Harassing Customers As A Business Model

One site has figured out a way to turn antagonizing customers into a profitable business model.

After the proprietor stopped caring about his clients, he found that the negative feedback left about his company on other sites started to increase his search rankings. So he dialed it up, deliberately provoking complaining customers with allegedly counterfeit products, poor service, incendiary emails, and harassing phone calls. That only increased the rage on customer feedback sites, his Google rankings, and his sales to consumers who didn’t do any research about the site before making a purchase.

Here’s a taste of some of his savvy business tactics:

“Listen, bitch,” he fumed, according to Ms. Rodriguez. “I know your address. I’m one bridge over” — a reference, it turned out, to the company’s office in Brooklyn. Then, she said, he threatened to find her and commit an act of sexual violence too graphic to describe in a newspaper.

I’m not naming the site or the product because I don’t want to feed his perverse little beast, but his belief in “all press is good press” may have come to its logical conclusion: After the New York Times profiled and investigated him, a number of authorities have taken a sudden interest in bringing him to justice.

A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web [NYT] (Thanks to Craig!)

Comments

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  1. Grogey says:

    Probably the two big nono’s: counterfeit products, harassing phone calls

    • LACubsFan says:

      I thought this article would be about the Franklin Mint. Took me 4 years to get off the call list/mail list/email list.

  2. MamaBug says:

    i read about this guy this morning. grade A douche-nozzle in my books.

    • axhandler1 says:

      I read this article this morning too. That guy deserves to get his ass kicked.

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      As a PR professional, I’d love to say I’m shocked by this story, but I can’t. He’s successfully exploiting weaknesses for somewhat dubious gains, which begs the question: is any PR good PR?

      Normally I’d say absolutely not, but in this case? He’s the exception to the rule. He got himself in the NYT. His search rankings are near the top. There are trillions of users out there who A) likely won’t read this article, B) won’t do their homework before ordering from this creep, and C) aren’t willing to invest the time and energy to fight back against him, so in the end he’ll still be raking it in.

      It’s a clever, yet absolutely shameful way of doing business. Bleh.

      • mythago says:

        He’s not raking it in; he is, by his own admission, working ridiculous hours; and he’s facing criminal charges and government investigation, as well as having his access to online marketplaces cut off. Not all that successful except in the very short term.

  3. MrBryan says:

    I like this.

  4. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    I can just imagine his business card:

    “Vitaly Borker — Professional Asshole”

  5. PSUSkier says:

    Noel Lee of Monster Cable?

    j/k, but that is some grade-A assbaggery right there.

  6. dragonfire81 says:

    In a way, I don’t entirely blame this guy. We’re a society that gives all kinds of attention to conflicts and disputes and things gone wrong. I guarantee you his being a jackass has gotten him tons more money and publicity than playing nice would have.

    Here’s a glowing example of how he conducted himself:

    “Listen, bitch,” he fumed, according to Ms. Rodriguez. “I know your address. I’m one bridge over” — a reference, it turned out, to the company’s office in Brooklyn. Then, she said, he threatened to find her and commit an act of sexual violence too graphic to describe in a newspaper.

    That may sound extreme, but that’s how you draw attention to something these days. You push the envelope as far as it can possibly go (sometimes crossing a legal line) because people will take notice. It’s all about the shock factor.

    • mythago says:

      If you secretly admire the guy, why not just say so instead of hiding behind all this “golly, ya can’t blame the poor feller” nonsense?

      • dragonfire81 says:

        All I am saying is I can appreciate the unorthodox approach the guy used to make a system work in his favor. I like creativeness. Now that doesn’t in any way change the fact the guy’s a dick and deserves to be in jail.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      So, you consider stalking, threatening and harassing people to be ‘how you draw attention to something these days’? My sympathies to anyone who has to deal with you.

    • galm666 says:

      This is all good until one or both of the following happens:

      1. The folks at a business who run their shop this way go to jail.
      2. A customer takes the threats of violence seriously and proceeds to shoot everyone in the business to death in a pre-emptive hit.

    • Rachacha says:

      I used to work in a service industry and we used to bend over backwards to do ANYTHING to keep the customer happy (including changing the toilet tissue in the restrooms because a customer said 2 ply would be nicer). We would give away our services for free to keep “valuable” customers happy (they always asked for a discount). We finally convinced management to let us try on an experimental basis for charging a fair price for each service that we provided…no freebies, no discounts, and when we DID provide a freebie or a discount (because the customer made a compelling arguement and we were partially to blame) we let the customer know in writing that they were getting something at a discount. What we discovered is that revenue increased significantly. We lost a few customers briefly (because we would not give them a discount for no reason) but they eventually came back with a different attitude when they found out that our competition was not giving discounts and were offering worse customer service. The result was we spent less time doing “free work” and were compensated for the work that we did which increased our efficiency and profits and it helped to weed out all of the customers that should have been “fired” long ago.

