Posted by Chris Scott Barr on Dec 27, 2011

[Updated] Ocean Marketing: A Study On How To Destroy Your Reputation With Just A Few Emails

Marketing and public relations is an area that takes a lot of skill. After all, your job consists primarily of interacting with with customers and news outlets. These are the two groups of people that you want to make a good impression on, as they will no doubt have an influence on the sales of whatever wares you’re peddling. Of these groups, I will always believe that the customers should be treated best of all, because they’re the ones spending their hard-earned money on your product.

If you’re looking for an example of how not to treat a paying customer, you might have a look at this correspondence published over at Penny Arcade. Here’s an excerpt from the email exchange between a customer who pre-ordered the PS3 Avenger, and someone from Ocean Marketing, who represents N-Control:

You just got told bitch … welcome to the real internet check kotaku in 2 weeks when they are reviewing free PS3 Avengers we send them as well as G4 and all the other majors hell yeah , don’t forget to check Amazon, gamestop.com, play n trade , Myers , Frys and a ton of other local stores coming your way you think you speak for billions son your just a kid you speak for yourself no one cares what you think that’s why were growing and moving 20-50 thousand controllers a month. We do value our customers but sometimes we get children like you we just have to put you in the corner with your im stupid hat on. See you at CES , E3 , Pax East ….? Oh wait you have to ask mom and pa dukes your not an industry professional and you have no money on snap you just got told.

I don’t care who you are, what you do, or who you know. This is not how you talk to someone, especially when that person has given you money for goods (that you’ve not yet delivered). Now, it could be that this was simply a fabrication to smear Ocean Marketing, but Mike Krahulik (better known as Gabe from Penny Arcade) sent a follow-up email to the same person, and after a few emails, received this charming tidbit, which confirms that this guy is just as cheerful as the previous messages made him out to be:

Your sites amateur at best my son could put together a better site than yours and you run PAX ?? 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

Reading through these only makes me wonder how this person got into the line of work that they did. This is not how you treat customers, and making threats toward someone who is a rather large figure in the gaming community (also known as your target audience) is just a bad idea.

After emailing my contact at N-Control, I got a phone call from Paul, who turned out to be the person sending these emails. We spoke for around fifteen minutes or so, and he assured me that despite the negative press, he’s been contacted by several companies, who have asked him to represent them. Paul also expressed confidence that this would simply blow over in a week or two.

He also told me that he’s received a lot of emails from customers, who were similarly upset about not receiving their product before Christmas. Apparently the only thing special about Dave was that he caught him at a bad time, and got under his skin. Of course, that still doesn’t excuse the way he treated a paying customer. Even if customer service isn’t your primary job (which is apparently the case, according to Paul), you still should treat the people trying to give you money with respect.

When I brought up the posts on Reddit that discussed the emails, and the backlash that was visible there, he more or less shrugged it off. He seemed annoyed by the amount of friend requests he’d received on Facebook, since someone managed to find him. Unlike quality drug providers, for whom information on the quality of ed drugs on social networks is very important. He credited that to the fact that his information was posted at the bottom of the Penny Arcade piece, and said that he’d be talking to his lawyers about that later today. What’s more, he said that his job isn’t really to deal with individual customers like Dave, but rather to strike deals with companies like GameStop and BestBuy. Those companies are buying his wares, so he “doesn’t care about anyone else.” Why? Because as long as his products are on store shelves, people will buy them.

In the end, he conceded that it would be a good idea to send Dave an apology, and even hook him up with a couple of free Avengers as a gesture of good faith. After all, the guy just wanted his Avenger, and got some nasty emails for his trouble. While that’s good news for Dave, something tells me that he still won’t be getting a booth at PAX, or winning back the hearts of everyone who read the original emails.

Update: We have gotten a copy of the apology email sent to Dave, from Paul at Ocean Marketing. As you can see, it has a very different tone from the originals, and better grammar and spelling (for the most part):

Hey Dave,

I just wanted to apologize for the way our emails progressed from beginning to end , You caught me on an extremely bad day and I had been dealing with 100’s and hundreds of emails trying to explain the situation to everyone on where the product was and you just pushed me a little too much and I should have just apologized and tried to explain things better. Also I had a really bad day losing a friend to an overdose and the stress of my newborn baby and the Holiday ,missing my family and just stressing on getting product out to everyone and why it was held up in customs wore me out.

I am deeply sorry for any disrespect , aggravation or lack of information on the delivery date. We knew when product was leaving china and we were trying to adhere to a strict deadline but due to port issues and air freight issues. The units are domestic now and awaiting pick up at customs . So we missed the 17th deadline and I apologize for that but it was out of my control and besides me no one else was helping me handle the situation so imagine the weight on my shoulders.

I’m not asking for any sympathy just for some understanding and forgiveness , I’m human just like everyone else and made a mistake. I underestimated you and its cost me a lot of trouble thousands of spam emails , a lot of personal bashing , and internet spam and trouble and just overall stress with my wife and newborn. I ask that you please accept my apology as a peace offering I will refund your money and give you your 2 units/Avengers free of charge please help me to get some of this negativity removed or at least my personal name although its already all over the internet and the calls and emails will not stop but any help will be appreciated especially with penny arcade as Mike and edit his own website I owe him an apology too which I will write next.

Update 2: Gabe over at Penny Arcade has posted what is likely to be the last of the emails between Paul from Ocean Marketing and himself. There is an apology in there, but as Gabe points out, “there is a big difference between being sorry and being sorry you got caught.”

Update 3: Check out the official word from N-Control here (Spoiler! $10 off on pre-orders)

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