This article from MSNBC.com shows how quickly a jerk can rally opposition these days. Evidently a customer named Dave inquired about the ship date for some gaming hardware he had already paid for and was told it would be late. Dave also found out the vendor was offering a $10 discount to new customers because of the late date, but not to those who had already paid.
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.”
When Dave then takes his complaint to several media outlets, while CC’ing Christoforo, the marketing rep went ballistic and started blasting Dave and anyone who would stand up for him, including someone in charge of a gaming convention, who subsequently dropped his company from the show. Before long the gaming community online had rallied against him, giving the controller terrible reviews on Amazon.com, and exposing plagiarism on his website. Finally the controller’s creator dropped Christoforo’s company as their representative. Chastened, he suddenly started apologizing and soliciting advice on how to make the problem go away.
Evidently he was not chastened enough, though. He then caused another fight by holding product-related assets like the website and email address hostage unless he got a new deal from the creator. The various parties have now evidently worked out a resolution, but even Christoforo’s last published statement doesn’t seem all that penitent:
“I think it’s fair to say I have been through enough and I am trying to put this behind me and move forward and I am quite seriously losing my sanity over all this,” he said in an email. “It’s very unhealthy from myself and my family to have to go through this.”
I think his sanity was lost a long time ago. It’s a bit frightening that a PR guy could cause such a PR disaster when it was so clearly avoidable. I have no idea what sort of tone Dave took in his original complaints, but the report is accurate, he had a valid complaint. To reply with threats is a fairly stupid unforced error.
Perhaps most telling is the guy’s lack of understanding of social media and web communications in general. His response to the convention organizer was rather telling:
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]
I suppose 125 marketing people could be an impressive threat if this weren’t the social media age. Within hours his new enemies–quite probably without even asking–got an army of volunteers churning out negative responses that undoubtedly dwarfed anything those 125 could have done. It’s as if Christoforo challenged the NYFD to a water fight and thought only to bring a squirt gun to use against their fire hoses.
Had Dave been an obvious jerk then social media could have just as easily worked in Christoforo’s favor. But at the best of times in customer service issues the sympathy will usually go toward the consumer against the big bad company. Christoforo’s disproportionate, angry, and entirely in-eloquent rant did more to stir up the firestorm against him than anything Dave might have done.
For the small amount of $10 the whole mess could have been avoided, I suspect. Had Christoforo simply offered to extend the discount to those who had already bought the controller I suspect Dave would have at least been silenced, if not satisfied. Christoforo’s willingness to destroy his company over $10 is very, very sad to watch.