Dec. 27, 2011 at 3:57 PM ET
UPDATED: 7:45 PST
In the old, unconnected days, it could be hard to mobilize a massive movement against a company that provided bad customer service. In the Internet age, however, a single email can help lead an entire community of gamers to mobilize against a rude marketer in just a matter of hours.
As recounted in a news post on popular gaming webcomic Penny Arcade, the drama all started when a customer named Dave (no last name given) emailed a representative at Ocean Marketing inquiring about the expected ship date for the Avenger, a monstrous-looking controller attachment that allows for quicker transitions between button presses. Ocean representative Paul Christoforo first replied with a curt "Dec. 17," then admitted the product had been held up at customs and would not be delivered by Christmas.
When Dave complained to Christoforo about the missed ship date, and about a $10 discount being offered to new customers but not to early purchasers like Dave, he was told to "put on your big boy hat and wait it out like everyone else." Christoforo went on to say that if Dave canceled his order to try and take advantage of the new discount, his order would be stopped and his controllers might be put on eBay. To top it off, Christoforo incorrectly signed off his email to "Dan."
At this point, Dave got the press involved, sending a lengthy recounting of his frustrations to Christoforo and a number of gaming news outlets, including Penny Arcade. Christoforo's response drops any pretense of PR politeness, unleashing a torrent of derision at Dave and insulting the very idea of trying to alert the media.
Send that over to Engadget you look like a complete moron swearing and sending your customer service complaints to a magazine as if they will post it or even pay attention do you think you’re the first or the last what are they going to do demand us to tell you were your shipment is or ask for a refund on your behalf …
He went on to say some graphic stuff that wouldn't be appropriate here (but if you're okay with NSFW talk, you can read over on Penny Arcade).
Penny Arcade's Mike Krahulik jumped into the email thread at this point to assure Dave that the Avenger won't be part of Penny Arcade's upcoming PAX East convention, which takes place in Boston in April. Christoforo proceeds to berate the influence of PAX East — an event that drew nearly 70,000 visitors last year — and name-drops a litany of "connections" from Epic Games' Cliff Bleszinski to the Mayor of Boston.
After a short back and forth where Krahulik confirms he indeed has the power to block the product from PAX East, Christoforo signs off with a truly epic, vaguely threatening kiss off.
Make sure you stir up a lot of controversy about us the more the better we needed some drama gets good blood flow going about the new product launch . Your sites amateur at best my son could put together a better site than yours and you run PAX ?? Wow , Ill put my marketing team on a smear campaign of you and your site and your emails , I have about 125 dedicated people to run PR , Blogs , Articles , Videos you have no clue who I am . Thanks again [sic]
After Penny Arcade posted these emails Tuesday morning, an entire Internet community of gamers mobilized against Christoforo and the Avenger attachment itself. Amazon reviewers have begun bombarding the Avenger with one star reviews, gamers have uncovered that large swaths of Christoforo's website appear to be plagiarized, and the more memorable parts of the email thread itself have become part of an image meme.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, Christoforo changed his account name from the misspelled "OceanMarketting" to the equally misspelled @OceanStratagy, leaving an enterprising gamer to take over the original account and use it "to promote POSTIVE things in gaming." The correctly spelled @OceanStrategy account has also been taken by a gamer who's using it to highlight Christoforo's actions. The rest of Twitter has also taken to the story, posting thousands of supportive tweets under the #pennyarcade hashtag.
Avenger controller creator David Kotkin tells msnbc.com's In-Game that Ocean Marketing no longer represents the product. "We apologize for our poor representation from Ocean Marketing," he said in an e-mail. "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."
Christoforo, for his part, has sent a series of follow up notes to Penny Arcade, apparently asking for forgiveness and requesting help dealing with the Internet fallout the incident has unleashed. We've reached out to Christoforo, and we'll update when and if we hear from him.
While some might argue there's no such thing as bad press, the extremely quick and negative attention generated by these emails among the tight-knit gaming community shows just how fast a company can go from unknown to infamous.
Kyle Orland has written hundreds of thousands of words about gaming since he got his start with a Mario fan site at the age of 14. You can follow him on Twitter or at his personal web site, KyleOrland.com.