The controversies surrounding Paul Christophoro have been well documented – but we set about trying to get his side of the story. We spoke to Paul Christoforo about a month ago – and asked him about how he got to where he was – about how he got involved with N-Control, and our main aim was to get his take on the turn of events that led to his name becoming infamous throughout the gaming community. In doing so – he shared with us an interesting take which he has on the whole situation – one which might just work in his favour, if he plays his cards right. You can read the full email exchange on Penny Arcade.
The interview is edited – though all quotes have been left entirely as-is.
How did you get in to sales and marketing – what exactly is your profession, or trade?
“I’ve been in sales my whole life, it’s just something I’ve always been good at. I just sell stuff, and it’s what I wake up every day to do, and it’s what I enjoy doing. Sales is a part of my life, whether it be cars, videogame accessories, real estate, scuba diving lessons; it doesn’t really make any difference to me at all. I’ve always been in sales; drinks, bartending, selling drinks, it’s just something I’ve always been good at. My education though wasn’t the best, graduated high school barely, went to college for ‘Culinary Arts’, and got my associates, but I didn’t really pay attention much to school , and honestly I don’t even think that people need a college education, you can get anywhere in life, I think, with experience. You come out of college with a degree, even if you get a Harvard degree, Harvard might get you into a bit farther, but anywhere you go after four years at college, you’re going to beat someone for a job who’s had four years’ experience, where you’ve been sitting behind a desk for four years.”
You say that you’re in sales, and not PR marketing or customer service – why did people assume the former?
“The reason why I might have said that is because originally when opened up my company it was called Ocean Marketing. I guess in ways it was a PR and marketing company because what it really catered towards was social media marketing, and social media presence. If you can see now my social media reputation it’s ruined, which is repairable, and over time I’ll be able to fix that up… not really PR, but for certain clients, I guess in a way I would do some PR, but the PR that I was doing press releases, going on their Facebook page and kind of doing some social media interaction, giveaways, and some Twitter giveaways, and that’s PR. Ultimately, I wasn’t really out there doing commercials, or putting up billboards and things like that for the company, which is real PR.”
How did you get involved with N-Control in the first place?
“I’ll touch on this briefly, because I can’t say because of the lawsuit. I met them at CES last year and I approached the company, and regardless of what the state of the company was, I stepped in and started working for the company. I worked for free for quite a long time for the company, and I wasn’t going to get any money, but I was just dedicating my time and my resources to help the company succeed and become better with their product and overall with their distribution, which was basically what my job there was. Sales and distribution.”
What led you to dealing with customer service for N-Control itself, despite the fact that you weren’t actually hired for this. What led to that situation?
“Well I just want to make sure that… What led me to do customer service was that they didn’t have a call centre, they had an owner, a friend of an owner, and me working for the company. So the owner didn’t want to do customer service calls, the friend of the owner had a full-time job running two companies on his own, and so the only person left to deal with the situation was me. And I told them multiple times that I wanted to do customer service, and they told me they didn’t want to do it, yet they didn’t hire a call centre. And I don’t know if this is anything you want to print, like I’m just telling you how I got into this situation, because I think if you put that, I’m divulging company information when I shouldn’t be. I don’t want people to know that there’s only three people running this company.”
What about the claims of negligence against you – made by your replacement? How well founded were they?
“My replacement was Moisés Chiullan. They have other assets back now, and just so you know, I was brought on to do some social media marketing for them, and I was brought on to do some website development for them. So I did design the current site, and when I designed the site, obviously I had to set the site up on an FTP server, I had to put it on to hosting and stuff like that, so when my development filled the site we took control of the domain. Not the domain itself, because the domain was owned by the owner, but we had control of the hosting ones because we built the site, it wasn’t being paid for like a hundred here, a hundred there, but ultimately we had that control. I never had control of Facebook, I never had control of Twitter, those were never in my control…”
“The Twitter account I never had control of, the Facebook account I never had control of, the email accounts I had control of because I was given an order, I was given permission, to go in and take control of those accounts, and so I did. I took control of those accounts and registered them in my name, and basically that’s all that was in those accounts which was just those three email addresses, which were info-at-avenger, david-at-avenger and his other partner. You don’t have to put that in there.”
