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Avenger controller company pisses off gaming community with bad customer support (penny-arcade.com)
271 points by jamesmoss on Dec 27, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments

From about five seconds of Google, it looks like the actual product was made by David Kotkin and is considered to be rather significant for disabled users.


Paul Christoforo is just some schmuck at the contracted marketing company, because the product was put together by an art teacher trying to make small-quantity disability aids and not someone trying to launch a major business.

Due diligence regarding fact-checking has apparently slipped below the threshold of "punch it into Google."

If you contract a marketing company, surely you take some responsibility for how they interact with your customers.

Sure, but that doesn't necessarily mean you endorse it.

I think this is a case where it's justified to consider them guilty until proven innocent. Interacting with customers is what they paid these guys to do. It's not like he's doing this in his spare time or anything. Yeah, they probably don't endorse it, but as has been pointed out elsethread, this isn't the first time this awful marketing company pissed people off. When it comes to Googling for due diligence, surely the same applies to choosing your marketing company.

Choosing what to examine in the course of due diligence is often a function of experience. Should someone be lambasted for making a mistake their first time?

Well yes, otherwise what incentive do they have to get it right the first time?

If and when the manufacturer dumps these guys and issues a public apology for their behavior, we certainly should forgive them. But it's still justifiable to place part of the responsibility on them for what happened.

Kotkin has issued and apology and fired Ocean Marketing... I'll try to find the link.

edit: http://i.imgur.com/axYAm.png

Good news! I couldn't find an official link, but did find this screenshot of an e-mail they sent out saying just that: http://i.imgur.com/axYAm.png

Given Christoforo's spelling issues, it might not be easy to google.

The moment you pay them, you're endorsing it. Sure, make your public "whoops" statements, but at the end of the day, it's your fault for hiring them and you get the rep hit as well.

This is a fair point, but it should be noted that is seems that Christoforo and Kotkin are friends, rather than Christoforo just being some random shmuck.

Should Kotkin be penalized for his friends behaviour? Probably not, but he should be more careful about hiring buds in the future.

Glad someone has pointed this out. I predict a lot of misdirected internet anger towards an innocent man, here.

I wonder if anyone at Ocean Marketing and among the people who make Avengers had any idea how Paul Christoforo rolls.

Another point towards "trust but check" policy towards your employees.

From the looks of it, Paul Christoforo = Ocean Marketing.

The website [1] lists "Paul@OceanMarketingInc.com" as the only email address, and the bio for the Twitter account "oceanmarketting" has his name and picture as avatar.

[1] http://oceanmarketinginc.com/Contact-Us.php

Yeah, and I like that despite it being (apparently) a one-man job, he decides to threaten "I have about 125 dedicated people to run PR , Blogs , Articles , Videos you have no clue who I am."

I think that's all correct, except for the Twitter account, which I believe was created by another disgruntled customer (Nathan Stansell) a few months ago, following a similar exchange with Paul Christoforo. It looks like Stansell is now retweeting messages related to the new controversy.


"2:45 am. Created a Twitter account just so i could Tweet a comment and link to Mr Paul Christoforo at Ocean Marketing. @OceanMarketting - Am i still one little person out of Millions sir?"

That was the right account, but it changed. Someone registered the old name and started tweeting stuff. The website was still pulling tweets from the original account a few minutes ago.

The new account for the original is https://twitter.com/#!/oceanstratagy

Ocean Stratagy? How could either of these misspelled Twitter accounts be legit?

The evidence points to illiteracy.

Oh, my goodness. A truly funny comment on Hacker News. Thank you for this.

The original (@oceanmarketting) was linked to the site, including all the tweets from the person who grabbed the name. Then the new one appeared with the same follower/following count, tweets, and profile info as the original. And the original emails had bad spelling.

At the risk of taking a potentially unpopular opinion on the subject, I don't think either one of those people come out looking too good.

I'm all for doing the whole "CC your formal complaint letter to several outlets in hopes that someone will take notice" approach; My brother taught me about doing this when I was a little kid. He would write letters (this was before the advent of the internet) and note on the bottom that they had been CCd to various local news outlets, as well as the better business bureau (regardless of whether or not he actually sent those additional letters). And almost always, it worked.

