From call centre zero to internet hero - how Paul from British Gas stole Twitter's heart. Eventually.
Twitter: the dark, black hole in the centre of our world, existing to ignore our inane ramblings until we get drunk and throw ourselves willingly into the wild, gnashing pit where The Haters live. If you’ve ever Tweeted a diss on One Direction or support for Jeremy Corbyn, you’ll know how quickly a Twitterstorm can gather, leaving you an emotionally destroyed wreck.
Such was the fate this week of one Paul from British Gas. Moved by the copious online tributes around the first anniversary of David Bowie’s death, he Tweeted, from the official @BritishGasHelp Twitter account (doh!) his own tribute to the Starman.
Now it’s not for us to speculate on Paul’s motives for Tweeting thus. Perhaps he thought taking 10 minutes out of their day to sort out their energy supply issues might take people’s minds off their grief. Maybe he saw a tenuous news slant he could twist to his own helpline-obsessed needs. Or it could be that he honestly planned to turn the British Gas Helpline into a Bowie memorial service for the day, staying late to give distraught Bowie fans a friendly and sensitive – if mildly illiterate – voice to talk to.
Twitter, as is its nature, tore the poor guy to pieces.
“A really brazen attempt to hijack a Hashtag that has nothing to do with your business,” wrote Grumpy McGrumpface, “Paul – you should be ashamed.”
“Go home British Gas Help, you’re drunk” added Miranda Athanasiou. Then the bad puns began.
National newspapers carried the furore, Paul’s future in advising customers on usage tariffs looked like toast. But then something rather heartening happened. With @BritishGasHelp sticking by their man, and Paul Tweeting a heartfelt apology, the tide began to turn.
Team Paul grew by the hour, until it was a massed rally of sheer Paul love, largely celebrating the fact that he wasn’t an automated service. RamAlbumClub even launched the hashtag #jesuispaul and started a campaign to make Paul CEO of British Gas, or at least gather him so much Twitter support that “he gets a pay rise and becomes in charge of gas”. We at NME salute your random Bowie blathering, Paul, just don’t go marking the passing of Mick Jagger, far removed as we hope that sad event is, with an ill-advised quote from ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘kay?