It is a sad day for writers covering the hilarious career implosion of Paul Christoforo–the man that is apparently besties with the mayor of Boston–as his company Ocean Marketing has been fired by its client, N-Controller.
There are just certain things you learn not to do in life. These are things that our bodies just understand without being told. You don’t go up and backhand a lion, you don’t lick an electric fence, and you don’t taunt the internet. It’s a lesson that Paul Christoforo is learning after his ridiculous email thread with a customer that eventually engulfed one of the founders of Penny Arcade, making Paul an internet star.
Technically Christoforo didn’t taunt the internet, just a customer who then turned for help to people that made his exploits legendary. But when you write something down and send it out into the ether, it doesn’t just magically disappear. When you fill it with some of the dumbest comments that a representative of any company can possibly make to a customer, the odds of it coming back are fairly high. It’s akin to chugging whiskey while driving as you speed past a police station–it’s just not a smart thing to do. And on the internet, stupidity can often take the form of a boomerang.
Customer service, you’re doing it wrong
For those that missed Christoforo’s meteoric rise and fall, the short version is that a customer that had preordered and paid full price for N-Controller’s The Avenger controller add-on—a device that is used primarily as an aid for disabled gamers with muscular or neural impediments—emailed in to check the status after the estimated delivery date had come and gone, and Paul Christoforo, President of Ocean Marketing, wrote him back.
N-Controller is a manufacturer that had outsourced its PR and customer service to Ocean Marketing, a fairly common practice for small businesses. Usually it is not an issue, except when a customer service rep begins to repeatedly insult the customer and threatens to sell his product on Ebay to spite him. And it got so much worse.
After the customer called in reinforcements and replied to the email with a list of legitimate problems both with the company and Christoforo’s attitude, and after including several prominent figures in the gaming community, including editors from Kotaku and IGN, Christoforo seemed to take off his reality hat and just let the insanity flow.
He went on about how well connected he is in the gaming community, how including the people his customer had included on the email was just free PR for him, and then fires off this grammar-abusive internet gem, “Son Im 38 I wwebsite as on the internet when you were a sperm in your daddys balls and before it was the internet, thanks for the welcome to message wurd up. Grow up you look like a complete child bro. I Don’t have my controller so im gonna cry to the world … Really ?? Hey take that free time and do something more productive. All you had to do was check the like everyone else , people have inquired but you’re the douchiest of them all J.”
Christoforo continues to go on and on about how stupid he thinks the customer is, never once sensing the irony in challenging the intelligence of a customer while only having a passing understanding of the joys of punctuation.
But like a curmudgeonly old man in a monster mask that Scoobie Doo and the gang thwart, he may have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that pesky Penny Arcade. One of the names on the email thread was that of Mike Krahulik, co-founder of the Penny Arcade website, the group that also runs the PAX events. He decided to chime in after Christoforo dropped this nugget, “We do value our customers but sometimes we get children like you we just have to put you in the corner with your im stupid hat on. See you at CES , E3 , Pax East ….? Oh wait you have to ask mom and pa dukes your not an industry professional and you have no money on snap you just got told.”
Karhulik sent an email to the customer and included Christoforo stating that this was unbelievable, and that if Christoforo had a booth at PAX it would be cancelled. Not to be outdone, Christoforo really decided to go all-in at this point. He insulted PAX East as a whole, then in a later email dropped a prophetically stupid line, “watch the way you talk to people you never know who they know it’s a small industry and everyone knows everyone.”
Christoforo fired off a few more dandies that will live on as memes long after this debacle is forgotten. He did eventually send an apologetic email, but Krahulik ignored it, which earned threats of retribution. For the entire email thread, head on over to penny-arcade.com.
The non-apology apology
After this thread made the rounds, more and more people began to help Christoforo into the cockpit for his career kamikaze. IGN essentially disavowed him, Engadget ridiculed him, and Kotaku went even further. After initially reporting the story, it did a little digging and found out a few possible facts about Christoforo, including his possible history of steroid use, based on posts associated to the same email address Christoforo uses. The internet can be a cruel and treacherous place if you get on its bad side, which Christoforo most certainly did.
Kotaku also reported that Christoforo’s attitude has been an issue before. When The Avenger first began its PR push, N-Controller went to The HAND Media first. After months of delays, Hand became increasingly troubled with the constant stream of negativity from customers due to manufacturing delays. Soon Christoforo came in and promised that he had high level connections at places like Best Buy and GameStop.