“After this all blew over, they owe me quite a bit of money from my contract, I’d say upward of the fifteen-thousand dollar range. So at that point, all I had was access to the FTP which the developers take on, and the GoDaddy account, so that’s all I had. So I was like: “Listen guys, pay me the money that you owe me, and I’ll just give you back the accounts.” I wasn’t holding them hostage, but they owed me money. Simple as day. It’s a real simple situation. You owe me fifteen grand, pay me the money. To hold something for extortion or blackmail is like: “Well if you don’t do this, then I’m going to do that.” It’s like “No no no no.” You guys owe me money, you told me to go in there and take control of the accounts, you hired me to build the website, I retained access to all of it… to all the passwords and stuff like that, and it was more of a safety precaution. Anybody you hire for a social media job, the only security that you have of that job to get paid is that you have control of the accounts. See, my social media package is twenty-eight-hundred dollars a month. I set up your
Facebook, I set up your YouTube, I set up all your social media accounts, I promote them, I build them, and basically if you don’t pay me that twenty-eight-hundred dollars at the end of the month, I shut all your accounts down, right? Because that’s all I have.”
“So ultimately they got control back of their FTP, their hosting, I didn’t fight about it. They always had control of their Facebook, I didn’t know the password for Twitter, I actually did the a favour and I helped them out to get that back. It just happened to be saved in my Mozilla browser, and the owner’s email was the registered email to change the password but he was too stupid to figure it out. Finally I was like: “Hey I just sent you the password, it’s resent.” Then I ended up downloading the program that lets you see what’s behind the dots, and then I figured out what the password was, and I changed it and then I told him what it was, and I was like: “Here’s the password, take over your account.” I went the extra mile to help him get that account back; and as far as the GoDaddy, I actually relinquished that probably like four days ago. I just gave it back to him, thinking: “You know what, there’s nothing that I need this for. There’s nothing that it’s doing for me. So, you know, take it.”
So to date, have they paid you or not?
“They wanted to put a gagging order on me, they were going to give me a contract and offer me some money and so on and so forth. I can’t really get into much more on that.”
Can you of pinpoint that one thing that made this situation go from a normal customer query, to something that blew up in such a way that it did. Do you think it was his attitude, or do you think he was out almost to find a problem? Do you think he was provoking you in some way?
“Listen, I mean, I’m going to say it, and people are going to, fucking, just call me out on it. And then they’re going to be like: “Uohh, he’s the customer, he’s the customer.” It’s like, you know what, I’m the customer, too. If I don’t like something and I call you up, I’m the last person that you want to get on the phone if I’m upset about a product, because I’m going to tell you that you’re a piece of shit, your fucking… your job is worth two-dollars and fifty-cents an hour, put a fucking supervisor on the phone you unconfident piece of shit. That’s the way I’m going to talk to someone on the other end of the phone that’s listening to me complain about a product. Now, Dave, he was cool in the beginning, we were emailing back and forth, I was given some deadlines that I this is another thing that’s going to come up in this, and whatever’s going on, because they were lying to me. I was given street dates, and those street dates were coming and going, and they was asking me, and I was giving them one-line questions, I didn’t have much information to give to them, and I was trying to get through four-or-five-hundred other emails, and answer ten or fifteen calls from people calling me at three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten in the morning, every single day of the week. Finally the controller shipped in the United States, so I went on the website, and I was just like: “You emailed me…” and I was like: “Yeah, December 17th”, and we got them in on like the fifteenth or sixteenth and were supposed to ship them on the seventeenth.
So I went in on the seventeenth, and I was like: “I want to thank everybody for your patience, and we really appreciate your business and sticking by our side while we worked out these shipping issues.” Or whatever, I don’t know what I wrote. And I was like: “What we want to do is we want to extend ten-dollars off your next order, for any new customers or any returning customers that made pre-orders with us.” And, you know, “Have a Happy New Year, Merry Christmas… blah, blah, blah.” So Dave must have just caught me on this, and just set me off. Dave emailed me back, and he’s like: “Well I want that money off now. And I deserve the money off now.” Now everybody sticks up for this in a different way, and I don’t know if you can understand it or I don’t know if you can’t, and this is what I do. If I go in, and I pre-order Max Payne, okay. I paid for the game in full, fifty-nine-ninety-nine, plus tax, which comes to sixty-four-fifty, okay, that game is paid for. Now if Max Payne gets pushed back, for like, a month, or two months because the developers are delaying the releasing. I don’t go in to GameStop and say: “Hey you motherfuckers. You guys fucked me over, and I want a discount on my game.” GameStop’s going to tell me: “I’m sorry, we can’t do that.” They’re not going to tell me to fuck off like I did. But GameStop are going to tell me that they can’t do it, it’s the developer, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then I’m not going to go home and call the developer and say: “I want my money. I want ten-dollars off.” Because that’s just not realistic. So when you’ve pre-ordered something, it’s a pre-order, there’s no set date and you don’t know when you’re going to get it.”
