Wouldn't it be great if there was a store that sold everything a gamer needs? New games, old games, controllers, headsets, and even rare stuff like memory cards for last generation's consoles? A store like that would be beloved by gamers worldwide!
Such thoughts probably spurred the creation of GameStop, a store that stands out as the one retailer that caters exclusively to gamers. Little did those dreamers know that GameStop would end up being one of the most reviled retailers in the gaming industry. Time and again, the minds behind GameStop prove that they only care about profit. Even if it means they ruin the very product they sell. And yet, gamers still go to GameStop. It might be because they have no other stores in their town, are blissfully unaware of GameStop's history of scandals, or see their store as "one of the good ones." Whatever the reason, people still shop at GameStop despite its very shady business practices.
Even I'm guilty of going back after swearing them off multiple times. As a former employee, I've seen firsthand the things that go on behind the scenes. Some of those things are downright terrible. So as a reminder to myself, and my fellow gamers, I think it's time to pull back the curtain and take a good look at some of the worst things GameStop has done, still does, and will probably continue to do.
25 Two Of A Kind
The first thing everyone knows about GameStop is that it sells both new and used games. It's kind of their thing (although Best Buy and indie game stores have been getting on that bandwagon in recent years). However, you might not know the lengths to which GameStop will go to sell you a used game. One thing employees will do, at corporate's urging, is hide when certain games are on sale. See this copy of Borderlands The Pre-Sequel? Chances are the weekly deal is that it's on sale for $34.99. It'll even be on the weekly ad that way. GameStop would rather you buy the pre-owned copy for $54.99 as it's more profitable for the company. So the pre-owned copies will be more prominently displayed. Some employees will even try to give you that used copy, even when you show them the ad with the sale price on it. Buyer beware!
24 All Your Pokémon Are Belong To Me
I worked at my local GameStop years ago, and there was one policy that baffled me. I was told one day that employees were allowed to borrow games from the store. As in, take a brand new game home to play as I pleased. It was allowed for the purposes of "research" so that employees would make informed recommendations.
It also means that the "new" disc you purchased was likely already played by every employee in the store.
I know I took advantage of this policy like crazy, trying out both new games I couldn't afford and older games I was curious about but would never buy. I even took a copy of Pokémon Platinum the day it was traded in because the previous owner had caught them all. My Poké Bank now has the complete (and probably hacked) Gen 4 dex. Yes, I do feel dirty.
23 Meet Me Out Back
This one will make you think twice about trading in your games and accessories. Sometimes the store employees will buy them for a better price than GameStop itself offers. Again, this is something I witnessed at the store I worked in, so proceed with discretion if you want to try this yourself. When a customer tried to trade in an old Game Boy Advance case, my co-worker explained that it was too old for the store to take, but that she would take it herself. That's when I learned that some GameStop employees will offer to meet customers after their shift to do some outside trading. The best part? The employees would give cold hard cash for the games and accessories, instead of a paltry amount of store credit.
22 Red Rocket
There is a company policy that traded in 3DS games need to be wiped of all memory. This is because, unlike discs, cartridges retain all of a player's game data inside the actual game.
This policy was created during my time at GameStop, and I can tell you exactly why it happened.
The policy was a response to someone trading in a copy of the DS game Drawn To Life. In the game, players use the DS touchpad and pen to draw their own hero, weapons, and vehicles to populate the game's world. A fun mechanic, but one that spelled trouble when the trader drew a rocket ship that looked like a certain male body part. A child bought the used game and discovered the crude vessel. His mother made a scene, to say the least, and so now GameStop employees must ensure that every used DS and 3DS game is wiped clean.
21 It Moves Us All (To Hate GameStop)
The Circle of Life is a longstanding policy that made major waves. The program is basically GameStop's ideal model for operation. Customer buys a new game, trades in that game when they're finished with it, uses the credit to buy more used games, gets convinced to reserve an upcoming game, buys that game, trades it in when they're finished, so on and so forth. It's supposed to create a self-feeding loop where the customer takes all of their business to GameStop. It makes sense, but it got sketchy when corporate doubled down on it last year, pressuring employees to meet certain quotas to keep the circle going or lose their jobs. Kotaku exposed the program, interviewing employees that said they had to lie to customers just to avoid selling things that didn't help the Circle of Life. Somehow, I don't think that's what Elton John had in mind...
