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November 26, 2010

A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web By DAVID SEGAL

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 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!’ ”

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 gl

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