Like many in my social demographic I was bullied a lot in my formative years. My parents struggled to understand it because from an early age I had always been a popular child and the transformation into a recluse, depressed and anxious teenager left them wondering what they had done wrong. In truth they’re blameless for the situation (indeed the few months I spent at private school are the root cause of me being an Atheist) and I squarely point the finger at the other children who I went to school with who delighted in tormenting me. Thankfully I eventually outgrew these friends and overcame my depressive self to become the person that I am today. Of course I haven’t forgotten those years and they have formed a core belief that bullying isn’t to be tolerated, in any of its forms.
Enter the latest story to sweep the Internet headlines, a tale of extraordinarily bad customer service. For the TLDR crowd who’ve also been under a rock (or recovering from the festive season) in essence it boils down to a marketing firm handling a customer poorly, talking himself up to no end and, in all honesty, exhibiting the same kinds of behaviour that your typical school yard bully does. For anyone who’s done any kind of customer facing work you’ll know not to act to customers in this way, especially when you or your company is in the wrong about something. When I first read it I wrote it off as just one lowly peon (who I assumed spoke English as a second language) talking a big game in order to get a customer to stop speaking to him, but it’s so much more than that.
Paul Christoforo, the only person behind the single person Ocean Marketing operation, doesn’t just exhibit contempt for this one customer he seems to have quite a history of it. Being unable to handle customer complaints is one thing though but soon after the disaster began and N-Control dropped Christoforo as their PR representative did he attempt to extort them whilst holding their social media accounts hostage. Then he has the audacity to do an interview with MSNBC in which he plays himself to be the victim in all this, still showing no remorse for his past actions and only admitting to being sorry that he got caught.
Does this make the reaction that the Internet gave him justified? Owen Good’s opinion piece on Kotaku argues that it wasn’t and engages in a healthy amount of blaming the victim in this. Whilst I agree that no one has anything to be proud of in this whole Internet shit fight I do believe that Christoforo got what was coming to him, simply because he’s been incapable of showing remorse, compassion or any hint that he might change his ways in the future. People who act like that need to be taught that it’s not ok to behave like that, especially when you’re the one marketing a product to the wider world. Unfortunately it seems that even in this catastrophic failure Christoforo has failed to learn his lesson and will likely repeat his woeful behaviour with future clients (if any will have him, which I hope they won’t).
For someone like me who’s dealt with people like Christoforo in both professional and informal capacities I can say that I have zero sympathy for them when they get their comeuppance. The bad customer service is one thing, I can wholly justify his dismissal on those grounds alone, but the pathological lying, inability to empathize with the customer and above all failing to learn anything from an experience that would leave most people humbled for the rest of their lives leaves me little common ground on which to empathize with his situation. Bullies like Christoforo that make no effort to redeem themselves are not worth our sympathy, and you should give them none.