A Beatdown Where No One Threw The First Punch

A Beatdown Where No One Threw The First Punch

Halfway into the internet’s #1 white-hot outrage of the now, it is easy to spot the bully. But it’s not Paul Christoforo.

Bullies never take the first swing. They look for a pretext that justifies one. Mike Krahulik, the artist and co-founder of Penny Arcade, found it when Christoforo tried to big-time an unhappy customer with the fact the product he represented would be at Penny Arcade Expo East. The customer, unbeknownst to Christoforo, had forwarded the email to Krahulik, the guy who runs that show. And that single mention, according to Krahulik himself, is all the provocation he needed.

“It really was just the mention of PAX,” Krahulik told me on Thursday. “The guy was obviously being a jerk, but then to have him use PAX as leverage or a weapon and count me among his allies, that was way too far.”

By the time Christoforo mentioned PAX, his fate as an arsehole had been sealed. But if his reference implied any kind of relationship with or endorsement from its organisers, I’m not seeing it. “See you at CES , E3 , Pax East ….?” he wrote. “Oh wait you have to ask mum and pa dukes your not an industry professional …”

“Holy shit this is unbelievable,” Krahulik wrote, in the first email he contributed to this pissing match, a message he sent to both Christofo and “Dave”, the upset customer. “Dave, if this guy has a booth at Pax east we will cancel it.” His preceding ironic annotation “The Pax East comment gets my attention and I decide to engage. I tend to have a calming effect on these sorts of arguments,” betrays the fact he had no intention of providing that.

“This is a guy being a real bully, a real jerk to one of our readers,” he told me, “and then when I read the PAX quote where he aligned me with him in a nebulous way — it’s one thing to be a bully and it’s another to imply that I condone his actions.”

He’s reaching for a reason, where none exists, to say that someone else started it. This is strange because Krahulik plainly admits his tendency to act precipitously and self-destructively, to the point Penny Arcade’s business staff knows that managing the fallout from his behaviour is part of their job description. I think he wanted to kick Paul’s arse and was waiting for the slightest moral justification for doing so.

That’s his prerogative. Penny Arcade is not my business and I’ve never attended PAX. But the fact remains this incident never would have become the internet scandal it is if Krahulik didn’t decide it involved him and Penny Arcade. There’s a difference between saying, for example, “U2 endorses what I write,” and “I’m going to see U2.” Well, PAX is a U2 gig in this case; all Christoforo said was he was going to it, which more than 100 exhibitors do in Boston.

If Paul Christoforo dropped anyone’s name with the implication he had their support, it was Kotaku’s (and IGN’s and Engadget’s). And if anyone dragged Penny Arcade into the discussion, it was either Krahulik or “Dave”, the customer who unloaded a 1000-word complaint over a joystick attachment’s missed delivery date and forwarded that to Penny Arcade, Kotaku and other major gaming publications as a plea for support.

Krahulik sounds like he was all too happy to finally be the big friend on the playground.

“(Dave) approached someone in a reasonable way and Paul was a bully,” Krahulik told me. “It’s like Dave said ‘Hey what time is it,’ and Paul punched him in the face. And what I did was say, ‘Whoa, Paul, buddy, I know karate, believe me,’ and he didn’t, and so I gave him a little chop.

“Is that a bully? Maybe,” he said. “I’m an arsehole, and some day I’ll get it too, I’m sure.”

Re-read the email thread, before the fireworks begin, before Christoforo lips off to Krahulik and then truly gets what’s coming to him. Dave, full of customer-is-always-right dudgeon, is as much of an instigator in this as anyone. Paul is being offensively bureaucratic and his inability to use proper spelling or grammar, or to be bothered to correct such mistakes, certainly disrespects the reader.

The shit show really only begins when Dave unloads a pedantic lecture on his consumer rights and Paul’s responsibilities (with plenty of all-caps), appends some extraneous insults to let Paul know he looked him up on Facebook and then puts our tips email (and evidently IGN’s and Engadget’s) in the “CC” field as an implied threat.

Let me ask this: If Christoforo later dropping Brian Crecente’s name as an implied endorsement is false and obnoxious — and it is — then isn’t it also obnoxious for Dave to threaten Christoforo with our name (and other publications), making the same implication that we endorse his position?

Hours after Krahulik posted the email thread on Penny Arcade, this had completely devolved from a petty consumer complaint into total warfare. It’s easy to understand why. Hardcore video gaming culture carries a chip on its shoulder the size of a manhole lid, and among other things, it views itself as dismissed or taken for granted by monolithic forces who care only for money and nothing for the community’s artistic passion and independent spirit.

Paul Christoforo and Dave, in their attitudes toward each another, represented all of that conflict. It helped also that Christoforo’s Facebook photographs were as much of a self-parody as his atrocious grammar and typographical errors.

Timing had plenty to do with it, too. “What did you expect would happen,” a friend suggested to me. “It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, everyone’s on break with nothing to do.” It reminded me of why the JonBenet Ramsey homicide of December 26, 1996, and the Raëlian cloning hoax of December 26, 2002, got such traction. It’s an inherently dead news cycle, whatever you’re covering.

By late in the day of December 27, Reddit’s gaming front was a CNN-esque all-Paul, all-the-time crawl, devoted to the original offence, pictures culled from Christoforo’s Facebook page, a hunt for anything embarrassing about his company “Ocean Marketing” (sometimes hilariously misspelled) and imgur parodies trying to cement the latest meme off the controversy. Nearly every gaming blog and site had written something about this foofaraw. Sage voices of gaming journalism took to Twitter to sound their disapproval, and the spread was so wide it inevitably trickled into mainstream outlets.