20 The One Good One
This fact is actually one of the few nice ones. You know those huge displays that GameStop sets up in stores to promote new games? It turns out you can actually own them if you're so inclined. Employees are instructed to throw out the signs and giant cardboard displays once the games they advertise become old news. Since the average GameStop employee is pretty chill (read: doesn't care), they'll let you take the displays home if you ask nicely. After all, your room or the dumpster, they get rid of them either way. Just show up on trash day ready to take it and it's all yours. Because who doesn't want a giant cardboard mural of Mario and the Rabbids next to their beds?
19 You Mean You Didn't Want Tetris Block Lights?
The SNES and NES classic were just two more examples of Nintendo not understanding how to make enough product. One might argue that they're actually very smart when it comes to controlling supply and demand. Whatever your stance, there was one clear winner of the retro consoles' launches: GameStop. Both the NES and SNES classic sold out within minutes of appearing online. In a truly shady move, GameStop "discovered" a new stock of them after they sold out everywhere else.
So what did they do with these treasures?
They forced consumers to pay extra, of course! The last remaining NES and SNES classics were sold through ThinkGeek, a GameStop-owned business, in the form of bundles that had the buyer paying double for the console they wanted and a bunch of random statues and posters they didn't. There was no option to just buy the consoles either, the bundle was mandatory. That's one way to get rid of clearance items.
18 What A Deal!
One internet user discovered the scheme behind GameStop's traditional Black Friday deal. A poster on a popular gaming forum says that he checked a local GameStop's used games weekly when he went out to get coffee. He was happy to see that some of the games he had been eyeing were going to be included in the Black Friday Buy 2 Get 1 Free deal. So he went to GameStop that Friday only to find that the games he had been looking at for weeks were all of a sudden $5-$10 more expensive. Essentially, GameStop raised the prices so that Buy 2 Get 1 Free on Black Friday would cost the same amount of money as buying three games any other day of the year. And that, friends, is how GameStop turns a profit.
Like most retail stores, GameStop hires a bunch of fresh employees to help with the holiday rush. However, in true GameStop fashion, the stores often skimp on proper training for these employees. According to a video by Youtuber Black Pocket Game Reviews, a former employee who loves to dish about GameStop, many stores will throw these new employees right into the shark pit.
These fresh-faced recruits work their first day ON Black Friday!
As you might imagine, this leads to all sorts of mistakes. Black Pocket says that one common mistake the new employees make is forgetting to put discs in game cases. This is especially tragic as Black Friday shoppers tend to be uninformed gift-givers just there to get the sales. Imagine your grandma giving you that much-hyped game as a gift, only to unwrap it and find an empty case!
16 Start Them Young
Since used game sales are so important to GameStop, its employees have come up with all kinds of shady tactics to sell them. One such technique is to sell them without the customer knowing. "Now wait," you might say. "How does one buy something without knowing?" That's where things get sketchy.
Because while we gamers might be wary of GameStop, there are plenty of consumers who aren't.
Gamestop employees will deliberately target children and the elderly, two groups who are more likely to be uninformed when it comes to buying games. When asked for a certain game, the employee will go right for a used copy and ring it in. Since these customers aren't expecting anything fishy, they'll just complete the sale as normal. So make sure you go with your younger siblings when they want to buy a new game. And by go, I mean take them to Best Buy.
15 You Started This!
Exclusive pre-order DLC is all GameStop's fault. As we all know (and hate), major release games have different DLC depending on which store you buy them from. Which essentially makes it impossible to have a complete game, unless you're rich enough to buy four different copies of it at four different stores. Well, this practice of retailer-exclusive DLC was all started by GameStop offering game developers money for exclusive content. When pre-order sales noticeably shifted in GameStop's favor due to these exclusives, other stores had no choice but do the same. GameStop has even gone so far as to brag about this practice like in the ad above. Which is infuriating as a consumer, but what can we do? Again, GameStop wins thanks to the power of having lots of money.
14 This Has To Be A Crime
Sometimes in the gaming world, a certain game becomes extremely rare. Typically it's a Nintendo game, because as we discussed, Nintendo doesn't know how to make enough product. Take Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii. As a JRPG on a dying console, Nintendo didn't think to produce many copies in the U.S. But when Shulk was added to Smash Bros, there was a sudden and fierce interest in the game he came from.
