Citigroup Trying Out This Negative-Publicity Thing?


Former Lehman Brothers computer programmer turned online eyeglass salesman Vitaly Borker has pioneered an unusual marketing strategy, the Times reports: When his customers express dissatisfaction, he "erupts" on them, threatening them with profanity, legal action, and acts of "sexual violence too graphic to describe in a newspaper." But when the customers strike back by writing negative things about his business online, it pushes his company name higher in Google's search engine, getting him more customers. Mwhahaha! “I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get," Borker at one point taunted his customers in an online posting. "My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.”

One former customer, Clarabelle Rodriguez, has been in a protracted dispute with Borker (including an incident in which he mailed her a Google Earth photo of her house with the message "I know where you live"). Once, after she disputed charges made by Borker to her credit card, Borker actually called the company, Citigroup, pretended to be Rodriguez, and canceled the dispute. Rodriguez was incensed, she told the paper:

“I called the bank right away and said: ‘This is nonsense. I never called you and told you I’m withdrawing my dispute,’ ” she says. “I was on the phone with a woman from the fraud department, and it was amazing — she just didn’t care. I asked if they had a recording of the call I’d supposedly made. She said no. When I explained the whole story, she said: ‘Listen, this isn’t our problem. This has nothing to do with us.’”

When contacted by the Times, a spokeswoman for the beleaguered Citigroup "sounded mortified," and the bank rectified the problem. But when the bank called to report her refund, Rodriguez reports:

Ms. Rodriguez said no apology was offered.

Hey, if it works for the eyeglasses guy ...

A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web [NYT]