When I was a tiny little geek child, going to GameStop was one of my favorite things to do. My dad was the one who first introduced me into the wonderful world of gaming, so naturally getting to walk into the store, test out new games, and maybe even be lucky enough to purchase one always made me elated.
However, now that the nihilism of adulthood has set in, that facade is long gone. I actually was a GameStop employee for a short time during the giant launch extravaganza that was PS4 and Xbox One. I learned numerous lessons during that time, about human nature, communication, professionalism... and... how much I really don't think that GameStop really has enough integrity as a company anymore. But, I wonder, did it ever?
Okay, I still go there, but the company has done some shady things even recently. We can all admit that perhaps they do not have their customers' (or their employees for that matter) best interests at heart. I'm not saying GameStop is a villain, but it's true they haven't done things right when it comes to certain situations.
Here we have collected for your reading pleasure 15 secrets that have been gleaned not only from my personal experiences with the company, but others' as well, and we didn't forget about the infamous "Circle of Life" debacle either... GameStop is one of the last of the larger chains of physical game stores. What with online sales and direct downloads of games becoming ever more popular, exactly what risks are they willing to take?
15 They Have New Hires START On Black Friday
Can you say ouch? Many are brave enough to venture out for the sales, but... do you really want to work that day, especially if you're only just learning the ropes? I don't think so. This is extremely unfair not only to the poor employees in training but also to the customers. If GS truly cared about "the players", wouldn't they want their employees to be able to give them the best and quickest customer service possible?
Considering Black Friday sales traffic, you gotta be quick. Moving people in and out as quickly and smoothly as possibly is usually a priority in retail. This is now rendered impossible for GameStop because of this rash of new employees being hired for seasonal help only to start on the most stressful day of the year. Plus, the poor employees could accidentally forget a game, only to have them get chewed out by an irate customer.
14 The Pay Sucks
On top of a lot of these employees being new, they're also not getting paid well at all. Seasonal hires typically only work one to two days a week, so that's even less than what's considered standard for a part-time position. On top of that, you're dealing with these employees having the bare minimum when it comes to training for this job and then being thrown into a maelstrom.
It's enough to frustrate anyone, let alone someone who is working their very first retail job. Not that retail isn't completely soul-sucking, but you would think that when you work in a game store you at least get to have some fun with the job selling something you have a passion for. Not so. And you get paid pennies to do it.
13 They Sell Used Games As New
There's nothing better than taking home a nice, shiny new game, right? It's even better when you're the first one to play it. That's the way it always is. Nope, completely wrong. Sometimes GameStop employees take home your "new" games to play them themselves. So the "new" condition is kind of a lie. This isn't with all the new games, of course; GameStop has rules about what games are allowed to be borrowed, and any sealed copies will not have been touched. But it's possible that that "new" shelf copy of a game that you bought has been played by someone else.
Even more unsettling is that GS will take new games and sell them as used for higher than the price of the new game. This has been done on several occasions, including Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii and the Metroid Prime trilogy. Since the demand for these games was so high, it's rumored (and confirmed by a few anonymous sources) that GS sat on shipments of new copies of the game, slapped a used sticker on them, and then sold them to customers at a ridiculously high price.
12 Preordering Is BS
GameStop wants you to experience the harsh reality of not preordering. Meaning... that you get no game because you didn't reserve a game. Mostly the store orders what was preordered, and maybe only a few extra copies give or take. This tends to happen the most with Nintendo games. Other stores like Best Buy, for example, have plenty of copies.
Since GameStop takes a risk at pushing preorders, they want to ensure that risk is backed up by action. This is one of the big reasons why they always without fail sell out of games on the day of the release. It's a tricky and pretty messed up marketing ploy that still seems to work because people always want to be guaranteed a game as soon as it hits the shelves.
11 Guarantees Are The Biggest Scam In The Industry (And It Hurts Everyone)
The GameStop guarantee plan is a complete scam. Employees are pressured into offering these guarantees to customers ($2 for a used game, $3 for a new game) on every single game in every single transaction. If a customer says yes, they're generally not given any instructions on how to actually take advantage of this guarantee; it's added to their bill and is never mentioned again. There's so many catches to these guarantees, it's ridiculous! First, it only covers games for a year, and won't cover games that are cracked or really damaged. You have to have your original receipt, and the original packaging. Games can only be swapped if a store actually has other copies of the game in stock: if you bought a rare used game and it gets damaged, good luck getting that replaced.
10 The Management Takes Advantage Of Unassuming Customers
GameStop sees a lot of clueless customers coming in the store, often parents looking to buy presents for kids or family members. Not being gamers, these customers will likely give descriptions for what they're looking for like "it's a shooter game" or "Mario is in it", and many will look for suggestions from the employees. GameStop will often take advantage of these one-time customers, selling them stuff they completely don't need: extra games, full-price items that you could get used at half the price, gaming peripherals... the list goes on. They also take advantage of them with the scratch guarantee that GameStop offers their customers. Since these customers have no idea what the guarantee is and just assume that they need it, they will often just say "yes" to the offer without any questions or extra thought. It's never actually explained to them, making this just a total waste of their money.