Since the game was a GameStop exclusive, it happened to have every copy in the States and a desire to sell them for more than the standard $59.99. So a memo was sent out instructing employees to open every new copy, take out the discs, classify them as used, and jack the price up to $89.99 a piece. It's honestly a wonder this company is still allowed to do business.
13 Have You Heard Of Call Of Duty?
GameStop actually has a select few games that they push their employees to sell. On the surface, this might seem pretty typical of any major store. Don't Target and Best Buy also have storewide displays for every Madden and Mario Kart? Yes they do. And wasn't it cool when Target transformed their shopping carts into Mario karts? But the difference is, the Target and Best Buy employees aren't trying to push you to buy those games. GameStop employees are told to do exactly that. Even if you come into the store asking about something completely unrelated, you'll receive a "helpful" reminder to pre-order the new Call of Duty. This is because GameStop actually receives money from the publishers of these games for generating pre-orders and hype. Because, you know, Call Of Duty is a totally unknown franchise and really needs the help.
12 But, Really, Have You Heard Of Call Of Duty?
To really nail the last point home, GameStop is the only company that gets money for pushing pre-orders. But it gets worse when you realize that failure to sell those pre-orders only threatens certain people: the store employees. Because GameStop isn't the only company that offers incentives to pre-order. Other retailers offer exclusive pre-order DLC now. Target will even give you a gift card for pre-ordering. But you never see the cashier at Target pressing you into doing it. GameStop, however, makes it a part of the employee job description. The GameStop cashiers have to meet certain pre-order quotas for the sake of their jobs. Honestly, they feel just as bad about giving you the sales pitch as you do hearing it. But they have to do it, several times a day, or they could get fired.
11 Pre-Order...Or Else
Another manipulative thing GameStop does is only order as many copies of a game as they get pre-orders. Meaning, if you don't pre-order with them they won't have any copies to sell you. You obviously expect that with rare collector's editions of games. But even massive franchises like Pokémon, a series that still sells over a million copies 20 years later, is only bought in limited quantities by GameStop. The reason for this?
GameStop wants consumers to think pre-ordering is the only way to get anything.
Like I wrote before, companies give GameStop a kickback for garnering pre-orders. So it behooves them to train customers into making pre-ordering a habit. That's also why they offer the exclusive DLC and cool swag with pre-orders. They want you to think that you're making a smart choice yourself, even while they're guiding you into doing it.
10 Dat Stock Box Art
This one will make collector's cry. GameStop regularly throws out Nintendo DS and 3DS game cases. You ever notice how the DS and 3DS games are kept in a glass case in GameStop stores? That's because the company has its employees throw out the cases to conserve space. Which doesn't seem like a big deal, until you realize that there is a huge community of fans who like to collect and display their games, cases intact. Or at least don't want that ugly, generic GameStop case. Yet the stores destroy these cases without a thought, creating waste and depreciating the value of the product. It's almost as if GameStop doesn't really care about games, and is only concerned with profit!
9 What's An EB Games?
EB Games used to be GameStop's biggest competitor until it just disappeared. That's because GameStop bought them out. Gamers outside the U.S. still have EB, but now it's just GameStop in disguise. In fact, GameStop buys out all of its competition. Sure you can still buy games at Best Buy, but there aren't any stores that just specialize in gaming. Which stinks if you're looking for a rare or old game that you know a big store won't carry. The only hope for the gamer who hates GameStop are independently-run game stores, and even those get taken out by the corporate giant. A few years ago in Europe, GameStop bought out a bunch of independent game stores to establish its foothold overseas. Our only hope now is digital downloads. Let's just hope GameStop doesn't buy Steam.
8 Won't Someone Think Of The Corporations?
For the release of the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, publisher Square Enix made a deal with online distributor OnLive to include a download code for a free copy of the game inside the physical version. GameStop didn't like this, as it was working on its own online platform at the time. So to combat this, they made employees open all new copies of the game, take out the OnLive code coupon, and trash it.
This meant that GameStop sold every new copy of Deus Ex opened.