But I would be absolutely embarrassed to have my name attached to his complaint that got sent around. He is understandably, and in some cases justifiably, upset by the companies lack of communication and flippant nature, but this is no time to get into a pissing match. He chose to stoop to the guys level with name calling and taunting: Welcome to the internet bitch? Thats how I roll? It sounds like something you'd see on a meme, not something you want to end a complaint letter with.

That said, the guy on Oceans end is clearly the winner when it comes to idiotic behavior, as he further digs his own grave down the line. I just can't cut the customer any slack on stooping to Oceans level, however. He comes off sounding like almost as big of an idiot as the guy at Ocean.

Just my 2 cents, I'm sure others will see it differently

These aren't just 2 random strangers having a discussion, one of them paid the other money and is a customer of the other, that changes the equation. Even if you happen to have the worst, most annoying customer in the world the responsible course of action is to maintain composure. Worst case scenario you provide a refund and refuse to do business with someone.

In this case the "customer service" is non-existent and devolves into a string of personal insults. Granted, the customer responded poorly to that but should customers be expected to respond well in such situations?

Edit: There really aren't any situations where the correct customer service response involves typo riddled malformed sentences packed with personal insults.

My point wasn't at all to say there was a situation that warranted that kind of treatment; As I mentioned, the guy from Ocean took the cake in terms of idiocy. He was out of line no matter what the customer was saying. He also has a terrible command of the written language, and should be removed from any customer facing position, immediately, for several obvious reasons.

My point was, this customer could have cooled off, collected himself, and written a much more intelligent complaint letter. He came off sounding like a hurt child, and then trumpeted how he was taking this to the internet, as though the internet was his domain, where he would prevail (and he most likely will - and should, considering how much of a shmuck this PR guy is).

I just don't think either one of them came out looking very intelligent, or like they handled themselves like an adult. In this case, his complaint is a legitimate one, and he should be entitled to proper recourse.

All I'm saying is, I'd be embarrassed to let that particular email be my letter to the world.

Totally agree the customer was in the wrong (at least somewhat) but I think this is more about the PR guy. The customer is allowed to be a jerk. The PR guy gets paid to handle people and what does he do? Gets in an argument with an angry customer. Anyone who has worked in customer service knows you always smile through your teeth. Worst comes to worst you can always just not respond, which would have been better than this.

It's definitely more about the PR guy, no question. Above all else, those people are paid to be polite, courteous, and to relate to the customers.

He dropped the ball big time

Dropping the ball implies a mistake. I'd say he took the ball and threw it right at the other guy's nose.

I'm not sure.

Admittedly, I genuinely try and avoid getting into pissing contents. Nobody wins, and you both get wet.

In this case, though, the guy at Ocean seems to think that he's far more important than anybody else at the table, including his customers.

As a business owner, this is not only a horrible attitude to take, but very dangerous. It's exactly like being the toughest kid in the neighborhood, which is great, until you meet the tougher kid from the next block over.

I'm not letting the PR guy or the company itself off the hook, they're completely the losers in this case.

I just can't excuse either side when it devolves into 2 children kicking sand on each other. Someone needs to be the bigger man, or else you both end up looking like fools; Even if one fool is the bigger fool.

It doesn't matter. There's an old saying, "The customer is always right". It doesn't matter if he is or isn't. You wanna stay in business, best to take that quote to heart.

Just .. check out the company.

(not directly linking to actually help those guys, but the company lists 'Reputation Management' as service)

"We help you to displace or remove the negative search engine results and listings about your organization or company. We use an effective lineup of techniques to dilute and eliminate the search engine results about you that are negative."

I guess that sums up what this company is about.

> I'm all for doing the whole "CC your formal complaint letter to several outlets in hopes that someone will take notice" approach;

I recognise that many people working in customer support roles have lousy jobs with lousy wages and are treated like dirt by customers and by bosses.

So my first approach is a nice, short, letter explaining the problem and asking for help. People like to help, and they like to help nice people. If I get help I always follow up with thanks to them, and if possible I find a manager to write to saying how pleased I am that a problem was sorted out by $NAME.

I agree that having your name attached to some childish ranting is not a good approach at all.

