Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Breaking the Mold

A story in the New York Times described the nefarious business practices of an internet vendor gone rogue. He claims to have stumbled upon the economic principle of bizarro world: using negative advertisement to boost his sales. The owner, Mr. Borker, employs brutal, abusive tactics when dealing with his customers. He has been known to threaten people, harass them with emails and phone calls, and even send counterfeit merchandise. These business practices fuel customer outrage, which often finds release in a variety of online forums. The more negative feedback he incurs, the more hits his website gets. His website has claimed high rankings in Google searches, and he claims that this is a direct result of the web traffic about his customer’s “horrible” experiences.

What is most fascinating about Mr. Borker’s story is his reason for beginning his unconventional sales tactics: having to incur thousands in losses because of customers who can’t seem to be pleased. Every time a pair of prescription glasses is returned, he takes a loss, regardless of the reasons for the return. Frustrated with nasty customers, financial losses, and long hours, Mr. Borker decided to give his customers a taste of their own medicine. Mr. Borker became a hurt person. And as a hurt person, he decided it was best to hurt other people. Fortunate for Mr. Borker (and to the chagrin of his customers), his hurt makes a profit.

Can one justify Mr. Borker’s behavior? After all, could he not be considered a victim of internet fraud in his own right? Do the ends justify the means? Isn’t he just one semi-honest man trying to make a semi-honest living? At the root of Mr. Borker’s problem is a failure to consider biblical truth. Christ teaches that we must treat others in the same way we wish to be treated (Luke 6:31). Whether his accounts of customer fraud are exaggerated or not, there had to have been at least some legitimate cases of people taking advantage of online shopping and essentially stealing from Mr. Borker. Then he, reeling from constant losses and difficult customers, decides to treat others the way he had been treated. Ultimately, he felt that he could no longer treat people in a loving, respectful manner without running himself out of business or subjecting himself to undue abuse. No longer caring how he was treated so long as he made money, Mr. Borker rejected the biblical truth in favor of his personal truth: dishonest practices yield an alluring monetary gain.

Mr. Borker’s scheming is quite disconcerting. He has tried to create a paradigm that runs contrary to biblical teaching regarding love for other people. He has developed a worldview that has his self at the very center. He has made a business out of hurting people. Where does it end? How long before other entrepreneurial individuals adopt his philosophy and continue a perverted trend of people-hating for personal gain? How long before we see how even our web interactions can have serious implications on our personal health?

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