Christoforo at first expressed confidence that this was fine, in an any-publicity-is-good-publicity vein. His tune changed later in emails to Krahulik, in which he claims to have a wife and child in a plea for Krahulik to calm the internet’s fury.

By the end of Tuesday, a parody video already had been released. Reddit oscillated between calling off the attack because the Avenger was a product some of its users enjoyed, and pressing the abuse because the company’s ownership still had connections to Christoforo and either hadn’t disavowed or was being duplicitous about them.

The upshot seems to be what everyone who despises Electronic Arts, Activision, Bobby Kotick, Ubisoft, DRM and Call of Duty has always wanted: Getting some marketing douchebag fired. Except he didn’t represent any of those companies or products or anything that actually makes zillions and truly shapes the video gaming market. He sold what is basically fetish gear for a controller. By Wednesday evening, N-Control had hired a new publicist, guaranteed a January 15 delivery date, offered a $US10 discount to everyone with a standing order on the product, and more or less KGB’d Christoforo from company memory.

And everyone, evidently, was happy.

I don’t think anyone in this fiasco has anything to be proud of. Christoforo surely deserves no benefit of the doubt. He said plenty to reveal his contempt for you and me. His conduct, however provoked, is deplorable and a firing offence on its face, and he does not belong in any customer-facing job.

N-Control had its head up its arse, too. Its amateurish customer satisfaction operation placed an inside sales contractor at a consumer call centre desk, creating the ferment for this needless psychodrama, which evidently had precedent. And — speaking purely for myself — my publication isn’t innocent either. We’ve also provided a megaphone to both the combatants and the cheering section in this pointless, communal hurricane of entitlement, narcissism, imagined persecution and arrogance.

But there is also an arrogance in the conduct of Dave, Krahulik and Reddit and it is also contemptible. Who appointed any of you the cop? More importantly, who appointed you the sentencing judge? These three parties demonstrated that they have no concept of a proportionate reaction to or suitable retribution for petty disappointment. Their methodology is the tarnished golden rule of do unto others before they do unto you, propped up by a purely emotional justification — I was once bullied; I’m an aggrieved customer; I am lied to by corporations. All of these are abusive relationships shaped by the consent of the abused, and are the contrived basis for the total annihilation of Paul Christoforo over a 36-hour span.

“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,” Krahulik later wrote on his blog. “I feel like Paul is a bully and maybe that’s why I have no sympathy here. Someday every bully meets an even bigger bully and maybe that’s me in this case.”

As his example implies, bullying behaviour is indeed often a manifestation of once being bullied. Krahulik retrofitting his actions as a justifiable adult reaction to being bullied as a child is offensive to those who have legitimately suffered such peer abuse.

And then there’s his closure: “When these arseholes 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.”

Krahulik did not back down from that a bit when I read it back to him and asked for a deeper explanation.

“I have messed up, and I will definitely hurt myself if I think I can hurt someone else,” he said. “I’m not defending that as a noble statement, I’m just being who I am.”

It’s especially sad to consider that, for the millions who enjoy Penny Arcade, the thousands who attend its expos each year, and yes, I’ll go here, because I’ve met them, the hundreds of sick children, many of them terminally so, given games and toys by its charitable foundation.

Like Paul Christoforo, I am 38. Like “Dave,” I have a gift for the highly offended screed. In the autumn semester of my junior year at NC State I got three tickets for parking in the lot of my own fraternity house. The third time, I was beyond outraged. It was all a scam, a ripoff, a means of control. The university had recently annexed all the parking spaces at or nearby frat court and was forcing me to buy a permit, or pay fines for nothing, to subsidise the debt on an enormous deck the campus had built and couldn’t fill. I paid my ticket with a “FUCK YOU” written in the memo line of the check. And boy it felt great.

Naturally, that check had my address, name and handwriting on it, so it wasn’t too hard to trace. A couple weeks later I got a call from the office of student affairs and was directed to meet with its senior administrator. His office was in the building next door to where I worked as a writer for the student newspaper. I came over and he presented me with the cancelled check, asking if it was mine.

Of course it was. I laid out all the reasons why my anger was justified. I told him the check was a contract and by cashing it the university accepted its terms, an argument that, in 1993, foreshadowed all the condescending logic and horseshit legal scholarship you read every day on the Internet.

“That’s great,” he said. “We’re not going to waste our time punishing you. That’s not why I brought you here.

“I read you in the paper,” he said. “You’re a real pissed-off guy. You keep doing this kind of shit, someone’s going to take a shot at you some day.”

That was as axiomatic for Paul Christoforo as it is for Mike Krahulik.


  • I agree that no one handled it well, but if PA didn’t get involved, this moron would continue to do what he has been doing for a long time.

    And Dave did not at all sound like you portray him as, but even if he did, the difference is this – he was a paying customer, who had been given the run around many times for something he put his faith in a long time ago. You are comparing the attitudes of a customer that had been mistreated (or at least ill advised on the status of his order), stuck through it regardless, just to be belittled and insulted by a terrible joke of a PR rep.

    • I tend to agree. Consumer advocacy and protection has been eroded steadily in the U.S. … what’s Dave supposed to do? Just accept that he might not get the product they already charged him for?

      Hey, maybe if legal action wasn’t so expensive, maybe if there were regulatory bodies that could ACTUALLY help an individual out, Dave could have gone another route. Without arguing about libertarian politics or whatnot, being that the chips lay the way they do, how can anyone blame a consumer for pursuing his legal advantages for leverage against a business that is abusing him and possibly defrauding him at the same time? Isn’t this precisely what a consumer is supposed to do without “big government” commanding the economy? Maybe we HAVE to be our own cops because it has become the Wild West.

