ACCAN's informative weekly newsletter (which you can subscribe to) had a link to what they called the worst online shopping story ever.
The New York Times story was even more interesting than the rating given it by ACCAN. What made it stand out wasn't just the appalling customer service but the explanation of why it can work as a marketing strategy.
The business in question sells discount spectacles, which it in turn only sources online. If you use a search engine to look for a make of frames, this online store features highly. It features highly, however, because it is referred to on so many websites that talk about poor customer service or, indeed, rip-offs.
Searching on the name of the store would show all these links, so poor reputation would hurt you. But it is getting found by people looking for what you do, rather than looking for you that works. Those searching take the high rating in the search engine (or in the old days the display ad in the Yellow Pages) as a sign of "quality".
The lesson is the same as always for consumers. To assess a vendor ask other customers, not the vendor. That is one of the ACCC tips for buying online.
But for me it just works as a really good example of why competition in the market is no guarantee of improving customer service.
Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est