The Dark Underbelly of Online Marketing
Vitaly Borker – the head of online designer eyeglass vendor, DecorMyEyes – is, by all accounts in the piece, (including his own) a combative and antagonistic operator who does not shy away from, but actually embraces, cyber warfare with unsatisfied customers who flame him on consumer forums sites like Get Satisfaction, ComplaintBoards.com and ConsumerAffairs.com.
Dismissively unconcerned about the DecorMyEyes brand, Mr. Borker’s business model focuses on using the brand names of eyeglass designers as keywords to drive traffic to his website. Google DecorMyEyes and a host of consumer warnings (“Don’t buy from DecorMyEyes”) jump off the results page. Mr. Borker revels in the antipathy that his purportedly shady (no pun intended) business generates online. Each flame raises his page rankings on the designer tags that he uses as his keywords.
“Which means,” as Mr. Stern notes, “the owner of DecorMyEyes might be more than just a combustible bully with a mean streak and a potty mouth. He might also be a pioneer of a new brand of anti-salesmanship — utterly noxious retail — that is facilitated by the quirks and shortcomings of Internet commerce and that tramples long-cherished traditions of customer service, like deference and charm.”
Mr. Borker’s online marketing approach is, thus, not just unethical, it is antithetical to all the commonsense notions of marketing. ““The customer is always right — not here, you understand?” he admonished Mr. Stern, in a pitched voice. “I hate that phrase — the customer is always right. Why is the merchant always wrong? Can the customer ever be wrong? Is that not possible?”
At the close of his interview with the New York Times reporter, Br. Borker assures him that the article in the online version of the New York Times will be crawled by all of the search engines. “Just throw in ‘designer eyeglasses,’ ‘designer eyewear’ and a couple different brand names,” he assures Mr. Stern, “and I’m all set.”
Mr. Borker is not concerned about the anger that his online and offline behavior generates (and you will need to read the whole article to understand the breadth of this guy’s antisocial antics), so long as he stays onside with eBay, PayPal and MasterCard, through which he conducts business – all of which he handles adroitly. Since Google and other search engines apparently do not factor the positive or negative nature of links going back to Borker’s sites (and Google is, as always, circumspect about the variables that make up the highly secretive algorithm that is at the heart of its businesses), Mr. Borker is not concerned whether customers love him or hate him – just as long as they mention him in the ethersphere.
This sad chapter on the seamiest edges of the online marketing network is truly a case of “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” It is sure to gain attention not only at eBay (which has already responded to Mr. Sterns exposé) and the other online services that form the backbone of Mr. Borker’s business, but in the offices of the search engineers who are constantly honing their algorithms, whether in Mountain View, CA or Redmond, WA.