As seasoned online shoppers, we’ve seen our fair share of terrible customer service practices over the years. Still, we’d never encountered anything so bad that it results in legal action and jail time. That is, until now.
We’ve learned from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan that Vitaly Borker, the owner and operator of the luxury eyewear site DecorMyEyes.com, pled guilty last week to one count each of mail fraud and wire fraud and two counts of sending threatening communications, a smorgasbord of shady activity that could land him in jail for up to 50 years.
According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Borker’s primary violations included selling both counterfeit and damaged goods to customers and making unauthorized charges to their credit cards. But it doesn’t stop there. It seems Borker wasn’t keen on hearing customers complain about the things he was doing either.
He repeatedly threatened them and at times, their family members, via both email and telephone. In one particularly harrowing case, Borker told one New York-based customer over the phone that he knew her address and would show up at her residence and rape her. After she hung up on him, Borker called the customer over and over again throughout the night and actually sent her an email with a photograph of the outside of her home, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
“Vitaly Borker was a cyberbully who subjected his victims to abusive, profanity-laced tirades and threats of physical violence,” said U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. “He used fraud and intimidation as a business model, selling customers inferior goods and then repeatedly harassing them when they complained.”
Borker’s case certainly wasn’t helped by a New York Times article in November of last year that depicted him in much the same way Bharara does—he boasted of forcing customers to air their complaints on online review sites in the belief that it would boost his Google search rankings (it did not, as Google would eventually lower his rankings and those of other retailers deemed to be providing poor customer service).
Borker is scheduled to be sentenced in mid-September and from the looks of it, DecorMyEyes.com has stopped operations. But for those who had to endure the worst of Borker’s twisted version of customer service, the sting probably remains.
Now, granted, the story falls under the category of ‘worst case scenario’ but it should also serve as a reminder to shoppers that it’s absolutely critical to know who you’re buying from online. We’ve said it time and again but consumers should always be looking for merchant certifications on the sites of retailers they’re not familiar with. Reviewing customer service and shipping/returns policies is also a must. In short, don’t leave yourself open to any surprises after the fact.
As for retailers themselves, Borker’s tale is one that highlights what many consumers fear most about online shopping: becoming the victim of fraudulent activity. Merchants must always remember that not every online consumer is a pro and that it’s important to provide crystal-clear explanations of how your business works every step of the way. And when in doubt, rely on the old mantra that “the customer is always right.”
Thankfully, the case of Vitaly Borker amounts to very small bad apple in a basket of good ones. We provide it to you here though as a cautionary tale of what can go wrong in e-commerce.
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