Tags

, , , , ,

CONFESSION TIME: I am completely and totally fascinated by the whole Paul-Christoforo-Ocean-Marketing-Avenger-Controller-Penny-Arcade shitstorm that has thundered across the internet these past few days.

For those who are unfamiliar with this spectacular display of career implosion and don’t feel like reading the bazillion articles recounting this tale of woe and misery, here’s the abridged version of what went down:

Gamer Dave pre-orders a fancy new game controller, one for himself and one as a Christmas present. The release date of ‘Early December’ comes and goes so he sends an email to the company asking when he can expect the item and will he get in time for the holiday. Reasonable, right? Well, after a few confusing, non-helpful email exchanges, Paul Christoforo — who is the third party PR rep hired to handle the company’s customer service who also is apparently suffering from roid-rage, has an incident of domestic violence on this record, has abused customers on behalf of this company before and has plagiarised the content on his own website — goes off on him in a stunning display of meat-headed rudeness, vulgarity and disrespect of the English language. Gamer Dave, at this point, starts to include various gaming industry people on the email exchange, one of them being Mike Krahulik (Gabe of Penny Arcade fame). Paul plows on ahead and insults him too. Mike puts the whole email exchange up on the Penny Arcade website. The internet explodes, grabs their torches and pitchforks, and sees to it that poor horrible insulting atrocious customer service will not be tolerated. The product is reviewed down to one star on Amazon, the company who makes the controller goes ‘OH SHIT’ and Paul is fired.

Update: He held the company’s digital assets hostage and tried to extort them.

There are two reasons why I just can’t look away:

1. For Science!
This guy’s behavior — Paul — is so beyond my comprehension that I almost feel like an anthropologist observing a recently discovered, less evolved off-shoot of the human race. The rudeness, the absolute absence of common sense and decency, his utter lack of self-awareness or ability to recognize his error in all this just: Blows. My. Mind. How this guy was hired for anything ever — let alone a PR/customer service job — is an utter mystery to me. Hell, how he manages to function in life is an utter mystery to me.

Here’s how things would have (should have) happened if a normal person had been in Paul’s shoes:

Gamer: Where’s my game controller?
Customer Service: I apologize that you have not received our product! I understand your frustration. Due to higher than expected demand and shipping delays, we were unfortunately unable to meet our projected release date. To keep our customers in the loop, we’ve created a page on our site where we will be posting updates as we gets them. As things currently stand, we expect to ship the units in January and you will receive an email with your tracking number when it is on its way. We really appreciate your business. As a thank you for your support and continued patience, here’s a $10 off credit to be used on your next purchase. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help you!
Gamer: Thanks!

Or even alternatively:

Gamer: Where’s my game controller?
Customer Service: I apologize that you have not received our product! I understand your frustration. Due to higher than expected demand and shipping delays, we were unfortunately unable to meet our projected release date. To keep our customers in the loop, we’ve created a page on our site where we will be posting updates as we gets them. As things currently stand, we expect to ship the units in January and you will receive an email with your tracking number when it is on its way. We really appreciate your business. As a thank you for your support and continued patience, here’s a $10 off credit to be used on your next purchase. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help you!
Gamer: That’s not good enough you massive jerk-wad! I want my controller NOW! I bet you are ugly and your mom got you from a dumpster (and so on with the insults, anger and rage)
Customer Service: I understand that you are upset and I sincerely apologize for the delay of your controller. I assure you, your business is valued and we shall let you know the moment the item ships.

…because, you know, not all customers are reasonable. Having worked in the service industry before, I get that. Sometimes, there are customers with complaints. Sometimes, there are customers with angry complaints. Sometimes, there are customers with unreasonable, angry complaints who will be implacable. However, if it is your job to deal with them, you do not escalate the anger. You just don’t. It doesn’t matter if they are wrong, if it isn’t your fault, if they start to insult you personally or there is nothing that you can do to solve their problem. Not only is fighting anger with anger unprofessional, it’s also not particularly smart. How many times has berating a rage-filled customer with insults resolved a situation? That’s right: zero. Zero times time in the history of existence has this strategy worked. This tactic is the verbal equivalent of throwing fuel on the fire. You are not representing yourself in this situation; you are representing the company that hired you. Therefore, you must always act professionally.

This is not a hard concept to grasp, not if you are an adult (which, technically, Mr. Christoforo is physically but there is little evidence that he has achieved this state mentally). If you know that you are not the sort of person who can be diplomatic and polite in these kind of situations, then you do not take a job that requires dealing with the public. I feel the need to punctuate this with a ‘duh’ so here it is: DUH.

So yeah, that Mr. Christoforo thought it was okay to go off on a customer perplexes me. It is the customer who makes a product successful and a company profitable. You could have the best product in the world but if no one buys it, you won’t have much of a business. Sure, Gamer Dave was one guy but if you abuse one customer, you are willing to abuse them all. The fact that Paul Christoforo can’t see the error in his behavior astounds me. Perhaps this is due to my upbringing: my parents are both from Sweden, the Land of Politeness, so I was raised to always try to be as tactful as possible. Or maybe this is due to me being a human being with an IQ higher than room temperature. So yeah, this Paul guy amazes me .. in that I’m-looking-at-a-really-weird-bug-from-another-planet kind of way. I must observe him. For science!

The second (and biggest) reason why I cannot look away is…

2. For the Little Guys!
We have all come across Paul Christoforos in our lives. Mostly, they were the dumb jocks in school who would bully anyone they perceived as weaker than themselves. However, even in the adult world they walk among us. They are arrogant. They have more confidence than their level of intelligence or ability deserves. They strong arm their way through life and step on whoever they can to get to where they want to be. They are never, in their estimation, wrong. About anything. Ever. And more often than not, they succeed. That’s the burn. We watch them treat others badly, barrel ignorantly up the professional ladder and never suffer the repercussions of their actions. If anything, their behavior is many times rewarded and, therefore, encouraged.

So to see someone like Paul Christoforo get taken down is delicious. It’s a victory for anyone who has been pushed around by a bully.

Some might say that Mike Krahulik isn’t a little guy. But at one time he was. And Gamer Dave is. Hell, most of us are little guys or were at some point. People like Paul Christoforo have been stomping all over people like us for ages. We’ve had it. We don’t have to take this abuse any longer. So to those who say that he has been bullied in all this, I counter with a firm: I disagree*.

He hasn’t been bullied; he’s been told: Enough. Enough with the douchebaggery. He has been told that his behavior is unacceptable. He has been told that there are consequences for being a bullying prick. He has been told in very loud and very clear terms that he is not allowed to treat other people with such blatant disrespect.

Does he get it? No. The only fault he sees in his actions is that, in insulting Mike Krahulik, he picked on someone more powerful than himself. Will he get it? Maybe. Hopefully. Someday. However, I doubt it. If he is so lacking in self-awareness, empathy and common-decency at the age of 38, I don’t think these are life skills he will ever acquire.

I’m sure when the dusts settles and this kerfuffle is forgotten by most people, he will go on to succeed professionally. Not in the gaming industry, no, but these blundering idiots always seem to land on their feet somehow. As far as succeeding as human being though? That possibility seems much more unlikely. Maybe he will surprise us all and finally realize the error of his ways.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed but I’m not holding my breath.

* I refer only to the backlash Mr. Christoforo has personally suffered. There are claims that threats were made against his family. Some people are attacking his other clients who have nothing to do with all this. The people who have done these things are assholes and no better than the target of their ire. They are hulking bullies, just like Mr. Christoforo. Shame on you guys!

Advertisements