      Heck, even Dave admitted that the Internet response was a little excessive, but I like to point out, without the ability to create “negative publicity”, Monica Gaudio and many more significant content providers would have been ripped off by Cooks Source continuously. It’s always great to play Monday Morning Quarterback without having to provide any alternative plays a guy like Dave could have made…and ones that would actually have a chance at succeeding mind you without costing him tons more money.

      That being said, now that Dave and other N-Control consumers have gotten better communication and reassurances, and now that Paul Christoforo is no longer employed by said company, people do need to let it go. He’s going to get work somewhere at some point…otherwise, you’re just hoping to not only punish a man, but destroy him. He can probably do that well enough on his own anyway.

    • “You just got told bitch … welcome to the real internet check kotaku in 2 weeks… you think you speak for billions son your just a kid you speak for yourself no one cares what you think”

      I guess Christoforo does have friends at kotaku.

      How else could you claim that Christoforo wasn’t bullying Dave?

      Mike Krahulic is more like the teacher who caught him being a bully and punished him.

      Christoforo was laughing in his face for trying to bring this to the attention of the gaming media. If he’s reading this, I’ll bet he’s still laughing.

      • Uhm. From what I know, Paul *was* that contact. His phone number was listed on the manufacturer’s site and he handled all points of contact. Dave had nowhere to appeal to but Mike.

        So, what would you do? 🙂

    • Kotaku US writing a one lined article, people complain and say things about how bad they are.

      Kotaku US write a giant article and people still feel the need to mention them with obvious negative connotations whether you actually own up to them or not.

      I don’t understand it. some topics require more coverage than others. people should expect a thesis on everything and then they shouldn’t act snide when they get it!

  • I liked this.

    Gabe’s reaction did have a certain vigilante vibe about it, and the reaction from the internet was tarnished by a number of people who cant understand the concept of the punishment fitting the crime. At one stage, Paul was allegedly receiving death threats. Yes, thats right, death threats, over a botched customer relation and a bit of chest beating.

    If there is one thing the internet does well its forming an angry mob. It just needs to keep its crucifixion compulsion in check.

  • Yeah, I totally, wholeheartedly disagree with what you are saying in this article. The man was truly an example that needed to be made. Any company that still purchases his “skills” should also suffer the combined wrath of the internet. We shouldn’t forgive or forget.

    • What is with the righteous fury? “combined wrath of the internet”? Really? We aren’t talking about the crusades here. Its some jackass who got caught being a dick. If the internet really wanted to rain terror on a deserving party, you’d think they’d pick a better target. In reality, what started off as a name and shame turned into something more sinister. The internet loves its pack dog mentality.

      but you know nevar forgive, nevar forget or whatever.

      • You’re referring of course to the guy who, when contacted by the legitimate owners of the webtools he’d been charged with, tried to extort money out of them rather than return their property. Yeah, why are we so unforgiving of a guy who wants to ripoff a company making controllers for the handicapped?

  • Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.

  • This isn’t about death or life. Purely a guy being a Dick to a customer. Nevertheless, he has been found wanting by a large group of people and should be humbled by the event. Instead, he chooses to use it as an example of how he was right and every one else is just being mean to him. His hypocrisy, and blatant disregard for the people who pay for the products he sells tells me that HE SHOULDN’T BE DEALING WITH CUSTOMERS. Furthermore, any company that continues to employ a man with such a history doesn’t value its customers and therefore doesn’t deserve to have any. Pretty simple.

  • Having read the entirety of the email exchange, I have to vastly disagree with those who think the customer over-reacted. In this business, you don’t claim a date for a system you’re still altering; you don’t get a customs slip without being able to make a reasonable domestic shipping time-frame; you don’t explain things from the industry view when most people just want a basic when and why, and most importantly, if first-come pre-pays are still waiting when you offer a discount to new pre-pays, you reciprocate, not tell them, “Anything you do to get that discount will result in cancellation of your order.” I’ve even gotten multiple discounts when the pre-pay has been to cover fabrication costs, even though most companies use the acceptable, “Which ever deal made available over the course of the wait was the best single deal for the customer,” logic.

    If these are the company’s/branch’s/division’s/partner’s practices, regardless of how the sales person reacts, the overall relationship with that company, either by partners or customers, needs to be carefully reviewed.

    As far as gaming goes, my only traditional current console is an X-Box 360 with 3 wireless controllers (one modified to deal with excessive force applied to subconsciously attempt to adjust for skill-set scaling that happens in many modern sports games), but I wouldn’t find this practice acceptable if it was from a company that had something I really liked. In fact, I’ve dropped a composite fabricator whose first generation product was fun to work with, which is now only in it’s second generation, because they weren’t anywhere near that second generation as they suggested when they wanted my money.

    Most companies that have been in this business awhile know the importance of identifying the product development cycle and its inherent risks when seeking customers and partners. Complaining about an Internet-base firestorm tends to ignore that said storm only lasts if there’s legitimacy or newness to the initiating conditions.

  • To me it sounds like its the author’s view that every time Today Tonight or ACA go film a story the person who sent them the info is bullying whoever is being filmed. Sometimes its the only way of getting anywhere.

    Yes, its been a bad week for all involved, and its likely that everyone could have handled it better. But to turn this around and say that Dave shouldn’t have copied his emails to the various sites? I work at Coles, I know exactly how often “the customer is right” but this time I have nothing but admiration for Dave. He started out being genuinely nice and understanding and as he got screwed around, eventually he reached the point where he sent his story to the internet equivalent of TT or ACA (no offense to the sites 🙂 ). Sometimes you gotta push a bit harder.

