Friday, August 6, 2010

The Erajorma vs GM Saga

A week or so ago, Larisa over at the Pink Pigtail Inn - one of my favourite blogs - wrote about a guildy of hers who she believed had been treated unfairly by a Blizzard GM. If you want the full story, you can find it here. The short version is: Larisa's guildy, Erajorma, was - in my opinion - unacceptably rude to a Blizzard GM when this GM was trying to assist him. The GM responded - in my opinion - in a very hurtful and unprofessional manner by enforcing a name change for a toon that had existed for 5 years. The incident became what I call a saga when what seemed like the entire blogging community along with many casual observers responded to Larisa's post, leaving (the last time I checked) a grand total of 99 comments.

The saga concluded (continued?) two days ago when Larisa posted a Senior GM's response to the incident. The Senior GM apologises profusely for his colleague's behaviour and undoes the enforced name change, taking full responsibility for the whole incident. And rather than try and fit what is likely to be a long rant into a comment on Larisa's blog, I thought I'd use my own.

I can't express in words how angry this whole thing has made me. Firstly, there was Erajorma's petty, borderline nasty, treatment of the Blizzard GM who attempted to assist him with a problem. He began the conversation with the goal of taking his anger out on someone, rather than finding a solution to his problem. He belittled the GM, was arrogant, childish, overbearing and tried numerous times to humiliate them. When we are five years old we are taught at kindergarten to do unto others as you would have done unto you. Did Erajorma miss the whole of kindergarten? And primary school? And high school?

Secondly, why was this conversation allowed to continue past, oh, say the 4th line? As soon as Erajorma ordered the GM to "be silent", the GM should have explained calmly but firmly that they were trying to assist him and would not be able to do so if they were not spoken to in a civil manner. A couple of warnings after that, the conversation should have been ended, the ticket closed, and a warning placed on Erajorma's account. But instead - and this reflects a sad, sad lack of training and/or supervision - the GM turned it into a pissing contest. They drew the conversation out until finally deciding to get some sadistic revenge by forcing a name change.

Thirdly, and this is the worst part of the whole thing - a Senior GM apologises for the GM's actions, removes the enforced name change and removes all warnings from Erajorma's account. Letting him off scott-free, and thereby endorsing to the world the way Erajorma had the gall to treat his colleague.

I don't understand it. It just boggles my mind. I work in customer service, and if any customer ever spoke to me in that manner I would end the conversation. Customers have spoken to me in a similar fashion and I have politely ended the conversation and walked away. I am paid to provide a service to customers and treat them with respect but I am NOT paid to take that sort of abuse. If I were the GM in question I would have chosen my words a little differently, but just because that GM handled the conversation in a terrible manner does not excuse the way Erajorma treated them.

And I am stunned by the number of comments endorsing - even applauding - Erajorma's actions. On what level can you think this was okay? Oh wait, I know - you are the sort of people who would stand by and watch a 6 ft man yell at a 17 year old teller because she has been charging him too many bank fees. You are the sort of people who believe it is okay to take your anger at a big company out on its employees. The fact that these employees don't have anything to do with creating policy - whether it's charging fees or sending a standard reply to a Wow player asking a question about macros - doesn't matter in the slightest.

No, I did not have a bad day at work today. I actually had a really enjoyable one. And as is the case 99% of the time, I had lovely customers. These customers had problems. They waited in line with every other customer, and when they sat down with me they were agitated, but they were polite. As a direct consequence of their attitude, I was able to discuss their problem, ask questions and receive helpful and informative answers. And therefore, I was able to solve it. If they had sat down and yelled at me, I would have had to spend the entire time trying to calm them down. I would also have had to spend the entire time fighting to be professional and to treat them in a professional manner. No doubt the GM in question knows exactly how this feels.

And I hope the GM in question does not need to deal with the same Senior GM, Huw, who responded in this case, in the future. There is nothing worse than being a customer service rep who has been abused by a customer, then having your boss try to calm the situation down by blaming the entire incident on you. No matter how unacceptably the customer has treated you, some bosses - like this GM Huw - take the easy way out by backing down completely and blaming their junior staff for errors that may not have been their fault. The GM in this situation definitely contributed to the problem, there is no doubt about that, and should be reprimanded, taken aside and retrained in how to handle difficult customers. But something needed to be said to Erajorma - I believe a warning should have been placed on his account - and GM Huw should have been the one to do it. After sending such a spineless response to Erajorma he should be ashamed of himself.

This whole saga just perpetuates the idea that it is okay to treat customer service staff - be they on the phone or right in front of you - like dirt in order to get what you want out of a big company. This myth has persisted for so long, and is so accepted by society, that I believe something needs to be said to bring it to light and hopefully take steps toward getting rid of it. When you are talking to Bob from the Telstra call centre, after all, you are not talking to "Telstra". You are talking to Bob, who works for Telstra. Bob did not personally arrive at work that morning and suspend your account because you are one day behind on your bill payments.

If both Erajorma and the GM had kept their heads just enough to remember they were in a situation where they needed to be professional, none of this would have happened. And if GM Huw had politely but firmly reminded Erajorma that behaviour like his was not acceptable and would not get him any results, perhaps he would think twice about behaving like that in the future.


  1. Funny that you think the support for Eräjorma is so big. At least in the original post I estimate that about 2/3 of the comments supported the actions of the GM.

    I hope - and think - that I've made it very clear that I don't support Eräjormas behavior in anyway and that I think that it was appropriate to give him some sort of consequences for his language. Like a temporary ban. I thought - and still think - that the forced namechange was to abuse the powers of a GM. A revenge that someone working professionally with cumstomer service should stand above. But apparently he wasn't properly trained to handle that kind of situations - which is a shame.

  2. I think that ANY post in support of Erajorma's actions is misguided at the very least. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion - and this is mine.

    You did make it clear, Larisa, and I hope you don't feel that I am in any way attacking you with this post. I love reading your blog and 99.9% of the time I agree with your views. But society's acceptance of the mistreatmeant of customer service staff is an issue I feel very strongly about. It looks like you and I agree when it comes to the GM's behaviour here, just not on Erajorma's behaviour and the endorsement of it I've seen.

    Thanks very much for your comment, I'm always astonished when I find out that people actually read this thing!

  3. I've read both posts, and you've got a valid point. Both were in the wrong, and both of them did nothing but fuel the fire (so it seems).

    My question is why he would continue to talk to that GM when he knows something is wrong enough to screen shot the whole thing. Just stop while you're ahead (sorta) and contact a higher authority.