Latest PR Blunder Is A Great Reminder Of What Not To Do

December 28, 2011

I usually enjoy tales of PR blunders. They’re entertaining and remind me that I have a long, thriving career ahead of me. So when I saw a tweet yesterday about an amazing PR screw up, I clicked through to find a truly jaw-dropping tale.

After pre-ordering two PS3 controllers designed for disabled gamers, a concerned customer emailed customer service, wondering if the controllers would be delivered by Christmas Day, as promised. What unfolds next, over the course of almost 20 emails, you have to read to believe. It’s that implausible. Lucky for us, Penny Arcade, a videograming-related web comic, posted the entire email chain.

To summarize, the customer service rep, a now infamous Paul Christoforo, President of Ocean Marketing, gets things started by replying simply, “Dec 17.” I have to wonder, if you’re not going to give someone the common courtesy of a full sentence, why bother? Upon following up again (after Dec. 17), the customer was told that Christmas delivery could no longer be guaranteed and he would need to “put on [his] big boy hat and wait it out like everyone else.”

At this point, the customer, a loyal gamer, cc’s a number of prominent bloggers in the videogaming world, including writers for Penny Arcade and Kotaku, on his response. Christoforo, believing he and his product are too big to fail, goes on to ‘reply all’ with what, I’m sure, will haunt him for the rest of his life. “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 … Really … Welcome to the Internet ? 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.”

Eventually, Mike of Penny Arcade gets involved, and Christoforo is equally as rude in his correspondence with the blogger, leading Mike to post the entire email chain on Penny Arcade. The result? In less than 24 hours, Christoforo’s agency has lost the gaming account, people are coming out of the woodwork to deny any association with him and his company, and there are almost 100,000 search results for “Paul Christoforo.” Let me assure you that none of the search results are positive.

It’s an extreme case, but a great reminder that every customer is essential and deserves your attention. Not because they may know a popular blogger, but because their experience is important and each opportunity to connect is a touchpoint with your brand that you should be grateful for. It’s not hard to imagine an initial response from Christoforo that could have turned the customer into a brand evangelist.

FYI – Here’s the tweet that alerted me to this cautionary tale:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/wilw/status/151753776993271808″]