This week, one of the funniest and at the same time most disturbing stories went viral. This is the short version of the story: N-Control is a company that creates gaming accessories, specifically an add-on for hand controls to increase the accuracy in games. The accessory itself has gotten a lot of attention in the gaming media and it had gotten a lot of preorders from anticipating gamers. One customer had preordered one product for himself, was charged for it, never received it on the date promised, and never got any notice about why or when it was going to arrive. He contacted the company via their costumer relations email address and what played out from that point is nothing less that astonishing. Paul Christoforo, a man who is the president of his own PR company called Ocean Marketing answered all the emails himself. The problem was that he was being incredibly rude, cursing, calling the costumer names, and just being as unprofessional as one person could be. He even threatened to take his order himself and sell it on Ebay. After trying in vain to go above Christoforo’s head, he decided to forward the email conversation to one of the biggest gaming website; Penny Arcade. One of the main people behind the site chimed into the conversation, and Christoforo continued to be abrasive, abusive, and simply rude. Meanwhile Penny Arcade published the whole email conversation on their website for millions of people to see, and the internet immediately fought back. During the course of two days Christoforo’s career was ruined, his inbox flooded, his phone number, address, wife’s name, criminal record, and steroid use were outed. He was ruined, and rightfully so.
This whole debacle reminded me of my own experience with incredibly bad customer service.
A few years back my partner and I bought a Polaroid TV during black Friday. The TV was great… for a few months, but then the problems started. The TV started to turn off by itself, and after a while stopped working all together. We called Polaroid and after a lot of fighting we had a technician come out to fix it. The problem was that when he fixed it he somehow screwed up the screen so that it was all blurry. Seeing how much trouble we had getting to the point of having a major problem fixed, we decided not to go any further with the screen problem. We lived with it for a few months, until the TV broke down in the same way again. It just wouldn’t turn on. At this point we were naturally quite frustrated that we had to deal with these people once again. After many phone calls and frustrating interactions Polaroid agreed to letting us send the TV to them and have it repaired. The problem was that we had to find a box big enough to fit the TV in ourselves, they would not send us one, or pay for one. We reluctantly did this and paid about $20 for the type of box we needed and sent the TV to them.
A few weeks passed and we never got the TV back, nor heard anything from them, so we started calling customer service time and time again to try and get an update. At this point Polaroid had just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and it was almost impossible to get someone on the phone. The few times we did get a hold of someone they had no answers about our TV, and could not authorize a refund. I went to Walmart where we bought the TV to try and get a refund and they pretty much laughed in my face. We finally got a number to one of the customer relations supervisors and she was the person we had contact with from that point on. The problem was that she had no answers either, and after about three phone calls , and a few voice mail messages to her, she informed us that if we did not stop calling she would file harassment charges on us. Funny, a customer representative filing a harassment charge on a customer that has been robbed on their product by the very company she represents. At this point we felt like we were never going to see the TV again nor receive a refund so we did the only thing we could do: we went to the press. I contacted our local news station and they were very interested in this story and decided to help us out. They contacted Polaroid directly to get an answer and when this was done we received a check in the mail within the matter of days, including the $20 we put down on a box to send the TV to them.
It is such a similar story to the whole Christoforo debacle simply because as soon as he got caught and outed to the public his whole tone changed. Apparently it’s ok to treat customers like shit as long as nobody else knows about it, but as soon as the public finds out these companies are apologetic and want to do the right thing. It’s disgusting and shows the incredible decline in customer service quality that so many companies show these days. These are two extreme examples, yes, but how many times have you been put on the phone with someone that barely speaks English? Or have no idea whatsoever what they are talking about? Or are just plain rude? It is time for all of us to out these people and show every company that it is not ok to treat their customers this way without any type of repercussion.