The CC approach was something he taught me to use under 2 scenarios:

The initial interactions with customer service directly (which was to always be polite and professional) had failed, and you felt you were still in the right


They had been rude or dismissive toward your complaints, or offered no feedback whatsoever.

You never open with that, as you then have nothing to escalate to when things don't turn out well

As someone who works in support on a daily basis, I can vouch that being nice makes everything go a whole lot smoother.

The other tip I heard (which has worked for me) is to say something like "I need help to ask the right question, because I don't know how the process works. Here's what I want; what do I need to do to make that happen?". This is more for bureaucracy but also works for some customer service stuff.

As someone else who worked in customer service, this is very true. There is a lot of stuff we're not allowed to offer, but if you specifically ask for it we can give it to you. So please, ask questions, and be polite. No one calls customer service to say "everything I bought works perfectly and I'm happy with you and your company. Have an awesome day!"

I dealt with angry people just about every second of every day. The job has huge turnover for a reason. Please remember you're dealing with your fellow man, and even if you're angry, it's not (yet) his or her fault that you are.

I see it mostly your way, only the customer has a right to be pissed off and the PR guy does not - though, he should have cooled off before sending that e-mail.

I've done stupid things when angry as well, so I shouldn't judge.

Edit: the link didn't work for me, had to go to the main Penny Arcade site.

..."hough, he should have cooled off before sending that e-mail."

Yup. Think before you speak. Or in this case, before you write.

"When angry, count to ten. When very angry, swear."

Mark Twain iirc

Worst part, penny-arcade is now joining the race to the bottom.

"When these assholes threaten me or Penny Arcade I just laugh. I will personally burn everything I’ve made to the fucking ground if I think I can catch them in the flames."

Sigh. This whole thing is depressing in its entirety. Yes, Ocean Marketing is the main culprit there - but nobody in that fiasco comes out smelling roses.

The thing is, this isn't a case of a customer getting bent out of shape over some imagined flaw in the product they received, or because the product doesn't do something it never claimed to do ("this floor wax you sold me makes a terrible dessert topping! ONE STAR!"), or because the customer heard some rumor that the vendor is doing something incompatible with the customer's ideology ("Now that you serve panda meat in your cafeteria, my iPad is the worst product ever. Derp.").

You know, the usual internet complaints.

Instead, the customer made his order, was charged for the product, and then received nothing. The customer at this point is rightfully wondering if the vendor is legit, or if it's a criminal scam.

The marketer's responses are more characteristic of a criminal scam than a legit vendor, so it's not surprising that the customer gets bent out of shape. That kind of attitude is what I'd expect from a guy selling bootleg DVDs on the sidewalk, when a customer gets upset when their new DVD's case turns out to be devoid of any DVD.

There's no excuse for the rampant illiteracy of the marketing (?!) guy's emails.

Indeed, I was kinda surprised to see the thing turning into a pissing contest towards the end.

The takeaway seems to be don't let a raging idiot near customers in the first place.

There's a second documented encounter with the guy from 6 months ago: http://www.natesnetwork.com/Poor-customer-service

Paul Christoforo should never be in charge of a customer facing position.

Maybe he should take the advice on (his) Ocean Marketing's front page: "Your brand is no stronger than your reputation - and will increasingly depend on what comes up when you are Googled."

I wonder what will come up after all this is over.

I picture Paul like a real life Tom Haverford from Parks. The "you got told bitch" line is pure Tom.

This remnids me of a story last year about an online retailer who was deliberately rude to his customers to get bad press, because it improved his search engine ratings.


Borker was also arrested later by NYPD.

That's incredible. You have to wonder if they even checked into him first with a simple google let alone reference checks.

Both IGN and Engadget have tweeted about this:

.@OceanMarketting Please refrain from referring to me or IGN as support for you, your company or your clients. You do not have it.



The guy must fancy himself as a bit of a mob boss/gangster. Maybe got too into The Sopranos? There's a point where you can start reading it all in Chris Moltisanti's voice.

The fella making the complaint was hardly better, but seeing as the guy he was talking to was being unprofessional (at the very least) right off the bat, his only fault is letting his frustration get the better of him.

One of the golden rules of Sicilian "organized crime syndicates" is that you never, ever introduce yourself as a member or as someone who is connected. It is a hard and fast requirement that you are introduced by someone else who is inside.

