Vitaly Borker, an immigrant from Ukraine, has an interesting business model. In 2010, he was operating his online eyeglass store, DecorMyEyes.com. He was sent to prison for 3.5 years for threatening to stalk, maim, and murder customers. His products were low quality, his repairs took weeks, and he called customers who changed their minds about their purchases or repairs. One customer who filed a complaint with her credit card company received this threat from Mr. Borker, “Close the dispute with the credit card company if you know whats [sic] good for you. Do the right thing and everyone goes away. I AM WATCHING YOU!” Mr. Borker has explained that the more complaints that he gets, the higher his company shows up on Google. In writing this piece, the author did a search and found that Mr. Borker’s company does pop up at the top when running a search.
Undaunted by his time in prison, Mr. Borker, upon his release, started OpticsFast.com. David Segal, “New Charges for Purveyor Of Eyeglasses and Threats,” New York Times, May 25, 3017, p. B2. Apparently, he used the same business model, except eliminated the threats. Instead, as the complaint in the case alleges, he called one customer who complained about his service and products 35 times per day. During the calls, he is alleged to have called her “a total degenerate” and “a stupid, stupid lady.” The customer had written a Yelp complaint that OpticsFast.com sold her a fake and damaged pair of RayBans. Another customer allegedly received 456 e-mails in one day because he printed out a postage label to mail glasses in for repairs but then changed his mind. The e-mails had the subject line, “I WIN!!” The complaint seems to indicate that OpticsFast.com was operating while Mr. Borker was still in prison.
The complaint this time focuses on charges of fraud. Mr. Borker’s defense in his first case was three-fold: he only had problems with about 25 customers, the things he was accused of never happened, and that he has a mental disorder (bipolar) that was exacerbated by his use of alcohol and marijuana. He was sentenced to four years because the judge felt he did not take responsibility for his actions, continuing to deny most of them during his sentencing hearing. This time, the charges do not involve allegations of threats, but Mr. Borker’s record will work against him. The maximum sentence for fraud is 20 years.
The mystery of Google rankings and its algorithms continues. The issue is whether Mr. Borker has been able to achieve the opposite of what business theory teaches: satisfied customers mean more business. In his case, dissatisfied customers and their complaints have grown his business—twice. DISCUSSION STARTERS
Explain how Google plays into the issues in Borker’s business and charges.
Discuss the differences in conduct and charges in the second case.