  • Your opinion is an interesting one, but I don’t agree with it at all.

    I think the responses from both Dave and Mike were more than acceptable. I cannot see how you could think that Paul’s comments were ‘provoked’, and I have no problem with the way Penny Arcade became involved.

    In all the articles I’ve read on this topic, it’s clear that Paul has a real disconnect with reality. He perceives what matters in this world is how much power you wield, and how many powerful connections you have. He’s never said “Yeah I should be nicer to people”, but rather his remorse is along the lines of “I didn’t know Mike was so powerful, and I wish I had his connections”. Forget Mike – it’s the customer he should be focused on. At no point has he expressed remorse of how Dave was treated.

    In a world of free speech Owen has the right to voice his opinion. And as a reader I have the right to think less of him for trying to play some spin on this topic.

    • Exactly this Foxe, the author of this article is wrong from the outset anyway.

      Bullies never take the first swing? Dunno what planet he lives on but on the one I live on they often take the first swing (literally and metaphorically).

      • I went from zero respect for Owen to negative respect for him, this article just lets everyone know hes in bed with Paul

        • “He sold what is basically fetish gear for a controller. ”

          I was actually making an effort to take this article seriously too.

  • I haven’t paid any attention to what reddit has been doing, it does sound like its been blown out of proportion.

    As far as penny arcade, I think Paul really needed a humbling experience and Mikey provided that – right or wrong – it was good to see him stand up for Dave against this asshole.

  • Yep Kotaku US writing a ridiculous article to get hits and comments. Nice try dude. All penny arcade did was show the truth, nothing more nothing less. This story needed to come out because Paul was causing huge damage to the companies he was representing.

  • The guy didn’t just be rude to the customer, he made a deliberate effort to antagonise the guy (I’ll sell your controllers on Ebay) he then proceeded to name drop like a mofo. I find it funny that all the names he dropped couldn’t get far enough away fast enough, I also noticed that he couldn’t name any of the guys by name. What mike did is what anyone who is all about fan service would do, He saw an abillity to help a reader and used what leverage he had to try and get a resolution…it didn’t work so he hit him with the ban hammer. Too many company’s nowdays treat the end user like crap and get away with it this is what sparked the whole internet wide rage fit. We can only hope that the PR and customer service industries take note of this and provide a measure of professional behaviour when dealing with the general public. Mike is now my hero, despite the fame that has come from Penny Arcade he is still reading the emails of readers and actioning things he feels he could help with.

  • Yea, yea, it’s Penny Arcade’s fault that this guy was a dickhead. Kotaku america can’t see our comments anyway, so it doesn’t matter what we say about how stupid they are.

  • Anyone who is willing to openly threaten someone without consideration for the possible consequences loses my respect immediately, along with any and all sympathy they might have been entitled to. This was not the first time Paul acted like a douche to customers, so the pillock had it coming. Paul decided he didn’t like being pressed for answers and got pushy, then got abusive and threatening when the customer objected to his attitude. Nothing wrong with how Dave reacted at all, and going public was the best thing he could have done here, because ultimately it’s up to the community as a whole to make sure companies know what is happening is unacceptable

  • Unfortunately the spelling is OK or shenanigans!!!! Has anyone ever seen Owen Good and Christafano in the same room? Maybe Kotaku USA is actually one of his clients?

  • Someone’s a graduate of the News Corporation school of ‘Publish a reverse indignation story to DOUBLE YOUR HITS!!!’ I see. So let me see if I get this right – marketing dude gets paid lots of money to market stuff. Marketing dude does things like make dubious claims to manipulate people into buying products, provides poor customer service, brings represented brand into disrepute through untrue allegations – all good as long as he makes $$$ and doesn’t get caught. Way of the world, man. Marketing dude gets caught out being a gigantic douche and is made an example of, hopefully as a warning to the thousands of other douches making $$$ the same way he does – ZOMG POOR VICTIM.

    Please note if $$$ and business are the holy grail here, as the owner of an event making $$$ and business flow for him Mike can do whatever he damn well wants.

    Also Owen – bringing in the sick children? Dude, give Rupert Murdoch a call, your *talents* are needed at Fox News.

  • I hate customers. I worked ISP billing and support for 4 years.

    Despite that I can recognize bad customer service a mile away. Dave is in no way out of line. The first reply he got along with all the others lacked professionalism and good customer service. The customer usually does not have a lot of options and less in this case.

    With an ISP you can escalate to a senior, then manager, then solutions. Then you can go 3rd party to the TIO. Dave didn’t have any of these. All he had was the power to publish it on the Internet and show how terrible the service was. That’s what he did. It worked too.

    If I had been replying, 1 email is all I would have needed. If that wasn’t good enough by 3 emails I’d still be explaining the issue, the options and my recommendations. I eould not be worried about a single email I have sent whilst working customer service because all of mine were helpful and professional. Unless the customer had no legs to stand on, was bring completely unrealistic. Then it was just professional.

    The customer is not always right. But pure that the customer service should always be 100% professional. Who made us the judge? You ask. The lack of options Dave had did.

    Sure his wife and kid should not have been targeted. He should not get death threats. But the spam and everything was a lesson. Maybe next time he will be more professional in his responses.

  • In the emails I read, Christoforo certainly sounded like he was trying to bully Dave into not following up on the complaint and convince him that the delays were normal.

    And CC’ing the news outlets seems more akin to informing a consumer watchdog like Choice Magazine than a bullying act.

