Zynga accidentally put this random guy in charge of customer service

Everything went better than expected.


Tim Sampson

Internet Culture

Published Jul 4, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 12:05 pm CDT

Got a question about Coasterville? Have you tried Ctrl+Alt+Meh?

That’s the kind of off-the-cuff, dismissive advice that Zynga customers have received recently whenever they try to contact customer support about the company’s carbon copy version of Rollercoaster Tycoon. And with good reason, too. They weren’t actually talking to anyone who worked for Zynga.

In another embarrassing flub for the foundering mobile/social game developer, the company appears to have mistakenly routed customer service questions about Coasterville to the inbox of a random, unaffiliated web developer.

For months, Eric Mueller says he received unsolicited emails from Coasterville customers seeking technical support for their game. Mueller has no affiliation with Zynga, in fact, he says he’s never even played one of their games. But a mistaken email address on Zynga’s website gave an @themepark.com email address for customers to contact. Themepark.com is the domain owned by Mueller and his business partner John Boyden for their web development agency.

It’s an understandable mistake perhaps. After all, the Zynga employee responsible for this little mishap would hardly be the first person to flub a domain name (remember whitehouse.com). But where the company really blew it was in their failure to respond to Mueller’s attempts to make them aware of the mistake. It’s when Zynga refused to respond that things got interesting.

That’s when Mueller decided to take on the role of customer support, giving Coasterville users less than helpful advice. Kotaku, which broke the story, compiled some of Mueller’s dryest, funniest troubleshooting tips:

I know that For Canada Day, the engineering department wraps the ‘.ca’ servers in Canadian flags, and then sets a plate of poutine on top. This sometimes can cause the server to overheat, and sometimes even get gravy into the login/logout module. I thought that might be what was going on, but I checked with the Canadian server techs and they are telling me that Canada Day passed without incident and the servers all enjoyed their break and are back to running fine.

However, I told them that wasn’t the case and explained the problems you are having with the game, so they suggested another fix specifically for Canadian players. Here’s what they said to try: do you have a hockey jersey? If so, you should lay it across your keyboard, and then try to enter the game. If that doesn’t work, put the jersey on and then give it another shot.


Regarding the golden treasure chest, I see what you mean; I don’t have any record here that shows you clicked “show me” to open the chest. Can you try clicking it five times, very slowly? Usually that sets it to definitely recognize that it has been opened. Click, pause for a few seconds, and repeat that 4 more times.

Regarding the dino skull, it’s the same situation. Try the slow clicks.

Finally, regarding the Majestic Castle landmark bonus, that’s a tricky one. You can try the slow-click technique for that but I’m not sure it’ll work. I talked to the engineers and they suggested holding down the M, E, and H keys, and while you have all three keys held down, try clicking the button then. This is a cheat code that can “force” the button to activate.


Can you tell me if you are on Mac or Windows? And, would you say you move the cursor (mouse) slowly, or quickly? Sometimes it helps to move the cursor more slowly on Facebook as you are going into the game. I would see if that makes a difference. It can also make a difference if you put the cursor in all four corners of the screen before clicking into the game. Please let me know if this does not resolve the issue.


This is actually a known issue with the Coasterville server, and I have a solution from our engineering team. It is a little bit strange, but here’s how it works. You need to go to 5 of your Facebook friends and post this message on their wall: ‘I love brown bears, folding chairs and little curly hairs!’

I know that seems odd :-) but the engineers have assured me that by connecting that message with your friends on their Facebook walls, then the game will see the message and it will cause it to avoid the problems that you’ve had. It has something to do with how the server was set up, and posting that message triggers special keywords that are embedded in the game and assure the game’s integrity. When the game sees those keywords, it will know the server is configured properly and should be able to proceed without any other errors. (As a side effect, I am also being told that can also help the games load faster, too.)

It doesn’t matter which five friends you pick, and they don’t need to be playing any of our games. The system just needs to see those keywords on five walls.

Unfortunately, the good times have come to an end. Once media reports of Mueller’s unorthodox tech support began making the rounds online Wednesday, Zynga promptly corrected the problem, and issued a statement assuring the public that customers were only rerouted to Mueller in a handful of instances.

But it doesn’t change the fact that this is another bit of embarrassment for a company that’s faced a lot of bad news lately. Despite being one of the most popular and well known social game developers, the company has struggled to turn a profit. Stock prices currently hover around $3 a share, down from a high of about $15 shortly after its IPO last year. The stock has been depressed by reports of missed earnings, layoffs and office closures.

Much of the blame has been hoisted upon company founder Mark Pincus, who was named one of the five worst CEOs by Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business professor Sydney Finkelstein.

Zynga recently approved a pricy deal with former Xbox chief Don Mattrick to come on board as CEO, and hopefully right the sinking ship.

Photo by Dan Brekke/Flickr

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*First Published: Jul 4, 2013, 12:43 pm CDT