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- Monty Solomon
November 28, 2010, 3:37 am
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A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web
By DAVID SEGAL
The New York Times
November 26, 2010
SHOPPING online in late July, Clarabelle Rodriguez typed the name of
her favorite eyeglass brand into Google's search bar.
In moments, she found the perfect frames - made by a French company
called Lafont - on a Web site that looked snazzy and stood at the top
of the search results. Not the tippy-top, where the paid ads are
found, but under those, on Google's version of the gold-medal podium,
where the most relevant and popular site is displayed.
Ms. Rodriguez placed an order for both the Lafonts and a set of
doctor-prescribed Ciba Vision contact lenses on that site,
DecorMyEyes.com. The total cost was $361.97.
It was the start of what Ms. Rodriguez would later describe as one of
the most maddening and miserable experiences of her life.
The next day, a man named Tony Russo called to say that DecorMyEyes
had run out of the Ciba Visions. Pick another brand, he advised a
"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!' "
With the contacts issue unresolved, her eyeglasses arrived two days
later. But the frames appeared to be counterfeits and Ms. Rodriguez,
a lifelong fan of Lafont, remembers that even the case seemed fake.
Soon after, she discovered that DecorMyEyes had charged her $487 - or
an extra $125. When she and Mr. Russo spoke again, she asked about
the overcharge and said she would return the frames.
"What the hell am I supposed to do with these glasses?" she recalls
Mr. Russo shouting. "I ordered them from France specifically for you!"
"I'm going to contact my credit card company," she told him, "and
dispute the charge."
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
Ms. Rodriguez was shaken but undaunted. That day she called Citibank,
which administers her MasterCard account, and after submitting some
paperwork, she won a provisional victory. Her $487 would be refunded
as the bank looked into the charge and discussed it with the owner of
DecorMyEyes. A final determination, she was told, would take 60 days.
As that two-month deadline approached, Mr. Russo had dropped his
claim for the contact lenses he'd never sent. But, she said, he began
an increasingly nasty campaign to persuade her to contact Citibank
and withdraw her dispute.
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