    Lastly, the U2 concert analogy doesn’t quite seem right. The equivalent of “attending a U2 concert” would be “attending a convention as an individual”. Having a booth at a convention is a bit different, and does imply some level of approval from the organisers. It is closer to “being U2’s support act”, and I’m sure you’d have similar troubles if you badmouthed Bono’s charity work in that situation.

  • Very controversial opinion (and one that is bound to piss off a lot of people) and one that I mostly agree with. Everyone was being a dick in this pissing match, not just Christoforo.

    Dave had every right to be angry but I think he could have handled it in better ways. That long email of his could have been written in much better ways. Krahulik basically admitted he was playing the bully this time and although I felt it was justified and good for a laugh initially, I felt a bit uneasy with his follow up. I know a lot of people felt that Christoforo was using his family as a shield when he begged Krahulik to make it stop. Although that might be true, people seem to forget this is the internet, collateral like that is bound to happen. Krahulik seemed to blatently ignore that fact when he posted his final update. He seemed more interested in making Christoforo pay for what he did. That’s when I took a step back and realised that none of this is right.

    I think a lot of people are being blinded by Christoforo’s douchebaggery. Yes, he deserved what he got but I think what everyone should realise, and what Owen is getting at, is that everyone was at fault here. Nothing was handled well, none of this should ever happen. Too bad we don’t live in an ideal world though cuz no doubt it will.

    • How it could be handled better?

      “I am terribly sorry, I paid for the controller you promised to send me month ago. Yes, I am a little kid and I’m sorry again, please, please don’t cancel my order I already paid for, you were right Mr Paul!”

      This would be better? Dave had every right, Paul’s replies looked like he was trying to scam him. And I have been scammed like this once or twice in the past, when I was much younger. I don’t think Dave had to beg Paul to give him his paid for controller when he was making fun of him. Because he could.

      If Mike didn’t show up, Paul would just continue to withdraw the product from the customer, keeping the money ad infinitum. There was a case earlier when Nate waited from February to June. You think this is fair?! You poor soul! Weep for the victimized bad guy and yell at the real victim for fighting back. And Paul’s career was built on fraud – look at his website, full of stolen articles and content. Look at his extortion attempt from the controller company. I don’t have compassion for him at all.

  • I disagree with this articles assessment of the situation. Paul Christoforo is obviously a bully. When dealing with someone like this what other recourse do you have? You can’t talk to a supervisor, you can’t sue, you can’t do anything but make it public. So Dave made it public. Paul thought he could continue his bully tactics with PA and it blew up in his face.

    Now I admit Gabe probably was itching for this guy to piss him off- he fully admits he has problems with bullies and looks for opportunities to exact revenge upon them. But Paul took the bait, he didn’t have to, he was given plenty of chances to be reasonable and didn’t take them.

    It’s not fair what happened to Paul, but life isn’t fair. I’m sure more times than not up until this point it’s been unfair in Paul’s favor. A little Karmic justice might actually do him some good.

  • Dumbest article ever written by Kotaku US, ever. Thats saying a goddamn lot considering the other drivel they’ve come out with.

    This article is so stupid for a number reasons, one being because the emails clearly show Dave was just calmly asking about his product WHICH HE PAID FOR AND WAS ALREADY A MONTH LATE, got this bullshit response from Paul

    Then Mike told him there would be no booth at PAX, which is in his rights to do, at which point Paul started grovelling and then when he couldn’t fix it insulted the guy again with nonsensical lies.

    The second reason why this article is bullshit is because it accuses PA and Dave of being bullies, despite the fact that they weren’t the ones posting articles following Pauls life of drug abuse and assault, Kotaku US however posted I beleive seven articles at least doing just that.

    Honestly Owen Good should be ashamed for such a clear attempt to pull in views with such a stupid opinion. Instead of smacking this dumbass down for being a terrible human being, you actually try to make it seem like he’s in the right here.

    Way to wrap up the year guys, you finish on your worst article to date

  • Dear Owen Good,

    I’d like to bring it to your attention that you’re still talking about this. You’r website didn’t find this news worthly till Penny Arcade got involved. You and other websites have backed away from claiming “knowing” or being “friends” with Paul. The customer in question was unhappy with his business experience with the company. He sent this email to YOU and several other gaming websites. Did you post this? No, but Penny Arcade did. What did you do? You THEN posted it when Penny Arcade posted it. This was only news to you when someone else thought it was important. Do I think Kotaku , IGN, and Engaget has to be the super heroes for gamers? No, but if the owner of Penny Arcade sees something wrong with a GAMING RELATED ITEM and says he does not want anything to do with them at HIS event. That doesn’t make him a bully. He values his readers more then money. If you read the email again you would see that Mike didn’t even write a lot. Only thing that he said at first was “Holy shit this is unbelievable. Dave, if this guy has a booth at Pax east we will cancel it. ‘re being treated in and we do not want this company at OUR event”

    I’m sorry, but Ocean Marketing was not professional about this at all. You do not treat customers in ANY business like this. The sheer lack of respect was terrible. All the person wanted to know was when his order was. All respected company’s will let you know if something gets delayed. They give you tracking and if there is a problem they alert you. I feel bad for “Avengers” addon a little bit. They still have to be held responsible. Say if you loan your car out to a friend and that person isn’t insured. If he has an accident, you’re responsible because it’s YOUR car.

    So bottom line Owen Good that instead of making a post that is as long as the original email, how about you stop talking about it? Your site didn’t care about this matter till Penny Arcade felt it mattered.