When exposed by the press, a GameStop leader simply defended their actions by saying they didn't want to give out a competitor's coupon. Because GameStop's business prospects are clearly more important than the customer. Why won't people just sympathize with the big greedy corporation?
7 Old Dog, Old Tricks
One thing I can't stress enough: GameStop's profits come mostly from used game sales. Sales of new games gets GameStop next to nothing. Because of this, the employees are trained to do everything they can to get you to reserve, subscribe to their rewards program, and buy used games. That's why we see them lie, sneak, and take advantage of children to accomplish those goals.
The worst thing is, the company sees these actions as completely fine, as long as its gets those profits and doesn't get caught.
So GameStop will never change, because gamers will always want games and will always be willing to forget past scandals. Also, they buy out all the competition and hold rare games hostage so we kind of have to shop there.
6 Private Info Is Not A Game
GameStop's website suffered a major hack. Think along the lines of the terrible PlayStation Network hack that happened a few years ago. Now that in and of itself isn't scandalous. Large companies get hacked often. The thing is, the typical response to such an issue is to notify customers the moment it happens so that they can take any necessary steps to protect their accounts and sensitive information. GameStop, however, didn't tell anyone for months. It wasn't until long after any damage would have been done that letters were sent warning customers of the data breach. It seems GameStop preferred covering up its embarrassment over protecting its customers.
5 You Want Money For This?
We have yet to talk about the stupid guarantees GameStop sells for its games. This is something every store does, but GameStop is especially stingy in its execution of it. Should you ever decide to guarantee a purchase, prepare for torture should you need to redeem it. First, you need to have the receipt. Even if you have a Power Up Rewards account, they can't just look it up. Secondly, the game has to be in great condition and in the original box. Which, why are you returning it then? Finally, you can only exchange it for another copy of the same game. Which might be impossible as your GameStop could have run out of that particular game and won't be restocking. Basically, the guarantee is the exact same thing as a standard return...only you have to pay for it.
4 You Knew This Was Coming
The trade-in program is the backbone of GameStop's business. It's also the most reviled. Countless memes have been made about the fact that GameStop will give you $5 for a game only to turn around and sell it for $40. Unfortunately, in this case, memes come from truth. GameStop gives garbage for trades, and yet gamers continue to trade in games there. Now people will come to GameStop's defense here. "Do you really expect to get $20 for Madden 15?" they'll say with an eye roll. And yes, it makes sense as a business to offer little for a product you know won't sell. Yet, GameStop will sell that same cheaply bought game for a lot more than it's worth. Seems like a bit of a double standard.
3 Applicant Must Have 3 Years Of Relevant Experience
A question one has to ask when presented with GameStop's history of greed is "who makes these decisions?" Well, like any company, GameStop has executives and upper management that create and enforce various policies and business strategies. So why would someone who invests in the world's biggest gaming retailer disrespect games and gamers so often?
Here's a fun fact: a lot of GameStop's upper management doesn't even play games.
Let that sink in. The decision makers for this international, industry-defining company don't even use the product that they sell. That would explain why they make so many decisions that put profit over consumer; they can't know what gamers want because they've never gamed themselves.
2 Somehow Not Illegal
"Checking in the back" is not a thing. Heck, I used to work at a GameStop, Target, and Best Buy and it wasn't a thing in any of those stores. That's because all of a store's inventory is kept in the computer system these days. Even when the system is inaccurate, the employees work in the store on a daily basis. They receive every shipment. So they know quite intimately what is in the back and what isn't. Whenever you make them go in the back, they really just go and chat with a co-worker or check their phone. Or worse. In some GameStops, the toilet and the backroom are the same thing. So unless you really want a copy of the original Mass Effect trilogy that fell in the toilet, maybe try Amazon.
1 It's A Living
GameStop, in its profit-mindedness, is terrible about giving the appropriate amount of hours to its employees. Part-timers get about two days a week, and are lucky if those two days exceed ten hours of work. Those limited hours are also at the mercy of various quotas, so they can easily lose them if they don't get enough pre-orders. Managers, meanwhile, are stuck picking up all of that slack and are often there for well over forty hours a week. Many times alone. Waiting for hours for a customer to come in and give them some form of human contact. You'd think they could give the eager part-timers more hours to keep them company but...you'd have to buy a few game guarantees to make that happen.