      That said, we never threatened, and we were always nice, we simply took a firm stance on our position.

      • slappysquirrel says:

        In all fairness, 2 ply IS nicer.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          The worst thing a business can do is use crappy toilet paper. I mean, in the middle of a sale, do you really want your customer to run to the bathroom and come back feeling like you took an edge grinder to his ass?

    • sirwired says:

      He’s not doing this in a “trying to attract attention” kind of way, he’s doing it to exploit a flaw in Google’s search engine. The article explains how this works::

      - ScumCoOptical pisses off victim #1
      - victim #1 writes up their experience with ScumCoOptical on some highly rated site; as part of their review, they mention what they purchased. (i.e. Gucci glasses) Fifty other victims do the same
      - victim #2 wants to buy Gucci glasses, and searches on Google.
      - Google, seeing that ScumCoOptical appears on the same page as “Gucci glasses” repeatedly on a highly-rated site, decides that ScumCoOptical and “Gucci Glasses” must go together well (or at least often)
      - victim #2 neglects to search for “ScumCoOptical” by itself; if he/she did, they’d find all those nasty reviews pretty easily
      - victim #2 gets ripped off, and the cycle repeats itself

      • mythago says:

        The article also explains that he admits he really enjoys being an asshole, and points out that he doesn’t appear to be making as much money as he’d like us to believe.

  7. JayPhat says:

    I read this entire article yesterday when it first came up. Whats said is the fact that every level of protection meant for consumers, from her credit card company to the actuall police, FAILED MISERABLY for this woman. I’m shocked that her CC actually closed the case when someone impersonated her. What little information did they actually use to do that?

    • oldwiz65 says:

      Consumer protection authorities are notorious for siding with business. They know full well that businesses know how to get around them. companies like the BBB are the worst – companies buy good ratings, even when they screw customers every d*** day. Credit card companies give you more hassle than they do to thieves.

    • KittensRCute! says:

      this is the case with identity theft. my partner had her SS stole and the person was able to open accounts at all manner of places, except verizon wireless. why? well the person working that day asked for photo id and CHECKED to make sure it was real. thats it. they did what they were supposed to. in most cases of consumer abuse it happens only because the safe gaurds for consumers are ignored. if just ONE person does their job this man would have been in jail ages ago. but no one in these companies want to their jobs.

      even in our case, despite knowing the name and address of the people who stole my partners identity and filing police reports, nothing was done. nada. zip. zero. zilch.

  8. Harmodios says:

    You mean American Airlines with those credit card advertisements?

  9. Portlandia says:

    That’s a very shortsited business model and unless your products are a one time purchase (never need to buy again) you wont be generating a lot of return customers.

    • galm666 says:

      Well, all it takes is a jail sentence or someone deciding to take their threats of violence seriously and kill everyone that works in the shop. I mean, if the the authorities won’t take someone threatening my life as a problem, I’ll do it for them.

    • JayPhat says:

      Read the article in depth. He talks about that problem. He says “when I fly over Vegas, I look down at all those houses. If I screw over one customer, it doesn’t matter. Look at all the other houses who are going to give me money.”

      • Cameraman says:

        It’s true. There is no shortage of sheep lining up ready to be fleeced.

        Don’t be a sheep, do your research before you buy!

      • mythago says:

        Except that, at least according to the article, he’s not really doing all that well in his business – certainly not as well as he’d like everyone to think. And he admits he’s really in it because he likes being a jackhole, not because he is making money hand over fist at it. In fact he’s facing criminal charges.

  10. Baxterjones says:

    I want to know what his wife and child think of this. He’s got a 2-year-old? How does he treat his family?

    • David in Brasil says:

      In my experience, people who treat other people like this don’t make exceptions for their families. Narcissistic a-holes; nothing is ever their fault. They wake up in the morning thinking of ways to screw other people.

  11. Cameraman says:

    Why why why why why does every internet scam artist have to operate out of Brooklyn? I’m just surprised this jagoff sells eyeglasses and not digital cameras, the usual domain of the internet scam artist.

    I don’t think Nigeria actually has any royalty, but if they do, I know exactly how they feel.

    Please, if you buy ANYTHING online, do your research! Look the vendor up on Reseller Ratings or one of the other legit review sites (BBB is nothing but a scam). If lots of people warn you that a vendor is a scam artist, LISTEN TO THEM. And if it’s too good to be true, it isn’t.

    • mythago says:

      His business isn’t all that profitable, apparently. That’s where he could afford to live.

      • Cameraman says:

        Median house prices in Brooklyn, according to Trulia, is in the $600K range. Not Hong Kong prices, but not exactly cheap either.

        I suppose he could live in Sheepshead Bay (the cheapest predominately Russian neighborhood) is ~$558K

        If he owns (not rents) a house in the non shooty parts of Brooklyn (median housing prices: $460K) and can afford having work done, he’s not penurious.