“So did Dave decide to demand shit, did Dave kind of get a little testy with me? Yeah. And did I get testy back with him? Yeah, because I just couldn’t handle him anymore and I was inappropriate, and I fucked up. When I should have just forwarded the email off to the owner of the company, and that would’ve wiped my hands of the incident, and we wouldn’t be on the phone right now. But I didn’t. I started talking shit, and started with my boss of an attitude, and my fucking wise-ass, small-fry, with my anger issue, and I just went off on him. He did provoke it, and there’s a lot of people on the internet that said Dave was being a dick. I started being a dick back, and I think I went a little bit too far. Then I namedropped, and started forwarding my emails to the people I was namedropping. One thing led to another, and then my company found out.”
What’s your take on the Namedropping that happened over the notorious email exchange?
“For the record, I don’t know those people personally, but I’ve done business with them and emailed them, and had communication with them, and had their phone numbers, and I’ve talked to them on the phone; absolutely, 100%. Did I email Scott Rowe an apology? Absolutely. Then he emailed me back that he appreciated it; yes he did. I’m not going to share that email, but yeah he did. I emailed Kevin Kelly at G4, I emailed everybody else that I namedropped in there. I never knew the Mayor, that was kind of me just kind of being Italian and just kind of over-exaggerating the whole story. Know what I mean? Trying being funny about it. I never knew the Mayor. But ultimately, name-dropping get you, people are like: “Ooh, namedrop this. Namedrop that.” But you know what, it doesn’t make any difference, if I’m a boss, and I go to a club, I say: “Hey, this guy sent me over here.” “Oh no problem, Paul, here go right in, go right upstairs you can get a VIP table.” So namedropping ultimately works. When I name-dropped, I was just trying to impress this guy, Mike, and I didn’t know who it was. I was like: “Hey, I knew some people in the industry, I had a few connections.” Not trying to bully him, but ultimately I was just like: “I know a few people, I know this one, I know that one.”
Initially, what did you make of these things people were digging up about your past? What do you make of it? Why do you think people brought it up?
Because they’re fucking pieces of shit, and they don’t have anything better to do than try and dig up shit on my life, right? That makes them better than me. They’re calling me a monster because they got all this shit on my personal life, that isn’t even true, and they don’t even have the facts. So they’re trying to make me look like even worse of a person, which puts them at a lower level than me. And I really don’t care anymore, some of these people are just outright pieces of shit. You don’t have to just swear at them, but they’re just beneath me. Worse than me.
So this has had, undoubtedly, a huge impact on your reputation online, and, offline. What do you see as the next steps for you in terms of repairing that reputation? How are you going to go about that?
“Well, I already think it’s a slow process. I’m keeping things alive on Twitter. Ultimately, people know who I am. I wouldn’t say that my reputation is astray, I think it’s tarnished. I think that in time I’ll be able to push the negative down. Ultimately, I just came back from CES and I have a stack of cards in my hand, probably about eighty to one-hundred-and-twenty-five products. They don’t know who I am, or what I do, because they’re not in the gaming industry. Ultimately, I’m going to take that product and I’m going to sell that in the UK, I’m going to sell that in France, I’m going to sell that in Australia, I’m going to sell that in Canada…”
Are you saying here that you think that maybe outside the US, people are less aware of the whole thing?
“Not only that, even within the US, because I’m still going to sell it in the US, too. I’m just saying that I have products in other countries. Ultimately, not everybody knows about this. I have over 2,000 people on Facebook and out of all the people on Facebook, you know how many people asked me about this incident? Four. So, everybody doesn’t know about it.”
“I mean Reddit’s pretty big; they did put some up because I did started some controversy from CES, which was kind of funny. And I’m kind of having some fun with it now. I’m writing a book on customer service.”
You’ve become a real character, people know a lot about you. Do you hold the view that any publicity is good publicity? Could you turn this in to something that benefits you?
“That’s what I’ve been doing, I’ve been making some check on my YouTube video. I did one raw video, and I did one last night, just like a sales and customer service 101. I touch on the internet and I talk about Purcell. I think I’m going to do some parody videos, moving forward. I’m trying to keep things alive on Twitter and trying to stir shit up every once in a while. And play the bad guy, or the villain role that everybody wants me to be so bad so they can get on there and call me names. The names don’t really bother me anymore. The first 24 hours I was like: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever, whatever.” And then after the first 24 hours, and the next 24 hours, things were getting stressful with home. Things were getting stressful for me. Everybody was just on me so much. After reading a few hundred thousand comments about how big of a piece of shit I am, it starts to affect you a little bit. Then I just kind of took a step back. I did make some good friends out of this, I did have some support, some people that were really good people to me. Took a step back, and my PR guy and I talking about books, and shows, and stuff like that. Just a small section of people online. It is and it isn’t. I made MSNBC, I made Forbes, I made MTV. A lot of people know about me, so I do have some sort of a presence. “Who is Paul Christoforo?” If I do something and my name pops up, people are going to jump on it.”
