In what is being called an “epic PR failure”, and “the biggest PR fail in history” (well, we’re not so sure about that – but still) Paul Christoforo, the man behind Ocean Marketing, and a representative – make that a former represenative – for N-Control’s The Avenger XBox 360 Adapter basically turned a customer support request into a big “F-ck you” fest between himself (Ocean Marketing), a customer named only “Dave” and, eventually, Penny Arcade, Pax East, and Kotaku, to name a few. What Christoforo forgot was that the “real Internet”, to which he sarcastically welcomed Dave during the exchange, has a far reach, and a long memory.
It all started innocently enough, when Dave wrote to Ocean Marketing customer service (Paul) on December 16th, to inquire about an order he had placed for two N-Control Avenger Controllers. He had paid for them in advance, and one was to be a Christmas present, and so he was kind of concerned about their status.
“Any chance of getting an update of when these items will ship?” queried Dave, “I’m not really happy about being forced to pay upfront then have the advertised date of “Early December” be completely missed without any sort of update on availability.”
Now, we’d like to be, as best as we can tell, the first to point out that Dave’s initial inquiry sounds kind of pissy. “I’m not really happy about being forced to pay” isn’t exactly making nice. But still, that doesn’t explain or excuse the direction which the ensuing exchange took.
Paul’s responses to Dave’s questions were mostly perfunctory and to the point, at first – in fact to questions about where the controllers were, when would they ship, and would they be in time for Christmas, they amounted to, in entirety:
– “Dec 17”
– “They still haven’t shipped yet on the way here from china”
– “They are in the USA now in customs so its wither (sic) before or after Christmas.”
To the last response above, Dave responded:
“I noticed the updated info on the webpage, and I don’t understand why there is absolutely no benefit given to those like me who have already ordered, and paid their money. You’ve had my money interest free for nearly two months, yet now ANY new order will get $10 off….meaning I should just cancel my order for 2 controllers, get my money back, then re-order.”
This is where it started to get ugly.
“Things happen in manufacturing if your unhappy you have 7 days from the day your item ships for a refund. You placed a pre order just like any software title the gets a date moved due to the tweaks and bugs not being worked out and GameStop or any other place holds your cash and im sure you don’t complain to activision or epic games so put on your big boy hat and wait it out like everyone else. The benefit is a token of our appreaciation for everyone no one is special including you or any first time buyer . Feel free to cancel we need the units were back ordered 11,000 units so your 2 will be gone fast. Maybe I’ll put them on eBay for 150.00 myself. Have a good day Dan.”
This apparently irked Dave enough for him to pull some high-profile sites, including web coming Penny Arcade and Kutaku (the Gamer’s Guide) into his conversation with Paul, by cc:ing them on his next response.
Explains Jonathan “Gabe” Gabriel, pen name for the publisher of Penny Arcade, “At this point Dave is (I think) understandably frustrated. His next email is sent to me as well as Kotaku and a few other news sites.”
In fact, Dave let’s Paul have it with both barrels – actually several more barrels than two because, remember, he has cc:ed these high-profile Internet sites, which pretty much guarantees that Paul will be toast within a few hours. Here are the highlights of what Dave sends to Paul, and cc:s to the others (the actual email was quite a bit longer):
Then cancel my order if you want to. I’m making a legitimate complaint about your poor communication and you’re the one stooping to childish levels, a patronizing attitude, and threats. Hell you can’t even get the spelling of my name right.
2) For the longest time, you’ve stated on your website (your failure to update regularly is another issue) the initial/special/limited batch of your new product by early December, obviously in time for the all-important holiday gift-giving season. I and thousands of other customers GIVE YOU OUR MONEY, INTEREST FREE on the promises you made online.
3) I reach out to you, on Dec 16 (AFTER you have FAILED TO MEET YOUR ADVERTISED DEADLINE AND FAILED TO COMMUNICATE TO ANYONE WHAT THE SITUATION IS) obviously a little frustrated but more curious about when I and other customers can expect the product we paid for.
4) Your reply to me is a cryptic “Dec 17” with absolutely no explanation of what that means. In the mean time you having been using funds from pre-paid customers to complete Research & Development, product redesigns, and manufacturing mis-steps.