This goes back to the earliest days of protection racketeering on the island, and is taken extremely seriously even today.

I'm not sure if the Campania/Napolitani families follow the same tradition, but it's a pretty good bet that if someone even so much as implies that they're "connected" to an Italian syndicate, they're not.

Also, if you think pretending to be a cop is a bad idea, try pretending to be affiliated with gangsters...

Yeah, the inventor David Kotkin is/was a teacher and inventor in Miami Florida, he was actually on local news demoing it. It seems it is being sold by a company called iNcontrol Enterprises LLC.

Interestingly, all the press releases up until march 2011 for iNcontrol were done by a florida operation called The HAND Media who seem slightly more legit than Ocean Marketing.

Ocean marketing seems to be mainly interested in promoting his ebay auctions on Twitter.

Someone needs to get in touch with Kotkin and let him know the situation, that his marketing firm seems to have fallen down on the job.

What a mess, original marketing firm The HAND Media claims to have dumped n-control. And Ocean Marketing is using old HAND Media email addresses at n-control domains.


The biz dev guy from n-control is on the case https://twitter.com/Tatterr

I love how this guy's tweets are all him announcing what game he's playing until this controversy flared up. He must be pretty annoyed about the dent this is making in his non-stop gaming lifestyle.

I actually feel bad for these guys. They put trust in a supposedly professional,albeit somewhat slimy seeming with the pushing ebay auctions on the corporate Twitter account, marketing firm and this blows up over Christmas weekend.

I worked with a really terrible marketing and pr firm myself when I was working for a small startup years ago. We were featured in the NYT, but our PR firm misrepresented us in such an insane way we could only conclude the firm didn't even know what we were doing. It turned what should have been a coup for us into a massive blow to our business.

Agreed neither came off very well. But for the PR guy this should have been a walk in the park to deal with. I used to do customer service at an oversized health insurance company this would have been considered a mild case. You make a note in your outlook (or whatever you use) to check on the situation every once in awhile, send a nicely worded email saying you are personally following the situation and when it is done thanks them for their patience. Sure customers are not always happy but let’s face it the company broke its promise. Instead this PR guy gets his ego on and for that he should be fired. He was unprofessional when he should have known better.

Here is the Google since it looks down right now:


New update from Gabe: http://penny-arcade.com/2011/12/26/an-update1

"When these assholes threaten me or Penny Arcade I just laugh. I will personally burn everything I’ve made to the fucking ground if I think I can catch them in the flames."

"I think there is a big difference between being sorry and being sorry you got caught. I have a real problem with bullies. I spent my childhood moving from school to school and I got made fun of everyplace I landed. I feel like Paul is a bully and maybe that’s why I have no sympathy here. Someday every bully meets and even bigger bully and maybe that’s me in this case.  It’s the same thing that happened with Jack Thompson. It might not always make the most business sense and it is a policy that has caused us some legal problems, but I really don’t give a shit about that. When these assholes threaten me or Penny Arcade I just laugh. I will personally burn everything I’ve made to the fucking ground if I think I can catch them in the flames."

I think in context the quoted line is more about how Gabe feels about bullies.

Apologies, I did not mean to misrepresent him.

Sigh. This may actually be good PR :(

I had never heard of this controller until this story. It looks really cool. How other many people is that true for?

edit/update: this story is #2 on the vanilla reddit front page.

Hah - that'd be a good story.

"I'll be a complete internet jerkwad, and get you in front of thousands of people. Disassociate yourself from me when the shit hits the fan."

As long as you're careful about not letting the internet detectives dig too deeply, you could probably re-invent yourself and do this repeatedly.

However, I'm a little unsure how many people would be willing to work with you on this. Great tin-foil hat material though.

May be good PR for the product, but ruins the marketing company's name (at least in the long run).

The product site is getting hammered. You and I, and many more.

Note the guy's Twitter account: @OceanMarketting (with two Ts!).

Actually, wait... he renamed it to @OceanStratagy! Yup, that last A is no typo!


And then someone else registered @OceanStrategy with the correct spelling:


I like how the guy is completely clueless about who he is talking to.

He is in marketing, and didn't know someone like that?

And this whole thing could have just been avoided with a measly $10 coupon.

