One of the key points that we've been making for years is that, in an online world, pissing off (or simply not caring about) customers is no longer a viable business strategy. A good business today recognizes that the customers' best interests are also the company's best interests. If you don't realize that... well, then you get into a situation like Paul Christoforo and Ocean Marketing that's taken the internet world by storm today. It begins with a must read email thread posted at Penny Arcade
. Seriously, just go read the whole thing.
The short version for those who don't read it, is that a guy, Dave, who pre-ordered some gaming controllers that hadn't arrived, emailed Ocean Marketing and got back less than optimal customer service from Christoforo, who runs Ocean Marketing. Actually, he got back obnoxious customer service. Beyond not being helpful Christoforo is outright insulting of the customer (who has already paid for the item not yet delivered) and bragging about how "connected" he is. In response, the customer (Dave) wrote back explaining why this was totally unacceptable, and cc'd some various gaming websites/blogs. Gabe (aka Mike Krahulik) from PA chimed in, especially when he saw Christorofo brush off Dave by mentioning PA's own event PAX East. After replying to both that Christoforo won't be allowed to exhibit at PAX, Christoforo (apparently not realizing who he was dealing with) simply makes a bad situation worse:
We’re not renting a booth at pax east this year , bigger and better shows to be at we got nothing from the show . Oh so you know this guy has sold over 500 thousand dollars of product in Dec and is my main distribution arm landing us in GameStop , fry’s , Myers , Best buy , Activision , MLG , play N trade and a lot more . Were in 6 countries and you’re not going to take my money for a booth that’s a crock I can guarantee I’ll get a booth if I want one money buys a lot and connections go even further. He’s a native Bostonian from Little Italy . Who are you again ?
Amazingly, this actually comes after Dave had told Mike "Please don’t cancel their booth on my account. As much as I hate this asshole, I still WANT his product and think it should be out there." Mike explains to Christoforo that he runs PAX, but Christoforo still doesn't get it:
OK Mike whatever you say lol , are you sure hour not in Boston I spoke to the person who ran the show in Boston last year. If you let some little kid influence you over a pre order then we don’t want to be a your show ,Ill be on the floor anyway so come find me , I’m born and raised in Boston I know the people who run the city inside and out watch the way you talk to people you never know who they know it’s a small industry and everyone knows everyone. Your acting like a douchbag not that it matters pax east pax west , e3 , CES , Gamer Con , SSXW ,Comic Con, Germany I’m all over the place. If we want to be there we will be there with industry badges or with a booth you think I can’t team up with turtle beach , Callibur or Koy Christmas , I can’t get Kevin Kelly to pull some strings or G4 , Paul Eibler Ex CEO of take 2 , Rich Larocco Konami , Cliff Blizinski Epic who were working with on a gears version , Activision who were working with on a MW3 and Spider man Bundle , The Convention Center Owners themselves , Mayor of Boston come on Bud you run a show that’s all you do and lease a center in Cities you have no pull in its all about who you know not what you do. I’ll see space where ever I want , with who I want when I want and where I want so many ways around you and so many connections in this industry its silly. Anyway , I have no issue with you Sean Buckley Engadget, Scott Lowe IGN and the list goes on and on. Little kids unhappy with a PRE ORDER starting trouble and you email that to us , he’s a customer unless you’re his boyfriend then you should side with the company not the customer. Be Careful
And it gets worse from there. Of course, once Gabe posted it to Penny Arcade, it started to get picked up elsewhere including (of course) Reddit
, and from there it just began exploding. Popehat has a bunch of links
including the fact that Christoforo went ballistic
on Scott Lowe from IGN, after Lowe told Christoforo to stop saying IGN supported him. Christoforo responded on Tiwtter calling him a "douchebag" and suggesting that because he sent IGN review units he should support him. That tweet has since been removed, but the screenshot lives on.
Separately, people have turned up more examples
of poor customer service experiences involving Ocean Marketing and Christoforo, as well as claims that Ocean Marketing has been plagiarizing a ton of articles from around the web
on its own blog. Andrew Galbraith from Examiner.com has the details:
It seems the plot has thickened a bit further. Apparently, as pointed out by @williambgoss on twitter, Ocean Marketing has been lifting articles from across the web for their blog with little to no attribution of sources whatsoever. An article published on Forbes is clearly posted wholesale on the Ocean Marketing blog with no sourcing roughly two weeks after initially hitting the web. Moreover, the same is done with a BizReport article, appearing as Ocean Marketing's "original work" no less than two days later.
The story has been getting picked up in a ton of places, but you have to wonder why anyone would hire Christoforo to market any of their products ever again. The Popehat link above notes that when you outsource your marketing, you're outsourcing your reputation. And that can be dangerous...
In the meantime, it appears that Christoforo, beyond digging himself a deeper hole, has also tried to well, dig himself a deeper hole
. He first threatened to have his "lawyers" contact Penny Arcade, followed up by some begging:
"You have the power Mike Please make it stop"
Of course, as Gabe/Mike points out, he really doesn't have the power. Once these things are out there, they're out there. Then comes the non-apology apology, where Christoforo apologies for not knowing how big Penny Arcade/PAX are and for getting exposed -- but not for his actual actions:
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.
That's not a real apology at all. That's someone digging even deeper.
: Ah, and now reports of pretending to be someone else
. Kotaku apparently reached out to
Brandon Leidel, who had been their contact in the past on the controller in question, and they noticed something odd in the response -- which suggested that it actually came from Christoforo. Then Leidel apparently reached out to Kotaku separately saying that he no longer works with that client, in part because of Christoforo...