    The only bully in this manner was Paul Christoforo. It wasn’t “gamers” that made his life difficult, it was people. Anyone can see no matter what sex/age/religion/etc can see this was uncalled and not acceptable. You don’t have to be a gamer to not be happy about this. Just like what happened with Toyota or any other company that gets bad press.

    To be totally honest, Dave was also very humble about this. When Mike said he didn’t want any relationship with this company and didn’t want them at PAX. Dave asked him to please still allow them at PAX.

    So THANK YOU Penny Arcade for actually caring about it readers and not just saying and I quote “pissing match, a message he sent to both Christofo and “Dave”, the upset customer. ” and not being like Kotaku and just chasing a story just for views.

  • I’m so happy to see that other people can see that this article is a fucking joke.

    Here’s the facts. That “customer is always right” mentality that the author seems to think is selfish is handed down from the upper echelons of retail management. You are taught to believe that, so an “executive” shirking that rule would piss anyone off who’s ever worked retail in their lives.

    And as for typing in caps, if I were dealing with someone who comes across as barely literate as this Paul dickhead TO MAKE IT NICE AND OBVIOUS TO THE ROIDJACKED BULLY.

    I hate this niave, neurotic, narcissistic belief that any situation can portray any person as anything. That’s what this article is trying to do. What sort of pious, self assured brat tries to flip the facts on what was an obvious series of events like these.

    What a fucking joke.

  • I should also admit yes, I made a typo too. Good thing I’m not a salesperson talking to an already annoyed customer.

  • really? you guys are attacking a guy who was also trying to defend your website as well?

    and Mike had already stated his reason why he made the email thread public, and that was that he can’t stand bullies. he said all of his life he was bullied, and if he ever founds someone else getting bullied, he will do everything to make sure the bully doesn’t get away with it. he also said that he probably did do the wrong thing, but if he didn’t, this asshole would still get away with abusing customers.

    so the accusations against Mike are somewhat true

    and then you start accusing Dave? a normal guy who couldn’t do anything against this paul guy, so he just did the only thing he could, and gain more attention to Paul! it’s like what another guy who spoke to paul said, when paul said that the customer was just one in a million, after the customer put the emails on the internet, paul apologised, then the customer replied that only because paul said that he was “one in a million” and talked down on him did he feel the need to get show others, so paul could learn the power of just ‘One” person.

    but seriously, poor form kotaku, i still don’t understand why you are not only attacking people who were helping you out, but somewhat defending a guy you don’t want to be associated with.

  • You attack someone who is on your side, and claim that the guy who was simply after some customer service is the villain?

    Get off of the internet.
    Right now.

  • The manufacturers of the controller have said they had issues with this Paul guy all along. Him being a bit of a loose cannon.
    The guy is just a dick. He needed to be taken down a few notches.

  • This just in;

    People on KotakuUS have had their stars removed (some account related thing) by Owen for disagreeing with the article even when they were being polite about it.

    Seems Owen has a rep on the US boards for doing that often…bully defending bully perhaps?

    • Several hours before changing Twitter names again, Paul named three other clients of his…silly boy.

      I took the duty of contacting them. So far two of the three have responded. The first have never heard of Paul or his company. Same with the second who have now placed a disclaimer on the front of their website stating they have no connections with ANY outside social marketing companies. I’m thinking number three will probably be a no as well.

    • If things still work the same as they did when I used to go to Kotaku US, the stars are promoted commenters that have their comments automatically approved and highlighted, and have the ability to promote other comments.

      It’s a weird system but you get used to it. Stars are meant to be given to people who make good comments etc. Then again, people who get in the Comments of the Week section get stars as well (so I earned one for a pun filled post about racing games).

      I lost my star for a “does this rag smell like chloroform to you” joke, and the same week someone got in Comments of the Week for the same joke.

      That should give you a good idea of just how much sense the star system makes.

      Any time you argue against the editors over there, you run the risk of losing a star. They really don’t care at all about having a good commenting community, they just care about having and echo chamber.

      It’s pretty terrible and one of the reasons I don’t go there anymore.

  • FFS this whole thing is a massive mountain made out of a molehill.
    All the shit happening in the world right now and the internet erupts over bad customer service? First world problems – folk need to get themselves some perspective STAT!

    And yes I am aware of the irony that by commenting on it I’m giving attention to the whole fiasco.

  • This article has a take the moral high ground for the sake of taking the moral high ground feel about it.
    As I have said in a previous articles Inaction only empowers bullies and the more they get away with the more negative behavior is reinforced. Bullies rely on you not speaking up or just letting it go.
    I for one am glad Paul got what was coming to him. He only has himself to blame.

  • The single most incorrect line in this opinion piece:

    “The shit show really only begins when Dave unloads a pedantic lecture on his consumer rights and Paul’s responsibilities (with plenty of all-caps), appends some extraneous insults to let Paul know he looked him up on Facebook and then puts our tips email (and evidently IGN’s and Engadget’s) in the ‘CC’ field as an implied threat.”

    Shit show began when the customer wasn’t provided the simple information he requested on an outstanding order he had already been charged for. These playground analogies are not appropriate, the company had soaked up as many payments as possible and failed to ship, which in a better world would have immediately resulted in legal action.

    That the customer feels obligated to justify the initial confrontation and the inconvenience he is causing whomever is his contact for service is the first hurdle. As customers, we are due fair and transparent service. That he wasn’t provided that, whether or not Christoforo states so, is a clear “fuck you, don’t care,” on behalf of the company.

  • This is me wiping my hands of your site.

    Had you done any research Owen, you would have seen that Paul routinely insults and berates his customers. The man is a bully, plain and simple. His recent attempt of extorting money out of Ncontrol by holding their digital accounts hostage is a testament to this.