Well according to the copy posted in the email "As a token of our appreciation we are offering all our pre-order customers and new customers 10$ off your next order with us just enter Avenger1001 at Checkout".

So the company was even offering that measly $10 coupon that the pre-order customer wanted!

Except that new customers could use that $10 on the controller that pre-order customers had already purchased, while pre-order customers would have to buy something else (your next order) in order to use the $10 coupon.

What happened to talking to your customers in complete sentences?

When you're eating sushi in a Jacuzzi with the Mayor of Boston, you don't need to type well.

Have you ever heard the Mayor of Boston speak? You don't really even need to speak well.

I'm always surprised when I see people of extremely questionable literacy in public-facing positions. I really must be doing something wrong.

Ok this will sound completely naive but whatever happened to the customer is always right? Ok yes, I agree that is a bit overstated but in this case he was right and Gabe came out all puffed up and aggressive from the start and continued and continued (I actually like at the end when he realizes who he is emailing back and forth to). Maybe I'm just naive but I believe the smart businessman (woman) puts the customers first.

The whole thing seems too incredulous to be true and feels like a PR stunt.

If it is true, and it makes this guy's products even more popular, then I fear for fate of humanity.

Surprisingly Paul Christoforo has also been in Health Care & Realty and has a degree in Culinary Arts... according to his LinkedIn page: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/paul-christoforo/1/295/835

I love the part where he tries to get back on Mike (Krahulik's) better side: "Did I feed into his emails a little bit too much yeah ok . But it’s one person dude for real. No disrespect intended for you , My name is good in this industry and I know a lot of people."

But then goes off on one when Mike posts a slightly glib "take me off this mailing list"!

I agree with FuzzyDunlop, definitely been watching waaay too much Sopranos.

EDIT: The dude seriously needs to learn to punctuate sentences better, some of those could definitely use some commas!

His insistence on putting a space in front of punctuation marks alone makes me cringe.

I've noticed this is common amongst a number of dyslexics I've known.

Unfortunately firing Ocean Marketing may still be too little too late. Amazon ratings for the product[1] are already in the dumps because of this debacle, and I doubt many of those reviewers will go back and change their reviews as the situation goes along.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005CMZJL6/

Just love how some people's default is to be a dick instead of just simply saying sorry, we tried and things didn't work out.

Is it just me, or does the customer come off as a bit of an asshole that's creating/feeding about 50% of the dramma he is complaining about.

The customer paid his money, and he got no controller, just bullshit excuses and evasion and abuse. That gives him the right to complain. And he certainly started with a reasonable tone.

It doesn't help that Christoforo is selling the controllers off his ebay account, which says they are shipping from Massachusetts, while his 'company' claims to be in California.


So a paid order isn't filled on time, but this guy has controllers to sell on ebay?

Makes me wonder if he's been diverting the controllers, i.e. stealing them, and selling them out from under the company.

The way I read it went like this...

1. Customer makes a $50 purchase. 2. Merchant gets over his head with new business, makes some mistakes. 3. Customer flips out on second email to merchant, tries to create problems for him with Visa. 4. Customer proceeds into a "principle" (aka ego) driven exchange with merchant that goes nowhere, turns into some kind of a pissing contest.

I am not pissed off at Ocean Marketing. In fact I love the put downs in their emails. Of course it was awful customer support. But damn. Mike K of Penny Arcade tries to flex his muscle saying he runs Pax. The Ocean Marketing rep did not give a damn, and took the piss out of him too. LMAO!

I think you missed it. Mike said he ran PAX, the guy didn't recognize the name and started tying to name drop and claiming he'd get a booth if he wanted one. When the penny dropped that mike == gabe, and there's no way they'll be at PAX if he doesn't want them there, the penny drops and his tone changes

And may I add, like a complete coward in the follow up [1] to Gabe, pleads for him to make it all stop, whatever it is. I think this bloke gets what he deserves.

Thought it's mostly just another idiot on the internet, there are lots of those. The grandiose clams he made about his connections and sales are probably false. The shock value is in the fact that he _might_ be connected and powerful and is acting as such, though connected powerful people don't do such a thing (over email, at least).

[1] http://penny-arcade.com/resources/an-update1.html

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