9 Employees Could Personally Care Less If You Don't Want What They're Pushing
However? The company does. They care very much. Employees just want to keep their jobs. Whatever they are pushing on you or selling to you, if you don't want it just say so. Of course, this goes without saying but please be polite. The majority of these folks probably wouldn't give you a spiel if they didn't have to, or if they weren't passionate about the game.
There's usually a "set" game that needs to be talked up in order to, you guessed it, raise preorder sales and rake in that dough. It speaks to the hollow nature of this company, they don't even care if the game is fun, or interesting... just that it's popular. This goes without saying but, please decline politely.
8 Every Manager Is Different, Sometimes This Is Bad
This can either be a good or a bad thing depending on how you slice it. Some employees will have amazing managers who really care about their employees, who share their stresses and frustration with how the company treats them. However, not every manager has the same outlook.
Some managers will push their employees very hard to meet certain sales quotas. Of course, this is somewhat understandable because they are directly responsible for ensuring their employees do their jobs correctly. "Correctly" of course is subjective. Some require employees to follow rules and fill quotas to the letter, so keep that in mind the next time you visit a store.
7 GameStop Now Owns GameInformer
Essentially what they mean by this is that the relationship is symbiotic. It's sold through the Pro membership. What's even more interesting is that the subscription count is so high due to these sign-ups. It is one of the most subscribed magazines for a reason, because it's sold at a discounted rate. Who doesn't love deals? I admit I actually really enjoy the magazine.
This is a little push to stay informed with game news. It's not necessarily "bad", but it still is something that isn't supposed to be widely known. It's definitely a smart business move on their behalf if they want to add something extra into the mix. This wasn't always the case, either: GameStop purchased the magazine in 2000.
6 They Trick People Into Unnecessary Bundles
Bundles sure sound good, huh? However, a lot of people had a bone to pick with the recent Switch bundle. Partially because Nintendo shipped a dry console with no games or anything else. Just the bare bones. Plus... the bundle doesn't really save you any money. It's just the same exact price of all the stuff added together. It's pretty pointless, honestly.
If a bundle isn't going to help you save, then what's the point? Of course GameStop doesn't have the best track record for wanting to save its customers any money. They're more into the making money aspect of things. Which, given a lot of my previous points isn't surprising.
5 They Don't Respect Games Or Game Developers At All
Used game sales damage developer stats. GameStop gets the full amount of money, and the developers see no cut of that. EA Games was actually trying to counter GS's used GameStop policy with an online pass type of program. Plus the developers have to give GS a bonus when they sell a certain number of preorders.
In addition, they don't respect games at all. They basically throw game boxes away without a second thought. This completely ruins the experience for the collector and someone who is a fan of a certain series. GameStop is used to just gutting the game and stuffing it into one of their cases. It really is all about the money for this company, and that's just shameful.
4 Higher Management Doesn't Even Play Games
District managers and the highers up don't even play. Nope. Mostly people who are lower down on the totem pole are the ones who share the love of games. I mean, you don't have to be a gaming fanatic and stay up and raid until 2 am but, you at least should have a respect for them and vaguely know what you're talking about.
If you're in the business of games, you should know games. Perhaps this is why many of these marketing strategies are so strange and underhanded. Maybe these superiors are keeping this toxic cycle going. Maybe if more of them had a genuine passion for games it would lead them to respect their employees and customers more.
3 Their Motto Isn't Power To The Players: It's Power To The Dollar
Back Pocket Game Reviews made a great video that I've referenced for a lot of these article points. He coined the phrasing for this particular point, and I think it's very appropriate. It's clear that GameStop doesn't care about employees, customers, or even mom and pop game stores. For example, GameStop bought out EB Games to kill off competition.
In addition, GameStop has this special way of being a "last resort" for your business. In his video mentioned above, the former GameStop manager notes that he had to go to GameStop for a used copy when there weren't any new ones available at other stores. Go figure.
2 Their Trades SUCK... But It's "Industry Standard"
This isn't really a secret, but the industry standard part sort of is. In the Back Pocket Gaming Review video noted above, I learned that the trade-in value for Pokemon SoulSilver was just 15 dollars at one point. Ouch. The receipt above only adds fuel to the fire of what a disaster this trade-in system actually is.
Part of this is due to basic supply and demand. The profit margin is very thin, so they need to turn that profit. This also depends on what promos the store is running at the time. This trade-in value program has a lot of moving parts and is very multi-faceted. From an employees standpoint certain things do make sense, like getting about half the original price for a used console.
1 The Truth About The Circle Of Life Policy
I actually have two different perspectives on this one. While Kotaku was the first to pounce on the news story of the controversial "Circle of Life" program, I also spoke to a current employee who knows has experience with the policy. "Circle of Life" institutes certain quotas for pre-orders, reward card subscriptions, used games sales, and game trade-ins. Salespeople have told Kotaku that this is to encourage people to stop buying new games and hardware. Staff has also disclosed that they are firing people who don't hit those quotas.
However, the source I spoke to has said this may not always be the case. It depends on the district manager that you have. Some managers will risk it all to keep up those quotas, some respect employee and customer relationships. The policy was explained to me as, "Reserves/new games turn to trades turn to pre-owned turn to new games." Every store is different, but still, if you're forced to keep up with this policy there sure is dishonesty.