Are you saying that had this not happened – you would have never made these national mainstream media outlets? Maybe you’ve built up something, and the negativity will die down. Can you conclude now that any publicity is indeed good publicity? That any press is good press?
“Yeah. Even look at what Avenger’s doing right now.”
They’ve gained exposure.
“They’ve gained exposure to people that never knew who they were. They gained exposure to different countries, to different people, to people that didn’t know what Avenger controller was. Now they’re selling, they’re on ‘buy.com’, they’re shipping out to the UK, they’re shipping out to France. Basically they’ve gained a good amount of publicity. They were all freaking out, and they had to make a donation to Child’s Play. They didn’t make any money off of that, and that PR rep basically screwed them on that whole deal. They could have took that 10,000 and put it into marketing, because they don’t have much money. Ultimately, they’re doing alright. They took a little bit of a hit, of course they were worried, but it wouldn’t have been any less than that if they spent the money on marketing, anyway. What they got was, I plugged them on television, I plugged them on my radio interviews, I plugged them every time I had a chance to plug them. I gave them good publicity. Ultimately, they’re doing alright now. They had publicity, which was bad publicity, that ended up turning around to be good publicity. And my publicity that I was nobody before, now all of a sudden I’m the epitome, or an iconic figure of what not to do in marketing and PR. People can make examples of me for the rest of their life of how to utter fail in marketing. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s something that I can turn around and teach good things, and like: “I was an ass, and this is what not to do” and joke about it, and then teach people the right thing to do.”
Do you think this will have negative impacts down the line, or do you think that you can pivot and move around those things?
“Well, I can move around them. I did at CES, I had one negative experience with Turtle Beach, I guess that’s why I started trouble with them. “
Tell us a little bit about that, then.
“It’s funny; I went up to the Turtle Beach booth, and I’ve seen them at all the shows, so I went up to drop my card with the chick that was at the front desk, and she looked at me, right. I knew she knew who I was, so I was like: “Oh, you know who I am?” and she’s like: “Yeah, yeah, I know who you are.” I’m like: “See I’m not such a bad guy, right?” and she’s like: “No, you’re not a bad guy.” So I was like: “Hey listen, I want to talk to the person that was in charge”. So she’s like: “Oh, I’ll take your card, and I’ll give it to him.” So I gave her the card, and I walked away. Then I was just like, let me go and peek around the corner and see what the fuck they’re doing. So I peek around the corner, and they got their phones out, and there’s a group of people around the pedestal, the little counter; and they’re all taking pictures of my business card with their cell phones. As I walk back over, I’m like: “Hey, do you guys want my autograph? Do you guys want to take my picture? Because I’m more than happy to give it to you.” They were laughing, and this other guy was talking to me, so I was like: “So you know who I am?” he’s like: “Yeah, we know who you are.” I’m like: “I’m not really a bad guy, right?” He’s like: “No.” I know no one’s going to say I’m a bad guy to my face. So I let that go, I walked away, kind of laughed about it. Then I went back near the end of the show, and the show was closing. I waited for one of the higher-ups to come out, one of the guys that I met at E3. So he came out, and I waited for him to leave, and kind of just hung out, and I just walked over to him, and I approached him, and I introduced myself again. He’s like: “Yeah, yeah I know who you are. I read all about you.” So I’m like: “Well listen, I’ve got the opportunity to sell product” and I told him where all my distribution companies were, and all the buyers that I have. And he’s like: “Well, come by tomorrow and let’s talk. I think there might be something that you can do for us.” So I was like: “Alright.” I woke up late the next day, rolled over there like, went over to the booth, waited for him to free up. Then he came over, pulled me to the side, nice guy. He’s like: “Listen, I just wanted to let you know, I talked a little with my team last night, and right now isn’t the right time for you to come on-board and help us with anything.” And I’m like: “Well what if I just sold through an anonymous name, or I just turned over some distributors to you guys.” He’s like: “It’s just not a good time, there’s a lot of heat right now. My team, at this time, they don’t want you.” And I was like: “Alright, that’s understandable.” He’s like: “Well they didn’t want to lead you on, and tell you anything.” I’m like: “It’s all good. I kind of expected that anyways from the response I got from the receptionist over there when I dropped my business card off to her, and I asked her for a business card and you didn’t have one. I went over to the chick that was sitting at the pedestal and she’s like: “Oh, I don’t have any.”” and I walked away. Then after I got back to the room that night I was like: “I just got a job with Turtle Beach.” So I was just having fun with it. So whoever the Turtle Beach Twitter guy was, he was like: “He doesn’t work for us.” So I just kind of played with the whole thing. I was like: “I’m selling their product right now.” Everybody started hating on them, and saying: “Well if you’re selling the Turtle Beach, we’re not buying their products anymore.” It was just funny, then they made a Reddit on me, and I had like 4,000 views on that Reddit.