5) You force me to follow-up with an email asking for clarification about what “Dec 17” means since the day has passed and I have yet to receive any new information about my order. Now you instead of ANSWERING MY QUESTION OF WHAT THE NEW DELIVERY DATE IS, you tell me the goods have yet to leave China… Why are you telling me this? I’m not your employee I’m your goddamn customer! TELL ME WHAT THAT MEANS IN TERMS OF MY TIME AND WHEN I CAN EXPECT MY PRODUCT I PAID FOR.
6) …You give me an update of the delivery process (wow, thanks…you haven’t told me anything I don’t know about the order of international shipping procedures) but instead say “…so its wither before or after Christmas.” WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN? GIVE ME A DATE!?
Then you make sure you’re going to fail by actually taking all of our money, Not just a little bit….THE WHOLE F*CKIN BEEFALO.
I want my two n-controllers. I 1) PAID FOR THEM 2) WAITED 3) DEALT WITH YOUR UNHELPFUL ASS. I also didn’t want to feel like my trust and loyalty as a customer was being abused and then actually punished in comparison to other customers. But I guess we can’t have it all… so right now I’ll settle for getting my merchandise and hopefully never having to deal with you again. I’ve spent enough time writing this email which I hope you gain some insight from. If you actually do want to screw me over by not fulfilling my order, then I assure you be hearing more from me or people representing me.
p.s. You look really douchy be having one youtube video complaining about the noise of traffic next to your home and then another video showing off your obnoxiously loud rice rocket (which is nice, I gotta hand it ya).
p.p.s. Welcome to the internet, bitch. That’s how I roll.
It is at this point (and not before) that Paul responds with his “welcome to the real internet” remark for which he has been so roundly trounced . He also lets Dave know that he doesn’t care who Dave pulls into the coversation, as he knows all of industry folks.
But apparently not well enough, because within a very short period of time not only is he the subject of public ridicule and industry derision, but his trade booth at the popular gamers’ trade show Pax East has been revoked. You see, Mike Krahulik, who runs Pax East, is also ..wait for it – the real name of Penny Arcade’s Jonathan “Gabe” Gabriel.
But perhaps far worse was the damage to Christoforo’s reputation. You piss off one gamer, and you piss off the entire Internet.
Before you could say “Dianna Abdala“, the entire email chain between Dave and Christoforo had criss-crossed the country, and been emailed around the world. Posted on gaming forums and on Facebook. In short, Christoforo’s poor customer service skills had been pasted very publicly across the Internet.
But wait, there’s more. As a result, Christoforo has also lost his position as a rep for N-Control’s The Avenger. Not surprising, really, as part of the Internet’s expression of its outrage involved nearly 200 negative Amazon reviews being posted on The Avenger – Xbox 360 Adapter’s Amazon page – having nothing to do with the quality of the product, just the outrage at Christoforo’s poor communication skills.
Says the Avenger’s inventer, David Kotkin, “We apologize for our poor representation from Ocean Marketing… We wanted to give Paul a chance. He was rough around the edges, but he had drive and enthusiasm. However his behavior was unprovoked, unnecessary, and unforgivable. We are no longer represented by Ocean Marketing.”
For his part, in an interview with MSNBC.com, Paul Christoforo explains “They’ve pretty much ruined me in the past 24 hours. It was humbling a little bit, but life goes on. I’m not going to die.”
But, he adds, his family has been threatened, including his wife and his infant son.
“It’s caused me more annoyance than anything else, but there are some threats and a lot of disrespect. My son’s two months old … that’s uncalled for, you don’t bring him into this situation.”
But when all is said and done, says Christoforo, he has learned a lesson. “I’ll definitely stay away from customer service emails. I could have nipped this all in the bud by being a little nicer. You never know who knows who, and lesson learned. We all have bad days and they caught me on one,” he said, adding that “At the end of the day, I’m a human being, and it feels like the entire world was bullying me. I want people to like me, I don’t want people to think I’m a bad person. … I made a mistake. … I hope I can make something positive out of it.”
By the way, if you are wondering what the N-Control The Avenger XBox 360 Adapter is, it is “an external adapter that houses the existing XBOX 360® controller, helping to improve your situational awareness, accuracy, agility, and reaction time.”