This morning I woke up and decided to check out reddit for some meme goodness. What I found instead was a strange email back and forth between a customer and a marketing rep for a video game controller company which had taken place just hours before. You can see the whole conversation here (which I highly recommend you read), which is both shocking and hilarious. It is at this point I want to make it clear that, by all accounts, the actual manufacturer of the controller had nothing to do with the exchange and are only guilty of hiring what turned out to be a crappy third party marketing “firm”. From what I gather, the controller, known as The Avenger, is actually a pretty cool invention to help people with disabilities play video games. So this has nothing to do with them, and instead has everything to do with Paul Christoforo. This guy is apparently the owner of the 2-employee marketing firm called Ocean Marketting (yes, the misspelling is theirs) and I’ve spent my day getting to know a little bit about this fascinating human being.
That image above? Yeah, those are his exact words he used in a reply to a customer concerning a delay in the controller shipment, and that it his picture. Basically, for those who don’t want to read the entire saga, our hero Paul gets an email from a customer wondering where his Avenger controller is. He had preordered it and wanted it by Christmas, but Christmas came and went and still no controller. Paul, being the consummate professional that he is, basically replied telling him to fuck off, and he’d get it when he gets it. The customer gets rightly pissed off and emails the exchange to the popular gaming website Penny Arcade, who sends an email to Paul. Paul, trying his best to dismantle the English language while engaging in a “private” email flame war, replies with typo-riddled responses including bro-speak insults and name dropping, such as knowing the Mayor of Boston and people at IGN. He also brags about being at PAX East, the largest video game festival in America, while not realizing that he was talking to the guy who runs and started the very event he’s bragging about. Other comments made by this titan of industry include “You just got told bitch” [to the disabled customer], “ I can guarantee I’ll get a booth if I want one money buys a lot and connections go even further…who are you again?” [Talking to the guy who runs PAX], and “thanks for the welcome to message wurd up”, which just makes me die a little on the inside.
Of course, people don’t really like being talked to this way, and the beast that is the internet reared its ugly head on this guy in a way I’ve never really seen firsthand before. Within minutes people had gotten into his Facebook page, which he wisely left fully public; and had also accessed his Myspace page, where I imagine his default song was Leader of Men by Nickleback. They used his email address to find postings he had made online, including to forums about steroid use, and spammed his twitter account to the point he abandoned it to the public, where it was immediately snatched up and used to make fun of him some more. He was fired by the controller manufacturer and treated as a leper by all in the industry.
And I realize that a lot of this maybe just sounds like a minor thing to some of you. And sure, a lot of it is just a bunch of people with jobs in the video game industry arguing, and just one example out of thousands of shitty customer support. So why do I care? Well, I certainly don’t give two shits about Paul Christoforo, but the thing that I have seen this evening is quite a few people arguing that maybe all this public shaming has gone too far. Certainly we’ve all had bad days, and certainly we’ve all screwed up pretty badly at one time or another. So did his actions, basically one bad day insulting some customer, really deserve to have his career pretty much ended? In my opinion yes. The reason for me is simple. I’ve met people like Paul in my life; we all have. These people are complete narcissistic assholes to everyone; simply so full of shit, and so full of themselves (sorry for the redundancy) that they look down upon the rest of the world. And they treat others like dogs because they hold all people in such condescending contempt. No one is going to buy the Avenger controller unless they are disabled. This customer wanted to buy it because he was some disabled kid wanting to play video games. And this roid raging jerk decides he owns the world, and he’ll just piss all over this kid because in his mind, what is he gonna do about it?
What is this kid you’ve bullied gonna do about it? Publicly out you for the dick you are, and ruin your fucking life. To be honest, I don’t want to see this sort of public shaming happen to everyone who has a bad day. I don’t want to see some random jerk get outed, lose his job, and have his life screwed up because he’s not a nice guy. But there is a difference here, in that this guy isn’t just a passive douchebag. He is an outright bully. He actively insults and demeans this kid, he truly believes he is in some position of power by the namedropping he does, and he thinks he can get away with it. Worse than that, he only apologizes once this gets out of hand and goes viral, and even then conditions his apologies on (1) the fact that this is public now, and (2) the fact that he wants help from the customer, and from Penny Arcade, in helping him return his reputation to pre-asshole levels. This level of egotism and self-centeredness, I believed, only existed in gross exaggerations about the shittiness of people in movies and television, but apparently it is all too real in Paul Christoforo. In fact, lets quote Paul once more, this time in his email to the customer after all of this went public. After a long-winded apology and guarantee of a return of the money, he writes this (typos included):
please help me to get some of this negativity removed or at least my personal name although its already all over the internet and the calls and emails will not stop but any help will be appreciated especially with penny arcade as Mike and edit his own website I owe him an apology too which I will write next.
To summarize: Disabled kid comes to Paul for help. Paul tells him to fuck off, threatens him, insults him, laughs in his face. Paul is publicly shamed. Paul comes to disabled kid for help. Paul fails to see irony. Paul…puts on Ed Hardy shirt and goes clubbing? I don’t know how this will all end, but his apologies, in my opinion, are almost the most offensive part of this whole tale. I hate bullies, and the fact that he obviously learned nothing just pisses me off, though I’m not surprised. Add to all this that he wants the customer to help him get his “good” name back and it is so painfully abhorrent to me that I’m personally wondering if it is simply douchey boorishness or an actual brain injury that he suffers from. People like Paul never change, so at least we get to see the world turn against a man who sincerely believed he ruled it.