They were like: “Paul Christoforo’s at it again.” It’s just funny because I just made that whole thing up.
Tell us a little bit more about CES. General overview, general experience, what did you think of that? Did you enjoy it? What’s the best thing you saw there?
“I saw a lot of cool things there, that was the whole point of me going there. I stayed way too long. I didn’t need to be there for the whole week; my feet were twisted after day three and I went home on Friday. A lot of cool products, I got a lot of pictures, I posted a lot of them up on Twitter, I put a lot of videos up on my YouTube channel. Bought good, cool gadgets, a lot of companies that I’m going to be working with over the next couple of months so that was what I was doing tonight, all night long while I was waiting for you to call. Starting to send out emails, because I have to go through each and every business card and send out an email to each individual, and personalise it to their product, and to their name. So I only got through three of them. It was a great show, there’s a lot of cool stuff at CES, and the reason why I went there was to do business, and to find clients, find new, cutting-edge products, and see what I can move, and what I think is going to be hot for 2012.”
What do you think is going to be hot for 2012?
“There’s a couple of things; 3D TVs they had in there. Glasses-free 3D isn’t ready yet for mainstream. Always a lot of iPhone stuff, there wasn’t a lot of gaming stuff, a lot of cool iPad accessories. There’s some cool electronics that I’m going to be working with, which I don’t want to name, because I don’t want people to find these companies and try and say: “Don’t work with this guy.” and try to ruin my chances. There was just a lot of cool, cool stuff there. There’s a lot of possibilities for me to work with a lot of products. iPhone cases, just different kinds of electronic gadgets; robots, and stuff like that.”
With this kind of work, are you planning still to use your name? Are you going to be open about the fact that you’re doing this, or are you going to do it behind the scenes?
“When I’m introducing myself to people, I’m introducing myself as Paul Christoforo , Ocean Distribution. Not Marketing. Eventually, I’m going to rebuild the website, I’m going to change my name in total. A lot of these people don’t care, the bottom line is, what they care about is ‘how many units can you sell?’ Not ‘Oh, you have a bad rep’, well you know what, they don’t have to know that I’m selling your product.”
So it’s not necessarily going to be public knowledge that you’re behind the distribution.
“It’s not like I’m going door-to-door, all my sales are closed over the phone, or email.”
What are your other plans? Are you thinking about building up this personal brand?
“Yeah, books and videos, plus I build websites; I have my website business. I’m just an entrepreneur, wherever there’s a way to make money, I’ll find it and I’ll do it.”
So that’s what the future holds for you, then? It’s looking good then, really?
“Yeah, everything’s looking fine. Like I said, this is a minor setback and now it’s more of turning into a row with everybody. Being the bad guy, but at the same time I’m trying to be the good guy, but you can’t be a good guy to everybody. People see me as the villain of Arkham City. Personally, I’m acting, I’m just kind of feeding into it a little bit, and just keeping things alive. Trying to keep my celebrity, or keep my status in the news, or available. I know Kotaku, and those guys aren’t going to print anything about me anymore. As long as I can keep doing press releases, and keep my name out there, and keep the story going. That’s what my goal is until I’m ready to release my book. Once I put my book out, I can do a nice PR on my book. “
So you’ve got to think about doing some more PR stunts then, haven’t you? Like the Turtle Beach thing, maybe.
“Yeah, keep it going, keep people paying attention to me. “Oh, what’s he doing now? Oh, what’s Paul doing this week? Oh, he’s at it again.” And then like: “Oh he just released a book.” At that point it’s like six, seven months later, and I got these people that have been following me for six, seven months, and they’re like: “Oh, we’ve got to read this book.”
I think it’s quite compelling that you’re not just burying your head in the sand, and that you’re trying to embrace the press you’ve got.
“A lot of people were telling me on Reddit: “Change your name.” and I’m like: “Dude, do you know how easy it is to disappear? Do you think that if I wanted to disappear that I couldn’t disappear? That I couldn’t shut down everything, and just be a ghost, and let everybody stop talking about me, and let this all go away? It’s so easy to do that. I guess people just don’t understand that I chose not to. I chose not to hide. I chose not to bury my head in the sand.”