Vitaly Borker was born in Russian and moved to the United States with his family as a small child. After graduating from college, he held a smattering of jobs, none of which he was particularly passionate about. After a stint in law enforcement, he "gravitated to Wall Street" and held down gigs at "a variety of firms," including Lehman Brothers. But working back office the pay wasn't great and he decided to supplement his income by running the online component of a friend's eyeglass store. He got sued a few times for hocking counterfeits but it was no sweat of Borker's sack-- his internet business did just fine and he was able to maintain the site while working on Wall Street "for years" and in fact expanded his online venture to include several destination for peddling his wares, the flagship being DecorMyEyes. Unfortunately his successful side job soon left little time for Lehman Brothers and several months before the firm went under, Borker quit to focus solely on his burgeoning pet project (obviously setting LEH up for a fall, given that he was holding that place up like Atlas).
This weekend Borker's business was the subject of a Times profile. He says he's "fantastically profitable," and the secret to his success? Threatening to put his boot up customers' asses, which, following their vocal complaints, helps makes his online storefront a popular Google result. Here's a glimpse into the process (Borker, when interfacing with customers, uses the name Tony Russo):
* When a woman complained about having placed an order only to be told they were out of her brand of choice:
Russo called to say that DecorMyEyes had run out of the Ciba Visions. Pick another brand, he advised a little brusquely. “I told him that I didn’t want another brand,” recalls Ms. Rodriguez, who lives in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. “And I asked for a refund. He got rude, really obnoxious. ‘What’s the big deal? Choose another brand!’ ”
* When she received a pair of frames that were clearly counterfeits, that she was overcharged $125 for, which she told Russo she would be disputing with her credit card company:
Until that moment, Mr. Russo was merely ornery. Now he erupted. “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.
* And later:
He began an increasingly nasty campaign to persuade her to contact Citibank and withdraw her dispute. “Call me back or I’m going to drag you to small-claims court,” he wrote in an e-mail on Sept. 27. “You have one hour to call me back or I’m filing online.”
* And after that:
Two days later, she received another e-mail from Mr. Russo. “Close the dispute with the credit card company if you know whats good for you,” he wrote. “Do the right thing and everyone goes away. I AM WATCHING YOU!”
* On inspirations:
Despite the fear he has inspired, Mr. Borker doesn’t regard himself as a terror. He prefers to think of himself as the Howard Stern of online commerce — an outsize character prone to shocking utterances. Except that Howard Stern doesn’t issue threats, I say. “People overreact,” he pshaws, often because they’re unaccustomed to plain speaking, New York-style. Anyway, he adds, if somebody messes with you, and you mess back, “how is that a threat?”
* On dealing with unhappy clients:
When he first heard about Get Satisfaction, it was by e-mail from one of the site’s employees, who was trying to mediate on behalf of unhappy customers. “They wrote to me, ‘We’d like to talk to you; we should take a proactive approach.’ ” Mr. Borker sneers and rolls his eyes. “I sent him a photograph of this,” he says, raising his middle finger.
* On drumming up new business:
When online fury about DecorMyEyes drops off, he dreams up new ways to stoke it. He briefly considered fabricating a story that Tony Russo had committed a murder — where he would have posted this story he doesn’t say — which he then planned to link anonymously to Get Satisfaction.
Nah, he ultimately decided. Too far.
So, let's just cut the chase-- Wall Street needs to win this guy back. Obviously it's not going to be easy, given the amount of money he's supposedly making but surely some firm can woo him away for the right price (or even let him keep his business going on the side). The question is, where do we see him? With his talents he could probably fit in anywhere. He could take over for Brian Moynihan at Bank of America and put this whole mortgage mess situation to bed in one fell swoop while effectively dealing with trouble employees who'll soon be bitching about bad bonuses (by informing them "I should fire you and burn down your house"). He could be the new Ari Kiev at SAC motivating people in his own unique way (i.e. flurries of IMs that go, "Listen bitch, you better make it rain out there-- I am one desk over and I will rape you where the sun don't shine in the likely scenario you don't). He could work well with Steve Eisman, harassing companies on conference calls and telling their CEO's "I will make you drink my piss." The options are limitless.