  12. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Not signing up on NYT just to read this article.

    • Cameraman says:

      You should, this article’s worth it.

      Or, you could just, you know, BugMeNot.

    • blueman says:

      Really? You think everything on the Web should be free, and any ad or simple request for registration in exchange for interesting content is some kind of imposition, or attack on your freedom?

      The Times produces some of the best journalism in the world, and we all benefit from it (including blogs like this one that link to its stories regularly). I’m sure you feel as if you’re standing up for some important principle, but from here you just look like someone with an oversized sense of entitlement.

  13. Ela Darling says:

    Reminds me of the barbershop nearby in downtown LA who posts their negative Yelp reviews in the window with a sign that says “We’re hated on Yelp!” It seemed clever when the bad reviews were silly and petty. Then I read one of the posted reviews about how the barber cut two of the moles on their neck. “I prefer it when a barber doesn’t make me bleed.”

    After that it just seemed like they legitimately didn’t care about customer satisfaction or serious complaints. Definitely not going there or recommending it to friends.

  14. Ela Darling says:

    Reminds me of the barbershop nearby in downtown LA who posts their negative Yelp reviews in the window with a sign that says “We’re hated on Yelp!” It seemed clever when the bad reviews were silly and petty. Then I read one of the posted reviews about how the barber cut two of the moles on their neck. “I prefer it when a barber doesn’t make me bleed.”

    After that it just seemed like they legitimately didn’t care about customer satisfaction or serious complaints. Definitely not going there or recommending it to friends.

  15. Ela Darling says:

    Reminds me of the barbershop nearby in downtown LA who posts their negative Yelp reviews in the window with a sign that says “We’re hated on Yelp!” It seemed clever when the bad reviews were silly and petty. Then I read one of the posted reviews about how the barber cut two of the moles on their neck. “I prefer it when a barber doesn’t make me bleed.”

    After that it just seemed like they legitimately didn’t care about customer satisfaction or serious complaints. Definitely not going there or recommending it to friends.

  16. TBGBoodler says:

    After reading this article earlier today, I’m glad to see that you didn’t include the name of the business so this reference won’t count in his quest for Google standings.

  17. McKinley H. Tabor says:

    Why not use harassing customers as a business model. It’s same business model groups like the RIAA, MPAA, and US Copyright Group use on their customers.

    This guy was threatening physical and sexual violence unless the customer complied with his demands. Is that any different that a law firm threatening financial ruin unless you pay them a “settlement” based on an unsubstantiated accusation of copyright infringement.

    In both cased the person(s) doing the threatening may or may not have a bases for the demand, and in both cases the person(s) doing the threatening are using the specter of unknown and overwhelming action (physical in one, legal in the other) to force someone into accepting terms that may or may not be fair and equable.

    Why should we condone one type of threat and not the other? Are both not morally wrong?

  18. banmojo says:

    seriously, this guy needs to be tarred and feathered. a good old fashioned street side tar and feathering performed by his f***ed over customers and local businessman who eschew his brand of commerce. at the very minimum I think he has violated laws here, and needs to be fined/jailed to the max penalty.

    If I, as a doctor, treated my patients this way I’d be charged with malpractice. Sadly, while typing this I can think of not one but many MDs I personally know who treat their patients like shit, and refuse to care for patients who are ‘difficult cases’, and now I sigh and feel sad, because the base nature of humankind is that of a selfish asshole douchbag shit sandwich, and it seems this whole damn world is heading to hell in a basket.

    Happy holidays.

    • mythago says:

      On the bright side, those jackass colleagues are a LOT more likely than you to be sued for malpractice. Patients are much more forgiving of doctors who are courteous and display a genuine interest in their well-being.

  19. josephpr says:

    When I read this on Sunday, I could feel my blood pressure skyrocket, and was hoping that at some point he will do this to the wrong person, who instead of fighting with the credit card company, will make their chargeback “up close and personal”.

    Two issues: One, why aren’t the credit cards dropping him – surely the number of chargebacks (or attempts) should be raising a red flag.Even if he challenges most of them successfully – this is a big warning sign.
    The other is that while the customer certainly should not be treated this way, ordering an item such as prescription glasses on-line seems like a potential problem. Call me old fashioned (or better yet, pour me an Old Fashioned), but I want a purchase like eyeglasses to be local – whether for problems, adjustments, or whatever.
    In any event, the guy is scum, and two wrongs don’t make a right, so I don’t want to hear about actions such as everyone on a forum sending annoying emails, fake orders, etc. to his business. What was that email address again?

    • lchen says:

      By the end of the article it seemed like MasterCard finally dropped him into the ‘special’ douchebag list and eBay is trying to perma ban him.

  20. Dr.Wang says:

    What do you expect for NYC? The place where rude was invented and perfected.