite approach. His goal is to generate negative publicity, which in turn makes more people link to his website, which helps him rank higher in the search engines. For an online store, more traffic generally equals more money.
Here is an example from the NY Times article: A customer purchased some contacts and glasses from the site DecorMyEyes. The next day she received a call from Borker informing her the contacts she purchased were not available, and she would need to choose another brand. She declined to purchase another brand of contacts and requested a refund, at which point Borker allegedly became belligerent and tried to bully her into buying a different brand. He refused to refund her money. To make matters worse, the glasses she ordered arrived 2 days later and were counterfeit, and she was overcharged by $125. Again, he refused to refund her money.
It gets worse. At this point she disputed the charge with her credit card issuer, which set off Borker. He began stalking her, harassing her, and making threatening phone calls in an attempt to get her to drop the disputed charge (credit card issuers will ban business owners who generate too many disputed claims in a given time period).
Eventually she contacted the police department, her phone company to block the calls, Borker’s web host to get his site taken down, and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a government owned website where you can report internet crimes. Unfortunately, no one was able to help and the threats escalated.
What happens next? This article goes into great detail with interviews of the customer mentioned here, the police, and Borker himself, who was unapologetic, claiming his actions were good for business. Retelling the entire story wouldn’t do it justice (as it is a fine piece of journalism). I recommend reading the entire article – it is well worth your time (may require you to sign up for a free account).
Google isn’t to blame for this situation – it is impossible to know how people will use their search engine. But they have responded with an algorithmic change designed to prevent companies such as DecorMyEyes.com from reaching top spots in the search engines (they made a change to their algorithms instead of directly penalizing the site in question). You can read Google’s official response here: Being bad to your customers is bad for business. Hopefully the other major search engines have followed suit and have made similar changes to their searches.
Protect yourself online
This example, while most likely an isolated incident, is exactly why you should research companies before making online purchases. You can usually protect yourself by making purchases through major online retailers such as Ebay, Amazon, and major department stores. But sometimes the major retailers don’t have the item you are looking for or don’t have the best prices. When this happens, you should always research the website before making a purchase. Just do a quick Google search for the company or website and you should see a few reviews – especially if there is a major problem, such as there is with DecorMyEyes.com.
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