    I will put up with the one line stories, and the poorly written articles, but I will not stand for someone who tries to shift the blame, even in part, to anyone but Paul. The man is scum in it’s most disgusting form.

  • This article is ridiculous, it almost feels like ‘owen good’ is a mate of pauls, and he’s just trying to salvage the situation.

    I just don’t know how anyone could defend paul’s actions. Even if he was ‘provoked’, it’s not his job to bite the cherry. It’s his job to be absolutely professional about it and take it on the chin.

    Absolutely disgusting attempt at saving face.






  • Anyone defending a company screwing over its customers and then giving them attitude about it is as idiotic as the company itself. The guy who wrote this article is an imbecile. Don’t defend a terrible PR rep who insults customers for inquiring about products they should have had weeks before. A company/”professional” treating a paying customer in this manner isn’t worth anything, nor is someone who defends them. And yes, as a PR representative, he DOES speak for the company. That’s what he’s hired to do.

  • I bet your mum told you to just ignore bullies until they went away.

    The fact is, that never works. It’s the strong who are left alone. Dave wasn’t strong, and he was bullied. PA, on the other hand, are awesome-strong, have a large fanbase, and were namedropped. I congratulate Mike for his swift action. Let this be a lesson to every other asshat who thinks that he’s god because customers are giving them money for a product.

    • That was exactly what my mother told me…and from 1st Grade into high school I was a punching bag.
      Then I got a major beat-down that made my brain snap and go “That’s, it. Never again.”
      Strange thing…as soon as I started standing up to them and LOUDLY calling them to the carpet, the bullies left me alone.

      So to hell with Paul. He deserved 100% of EVERYTHING happening to him. Mike was merely the instrument of Karma’s vengence.

  • Not even reading it.

    When someone does something dumb they deserve to be punished. This guy was asking for it, LITERALLY, ASKING FOR IT. He shat all over Mike telling him he couldn’t do shit because of his connections and then he couldn’t back it up at all.

    Stupidity should not be rewarded, championed, or defended, under any circumstance… Yep. Way to wrap up the year.

  • I stand with Penny Arcade. That game accessory guy hasn’t even taken the time to use the correct grammar and spelling in his communication with customers. For fucks sake, show some pride in your business and some respect for your customers.

  • Wow Owen, I thought Luke was the worst guy on the KotakuUS board, but you’ve taken that cake and shat all over it. Good work.

    I think everything I would say has been said in the comments before this one. I am glad to see everyone else here has common sense that Owen clearly lacks.
    I only hope the US commenters are the same.

  • I suppose Owen Good also thinks that Wikileaks is just bullying the governments of the world too.

    If someone screws up, they should be called out on it, firstly to help them fix it, then secondly, to warn the public if they refuse to fix it. The internet is our way of doing this now. Whether it’s a matter of government doing things they shouldn’t be, or someone completely failing at PR and screwing customers over, the difference is only a matter of scale.

  • Hi, I’m from the US. Owen is a complete moron, and this article belongs on the toilet paper roll. End of story.

  • For me, Christoforo crossed the line when he threatened to use his “125 PR staff” to run a smear campaign against Penny Arcade, using social media and blogs, etc. He essentially showed that if he was the stronger party in this exchange he would have happily damaged Penny Arcade’s reputation – instead he poked a tiger and it tore him a new arse.

    Mike is admitting he’s acted as a bully with all that implies. However, I agree with him that in this case, the “victim” more than painted the target on his own back and dared Mike to have a crack at him.

    And Paul’s feeble begging for mercy demonstrates exactly what Mike pointed out. He still isn’t sorry for failing to act in a professional manner in his customer service/PR role. He’s sorry he encountered someone with the power to make his life hell. He went crawling, cap in hand, hoping to claw back some credibiliity and maybe hold onto a job somewhere.

    I’m sorry but this article seems to suggest Mike had no “right” to do what he did and should have done better. Please note, Mike didn’t post “please rape this bastard into oblivion”. He didn’t organise a movement like Anonymous or anything – he posted the exchange, and Paul’s details, literally saying “I’m just going to post this here”. He knew exactly what he was doing, but if his fan base didn’t essentially agree with his position, Paul would have had a few strident messages and that’s about it. Instead, he was “Christoforo-ed”.

    This won’t hurt Penny Arcade in the long run – the whole “dickwolves” nonsense probably had a worse impact on their business than this encounter.

  • Although I think I might actually agree with you on the comments about Gabe, I can’t help but feel that you have horrendously misjudged dave. He was simply a customer who was trying to get answers and, upon being abused by customer support (something I would never expect to happen) he sends the email off to penny arcade. I think Dava was merely looking for support, or at least someone else to share his anger at Ocean Marketing. I highly doubt that he anticipated the internet drama that followed

  • So what you’re saying is the customer should have just kept his mouth shut? Or are you saying Penny Arcade (Mike) should not have acted?

    Bear in mind the “customer service” was totally non-existent. The guy who’d paid for a product wasn’t getting anywhere. His options? Complain to the local government agency and wait months, or see if he could get someone else with a little power on his side.

    You’ve criticised Penny Arcade for jumping off the deep end when it was barely mentioned. Penny Arcade was there for its reader, not just to protect the reputation of PAX or anything else.

    And Paul the bully still didn’t understand how much he’d messed up. He still doesn’t understand where the problem actually lies. Unfortunately, from this article neither does Owen Good.

    This article is shoddy journalism at its shoddiest. I suppose Kotaku would like to be controversial. Find something useful to be controversial about, guys. Defending the indefensible isn’t doing Kotaku any good at all.

