[UPDATED] GOG Customer Service Rep Argues With Customer over Transphobia in Pillars of Eternity
— Driven By Best Erika (@icequeenerika) April 3, 2015
A random defense of a joke that the game’s developers already decided not to defend—in case you thought we could have nice things.
We already covered the transphobic joke that somehow slipped into the game Pillars of Eternity and what was done about it, but for a customer service rep at gaming service GOG.com, the noble fight to be as offensive as you please just wasn’t over. The basic gist of the “joke” in the game was the classic “guy is repulsed by someone he goes to bed with, so he kills himself!” Just in case you were wondering about the level of humor being defended here.
When Reddit user legallyawoman emailed to ask that GOG remove the game from her account history over the “joke,” she was met with a rather strange response. She wrote on Reddit that she wasn’t expecting a refund, since GOG’s games are DRM-free (GOG does have a refund policy, but she was outside of the 30-day limit), but she also wasn’t expecting this in response from customer service (emphasis ours):
I’m afraid that sale is considered final either 30 days after purchase OR when you make a download attempt for a game or its bonus content. Once either of those happens, an immediate cash refund is no longer possible.
Since you have already made an attempt to download that game you are not entitled to the refund or exchange however because we believe that everyone could make a mistake I will make a one time exception in your case and will offer you a store credit. Please send me the following, in order to verify that you are the account’s owner:
(depending on whether you used a credit card or PayPal)
a.) The last 4 digits of your credit card number or
b.) The PayPal Transaction ID you received after the order purchase.
Also personally I’d like to ask you – and I really hope that you wouldn’t find it offensive – why you find it so offensive?
Already, that kind of question is a bad idea for someone who works in customer service. When you’re representing a business—unless you’re doing PR or own the joint—it’s not a great idea to engage in a philosophical discussion with a dissatisfied customer. She gave the rep the benefit of the doubt, however, and hoped they were just curious and looking to learn something. While still not a great idea to put yourself out there like that while on the job, that could at least have a decent ending for everyone involved.
So, she responded with thanks for the offer of store credit, the requested transaction details, and an explanation of why the game had offended, which said,
As for your question: if the same ‘joke’ as the offensive content was made about black people, Jewish people or gay people, I imagine any of those groups would find it equally offensive (i.e. being in a relationship with them is so shameful one should commit suicide).
Considering that transgender people have the HIGHEST suicide rate of any minority in the world (43% success rate, over 50% attempt rate) the ‘joke’ is in especially poor taste.
That the developers allowed the ‘joke’ through makes me deeply regret spending money on their game. I was attracted to Pillars of Eternity because everything I read pointed to it being a game for a more mature and sensible audience, free of that kind of bigoted garbage.
Question answered. Issue elucidated. That should be the end of it, right? When someone tells you they’re personally offended by something and explains why despite not owing anyone an explanation, you’d probably listen to them and—even if you disagree—respect their opinion. Right?
Not so for this customer service rep. Like everywhere else on the Internet, customer service emails are now a place for debate, apparently. Unable to disagree with someone without actively trying to prove them wrong, the GOG employee responded again with confirmation of the store credit and:
Thank you for your answer. I will present below my response to it however first I’d like to point that it is my personal opinion and if in any way you will find it offensive I sincerely apologize for that as it would not be intentional and in such situation please simply let me know to stop and I’ll do it.
I still cannot see point why it have to be offensive to anyone. First of all the laugh is not from transgender only from the bigoted guy (and it wasn’t a relationship – unless one night stands are such). let’s change characters into a guy and ugly woman – is it offensive to ugly women, or catholic and not a virgin on a wedding night – is it offensive to sexually active? Second your statistics are not showing the actual situation. Despite such percentage it is rather a small minority and the suicide rate is always higher in smaller groups (it is obviously also strongly connected with often shameful reactions of “normal” and even less controversial minorities) – it’s kind of like saying that over 50% of Polish citizens who are not catholic declare themselves as non-believer but overall it is less then 3% of all citizens. And finally I believe if someone demands to be treated with equal rights shouldn’t make such hassle on situation like this. Tolerance does not mean that everyone should like transgender persons and specially forbid to make jokes no matter how bad tasteful they are.
And that’s just one big pile of nope. First of all, she never asked for a response to her opinion. The “just tell me to stop and I’ll do it” disclaimer fails to acknowledge that legallyawoman never asked for them to start. Answering the inappropriate question in the first place was more than generous and should have been the end of the conversation.
Then there’s the fact that both of the alternate scenarios meant to show how the game only offended because people are too sensitive when it comes to trans issues each represent another social issue that there’s no excuse for ignoring. The first, of course, being strict standards of traditional beauty that women’s worth is often unfairly judged by, and the second would be slut-shaming. So yeah, those would also be offensive.
You’re right, customer service person. The idea that someone would kill themselves over any trait of a person they’d slept with would be offensive to anyone who shared that trait. You have, in fact, expertly identified what was offensive with your alternate possible scenarios. Too bad that wasn’t your goal; you’d have nailed it.
Strangely, GOG.com had no idea they had actually hired someone to debate what is and isn’t offensive when they thought they hired someone for customer service, and they were quick to correct the situation.
@Spacekatgal we’ve expressed our sincere apologies to the user in an email – and alerted our support agent to be more considerate.
— GOG.com (@GOGcom) April 20, 2015
We assume that “to be more considerate” was all that would fit in a tweet, so they couldn’t say, “to never, ever again try to explain anything to a customer outside of how to use our website to buy games, because their position at our company is absolutely not intended as a platform for trying to invalidate the feelings of other people.” Hopefully, the unnamed customer service person will stick to answering only the questions that are asked of them from now on instead of offering responses to questions no one asked.
We’ve reached out to GOG for further comment and will update when we receive a response.
[Update] A GOG representative responded to our request for comment by email, saying,
We’re very sorry about our employee’s behavior. We agree that they acted unprofessionally and that their comments were completely out of place. While they voiced only their private opinion, one that does not represent our company’s stance, a customer support ticket is no place to vent or engage in that type of debate.
We promise to take appropriate action to prevent this type of situation from ever happening in the future, and we have already reached out to the customer directly with our sincere apologies.
Honestly, this conversation was so inappropriate for a customer service representative that I can only guess GOG is as flabbergasted as we were upon reading it. No one should need to be told that this isn’t acceptable workplace behavior, so I’d guess “don’t start an argument with a customer about how you think they should behave to be deserving of equal treatment as a human being” wasn’t in their training manual.
Sadly, it appears that maybe it should’ve been. At least it’ll make a pretty blunt example for their plan of making sure something similar doesn’t happen in the future.
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