The AEY Afghan ammo scandal has raised many questions around the blogs about who or what is behind it all. But I think the answer isn't all that mysterious.
Have you ever tried to buy a camera from the ads in the back pages of a camera magazine? There are pages and pages in tiny type offering better deals than you could get from any local store. A friend bought a camera from one once, and it turned out to be a horrible experience. The package showed up very late, was missing essential pieces, and when he called to complain the customer service rep acted hostile and tried to sell him more stuff he didn't want rather than fix his problem. The representatives of the camera shop became highly abusive over the phone.
I asked him what city the shop was located in? Brooklyn.
And what time do they close business on Friday? 2 pm.
Well, there you go ...
There are a whole bunch of Hasidic-run photography dealers in New York City. Some of them, such as B&H (which is jokingly said to stand for "Beards & Hats"), are quite honest and have done very well for themselves over the years.
On a bulletin board on Photo.net, customer Steve Levine says:
"Interestingly, B&H was the first "Hasidic" owned camera store that decided to treat customers like human beings. In the pre-B&H days, all of the NYC camera stores were nearly impossible to deal with."
Many of them still practice bait-and-switch and other simple con techniques. They hook you in with too-good-to-be-true advertised prices, then proceed to make your life a nightmare as you try to get them to live up to their promises and they try to badger you into buying even more junk. Here, for example, is a voice mail from a customer service rep at one of these firms: "I'm going to break your neck."
When their reputations get too bad, they simply switch to another name and carry on.
Efraim Diveroli's uncle's gun shop in LA, Botach Tactical, is very similar to the NY camera stores of ill-memory. It lowballs prices in its ads, then, when it has got you hooked, proceeds to abuse you. Maybe it has a couple of the items on hand, but if you aren't the first to call in, it puts your order in a queue until it sees if it can negotiate a deal with the manufacturer. You might get your ammo eight months later. In summary, you get what you pay for.
So, Diveroli was just applying the family/ethnic tradition to federal contracts. You put in a low bid, assisted by Diveroli's AEY, Inc. certification as owned by a disadvantaged minority (Hasidic, although Diveroli sounds like a Roman Jewish name -- i.e., not Ashkenazi, which the Hasidim are -- but Diveroli's celebrity uncle Shmuley Boteach was ordained as a Lubavitcher Hasidic rabbi, although he has since broken with them) for affirmative action purposes. If the feds bite on the bait, well, you hustle like hell to come up with something that will make it so that the feds will be more willing to accept the crap you foist on them than dealing with you and your lawyers.
Why the Hasidim?
First, there is the "in-group morality." Some Muslim in Afghanistan loses an eye because his bullet explodes in his gun? Eh ... The taxpayers of America have to shell out more to make up the loss? Eh ...
Second, there is the simple psychological ability to not be distressed about other people's anger, whether justifiable or not. Most people become uncomfortable when people around them become angry and they try to mollify the angry person. (The Japanese are among the world leaders at feeling psychic pain when people around them aren't content.) In contrast, the kind of people who flourish in these kind of bait and switch businesses don't mind other people getting angry at them. They just get angry right back, angrier even. It's fun.
My cocktail party theory of the origins of this stems from Robert Heinlein's famous phrase, "An armed society is a polite society." In most of medieval Europe, you didn't want to get into screaming arguments with acquaintances because they might pull out a sword and run you through. Well, medieval ghettos were largely disarmed, so the verbally hostile weren't excused from the culture and gene pool.
So, the bottom line is that anybody sensible would be cautious before buying from Hasidic-owned businesses that don't specifically have a good reputation, like B&H. Take that super-duper quoted price and add a percentage to account for all the hassles you are letting yourself in for.
But, of course, nobody is supposed to think like that. The media won't print that kind of advice. And the poor federal government isn't supposed to treat Hasidim skeptically, they're officially supposed to bend over backwards for them and treat them like a legally privileged minority!
Update: Of course, in neither of Efraim's two mugshots is he wearing a beard or a hat, so I guess he's Hasidic for federal contracting purposes, but a wild and crazy guy for the ladies.