  • This article looks like it was written by Paul Christofo. You’re even ragging on the customer who was poorly treated by a company after he gave them money.

  • So reading between the lines here, it was Dave’s fault for not being satisfied with the shoddy, unprofessional and underlyingly threatening response? That Christoforo, who made the choice to work in Public Relation and therefore expose himself as a face and representative of a company, shouldn’t be held accountable when that public face turns out to be mean, vaguely extortionate, unhelpful and a terrible representation of the company he’s mean to be spruiking? You’re kidding right?

    Regardless of the proportion of the response, anyone working in PR these days should recognise that we’re living in a global, instant-communication world. Your mistakes will echo, and so will your successes. People will respond. I have no sympathy at all for people who proclaim to be able to do a job, in this case PR, then fail spectacularly. They need to be held accountable for their actions. Here, Christoforo has been well and truly been brought to bear for his shitty customer service and is paying the price.
    Is this the fault of the internet and the vocal (and often mob-mentality, lowest common denominator having) groups who are shouting this down and deriving their own entertainment from it? In my opinion, no. You put your hand in the fire and you get burned? Well you should’ve seen it coming. The internet is not a new place. People – especially those who work in communications management like PR – are aware of the power random internet denziens have. Hell they actively try and harness it (ie. viral marketing).
    In this case however Mike stepped in and low and behold, people rallied and the entire thing blew up. Penny-Arcade is infulential, this can’t be argued against. Christoforo didn’t back down UNTIL he realised what he was up against. There was no accomodation, there was no compromise and there wasn’t even a basic level of respect. Do you think anything would’ve been resolved if it HADN’T gone to the front page of Penny-Arcade? Or do you think Christoforo would’ve carried on his merry way, not caring at all that his attitude was not even close to being appropriate. He didn’t give any indication of remorse or trying to make good with a customer who had a) already paid b) been polite and asking fair and reasonable questions, he was never going to change. The internet stepped in and lo and behold, someone who should never have been in PR is now no longer in it.

    The real loser here are the Avenger controllers, they legitimately seemed to be a good and helpful product to help and overlooked segment of the market.

    This is a pretty awful peice overall. You’re essentially saying that if someone gets called on doing something bad, if the response isn’t proporionate it’s a wash? Bullshit. Bullying is an ugly thing but you know what? Sometimes a bully needs to be bullied. It takes someone more powerful or influential to correct a wrong somtimes. Christoforo deserves no sympathy
    (although I’ll admit his family does, it’s not their fault he couldn’t do his job) As far as I’m concerned he made his bed, now he can lie in it.

  • Looking further into this story, The new PR guy for Avenger (who has my respect and sympathies for dealing with this) has spent several days trying to reclaim the digital assets from this man who until lawyers where involved was saying no and demanding large amounts of compensation.

    This doesn’t sound like the actions of a man who had one bad day.

    In one instance Paul claims Gabe (Yeah I know Mike but to me he is Gabe) was like meeting an MMA champion in a bar and picking a fight with him without knowing who he is and than getting clobbered by said MMA champ. The reality of the Situation is the MMA champ introduced himself, said who he was and what he did and than had Paul say BS and throw a punch.


    In a world where thousands of people claim to be Chuck Norris you need to remember one of those people really is Chuck Norris. You want to realise this before you wake up in hospitial.

  • Owen Good, you’re a moron, and you’ve missed the ENTIRE point of what happened during the course of the original argument. I’m with Asuron on this, you have over analysed the shit out of this and have lost sight of what the real issue is. That this christoforo guy is a bloody moron and has received his comeuppance. That’s all. End of story. Nothing more, nothing less. You’re like a bloody tv news reporter adding filler to a time gap because you don’t know what you are talking about and yet want to be seen as if you do. Do shut up.

  • So, is anyone at Kotaku Australia willing to throw in their two cents? Since the conflict of viewpoints between the US and Aus sites over that Alyssa Bereznak shamozzle I’ve been wondering if the Aus site has been instructed to simply shut up and tow the line according to the viewpoints of the US site.

  • An amazing, amazing article. Christ almighty. Owen is clearly providing a piece for his portfolio that he can present at applications for spin-doctoring for politicians and/or the Daily Telegraph and/or Andrew Bolt’s blog:

    “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” – did have sex.
    “The Iraqi government has large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction” – no WMD’s found.
    “I am not a crook” – was a crook
    “There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!” – US soldiers were ripping down statues in Baghdad.
    “Dave, full of customer-is-always-right dudgeon, is as much of an instigator in this as anyone” – fucking please. Surely not written with a straight face?

  • Owen wanted his share of clicks and he gots ’em… but the real question remains unanswered…


  • The customer has a responsibility to the merchant, following through with their monetary commitment.
    The merchant has a responsibility to their customer, providing goods and services as agreed.
    The merchant fails in this commitment, fails to respond truthfully with reasonable requests for information, the fails to respond rationally to an upset customer, upset for the merchant failling to meet their responsibility.
    The customer then escelates to an internet personality who has some sympathy for the agreeved customer. The merchant fails to respond rationaly to said internet personality.
    Your deconstruction of this event as something nebulous where no party has a burden of fault is goosery.
    The merchant fails to keep faith with their customer, fails to respond reasonably or truthfully, then fails to respond rationaly to an upset customer. Then the merchant fails to respond rationally to a third party. Throught the whole episode the merchant fails to meet professional standards for communication, fails to beahve reasonably or rationaly. It is not suprising that this position fails to call forth a thoughtful response.
    As one of my mentors was fond of saying “approach determins response”

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