Eventually the CEO of Hand, Brandon Leidel, decided that Christoforo was a “rogue marketing guy,” and was increasingly difficult to work with.
“He was representing the company in a way I wasn’t comfortable with,” Leidel told Kotaku. “I brought this up a few times and said I cant have this guy representing the company and not have any control.”
Hand Media eventually decided to end what it described as a lucrative contract, rather than deal with the increasingly difficult situation.
After thousands of phone calls, tweets, and emails (and one incredibly funny video from the people at New Challenger, which you can see below), Christoforo changed the name of his Twitter account from the misspelled @Oceanmarketting, to the equally misspelled @Oceanstratagy. He also changed the website address on the Twitter page from his own company, Ocean Marketing Inc., to that of Ocean Marketing Group, an unrelated marketing company that unfortunately has an similar name.
But even that couldn’t stop the avalanche of negativity, so Christoforo eventually emailed Krahulik at Penny Arcade (which is also posted on its website). The first email threatened legal action against Penny Arcade, the second was apparently asking Penny Arcade to stop the internet with the request “You have the power Mike Please make it stop,” while the third was an almost real apology.
“I just wanted to apologize for the way our emails progressed I didn’t know how big your site was and I really didn’t believe you ran Pax , So for what’s its worth I am very sorry. Your post has obviously made my life very difficult and I have not slept yet dealing with all the spam and personal information intrusion as well as my family being smeared on the internet.
“If you can please accept my apology and anything you can do to help if not me my son and wife please do. I have apologized to Dave and apologized to you what else can I do please tell me so I can make things good. I obviously care or I would not be emailing you.”
As Penny Arcade notes, there is a difference between apologizing for doing something wrong, and apologizing for getting caught. The site also says that Paul comes across as nothing more than a bully.
Fallout=it’s not just a game
But the story doesn’t stop there. MSNBC caught up with Christoforo and interviewed the beleaguered rep. Not surprisingly, he essentially claims that he was just having a bad day, and also stated that he apologized to Krahulik. But almost in the same breathe, in what can probably be filed under “doesn’t get it,” he goes on to say that part of the fault was Krahulik’s, and that if Penny Arcade hadn’t gotten involved, then none of this would have been an issue (except perhaps to the customer that he repeatedly insulted).
“He [Krahulik] called me a bully, but he was being a bully … especially when he emailed me out of the blue, saying ‘That’s f***ing s***ty, you’re banned from PAX,’ I was like ‘Who the f*** are you? That’s how you introduce yourself? … I dont want to call him out, but he could have gone about that a totally different way, he could have said, ‘Hey, I run the show, that email was a little unprofessional, if you don’t do something to apologize I don’t want you at my show.’ But he just came at me and said, indirectly, ‘Hey, f*** you, you’re banned from PAX.’ Is that what you’d call professional? I wouldn’t.”
The real victim of all this though is N-Controller, the makers of The Avenger controller. After Christoforo’s email was released, people flooded Amazon’s listing for The Avenger, and on the PS3 version, over 250 people gave the device a one out of five stars, all blaming Christoforo.
Not surprisingly, as a result Adweek has confirmed that they have severed all ties with Ocean Marketing.
As for Christoforo, he seems to be taking it mostly in stride. He has claimed that people have made personal threats against his family, but beyond that he seems somewhat unphased, and has even begun retweeting many of the negative comments about him. He has even begun issuing angry attacks at his critics, tweeting things like “You guys think anyone will care ina month, Internet babies,” and “Just becuz you babies never get off your computers doesn’t mean anyone worth a damn cares about this.” Chrsitoforo even seems to think this will be good for his business eventually.
“If these people stick with me and follow me, a couple months down the road anything I say is news,” he told MSNBC. “If it gets me somewhere else that I wouldn’t have been where this happened … it’s negative now, but controversy and bad news is news and that’s just the way it is. Look at all the bad press from people in entertainment industry that turned into something good. Whether I do charity work or something good, I don’t know.”
Christoforo also claims that his other clients have laughed off the whole incident. That may or may not be true, but common sense seems to dictate that Paul Christoforo, the man who would be king of the internet fools, may have a few problems landing new clients in the future. Maybe he can ask the mayor of Boston for help.
(Warning! This video contains language that is NOT suitable for all ages. Definitely NSFW! You’ve been warned.)