The Case Against GameStop: The Customer’s Perspective
It’s no secret that we here at Everyday Gamers do not have a very high opinion of GameStop. Whether we’re discussing problems with the company with Nick Sutner in our podcast or encouraging you to look around for alternatives, we have made it clear that we are not too happy with the leader in video game retail. What might not be so clear is why we do not like GameStop. Sure, we mentioned some of our objections in various forms, but it might be easy to consider some of what we have said just sour grapes. Tom and I are former GameStop employees, and it would be easy to say we just are holding a grudge.
That could not be further from the truth. As insiders, Tom and I have had a unique view of just how this company treats gamers and employees. We have seen what we once loved become a place we can hardly bear to visit. We have seen customers, coworkers and friends affected by the decisions this corporate giant has made, and not in a good way.
So in an effort to explain just why we try to encourage you to look for other places to spend your gaming money, we have decided to lay all our info on the table. We took the time to not only compile our objections but to also talk to other former employees to get their view on the company. We wanted to give you a chance to weigh the evidence of yourselves and make your own decision. While we have our own feelings about GameStop and will always encourage competition, we also know you have every right to know why we have chosen to stand against them.
With that in mind, let me present The Case Against GameStop.
The First Witness: The Customer
Since customers drive any retail business, you would think it would be in the best interest of the said company to treat its customers well. GameStop apparently has not figured that out. It is concerned much more about the bottom line than the customers, and it shows in many of the company policies.
Want proof GameStop has a low opinion of its customers? How about this picture taken at a store where employees were told to dress up in fat suits to promote fitness games.
1. The pittance GameStop gives for trade credit:
I would wager most of you know this one all too well. Whether or not to trade in a game can often be a difficult decision to make. In the end, you gather up the games you spent both your money and time playing and take them in, hoping to get something new for them. Then you hear the total GameStop is willing to give you for those games, and you feel insulted.
GameStop is notorious for giving gamers a mere fraction in trade credit of the price the game will be sold. For example, it was not unusual at all for a customer to only receive $20.00 in trade credit for a game which would be sold for $54.99. Part of the reason for this is the corporate mentality of the company. If a game is being traded in on a regular basis in part of the country, its trade value will be lowered, whether or not the store in question actually has any copies on hand. Add to that the fact GameStop feels it can give back in trade as much or as little as it chooses, knowing more often than not gamers will trade in their games anyway, whether or not they feel cheated.
Of course, $20.00 for a newer game is less insulting than $1.00 for a game that will be sold for $10.00. Believe it or not, I’ve seen that happen.
2. Selling Pre-orders to people who did not order them:
You go to GameStop. You put $5.00 or more down on a game, wanting to make sure you get a copy. You are told the game will be held for 48 hours. Unfortunately, you have to work the day the game comes out, so you cannot make it out to the store till late that day. You stop by the store only to be told there were not enough copies to cover the pre-orders, but there are more coming, and your money will still be good toward the game when they get more stock.
Now while there are times that stores do not receive enough to cover pre-orders, let me share the ugly truth behind what usually has happened in these cases: the store has sold your pre-order to another customer who did not plan ahead but happened to come to the store before you got there.
That’s right. Managers are often encouraged to sell pre-orders to people who come in to buy the game who do not have pre-orders. I have not only heard my manager told to do just that, I have seen the emails telling us to do just that. Never mind the fact the receipt you get when you pre-order a game promises you they will hold the game for you for 2 days.
This practice was exposed when the following leaked memo to managers encouraging them to sell pre-orders of Grand Theft Auto IV started making the rounds of Video Game Blogs:
Now the manager I worked for actually refused to do that, but many do not have that integrity. I can also tell you that he had to fight constantly with his district manager because he refused to do this. You can say that the managers who caved in were just following orders from corporate, but that does not make it right.
3. Condition of used games:
Ever had to return a used game back to GameStop? If you have been buying games there for a while, you probably have. Let me give you a tip: take a look at the game disk before you leave the store. You might be shocked at its condition.
GameStop makes it a habit of taking games in that are in horrendous condition. Many managers do not really care the condition of the games they bring in. I saw this play out as an employee. One of the stores I worked at had a previous manager who would sell games with radial scratches on them. The manager I worked for refused to sell those disks, which meant there were times a customer would bring a case to us for a game that we could not sell because all of our copies were in bad shape. Unfortunately not all managers hold to the same policy.
Now I will grant you GameStop does have a 30 day return policy on used games if they do not work. If a game was rare enough, we would sometimes take the game in even if it was in bad condition. We would let any customers interested in the game know the copy was not in the best of shape and may not play, leaving the decision in the gamer’s hands. There is a difference between making an intentional choice like that, however, and taking in games that GameStop has no business selling. Sure, the customer has 30 days to return it, but GameStop is counting on gamers losing receipts or just never getting around to returning the game.
Some games are damaged so badly, however, that they have to be sent back to the warehouse to be “refurbished.” That brings me to my next point.
4. The Myth of Refurbishing Games:
Did you know most scratched games can be repaired? You would be amazed what can be fixed. My friends at Play N Trade have shown me games they received with the circle etched into them you get from a 360 DVD drive being out of alignment that, after being run through their disk repair system, look almost brand new. All that really cannot be repaired is damage done to the label side of the disk; anything else can pretty much be fixed.
Someone really should tell GameStop. What that company calls “refurbishing” is running a disk through a polishing machine that polishes in circles, leaving circular impressions on the disk. In other words, the game is often in worse shape than it would have been had it just been cleaned.
I cannot count the times I have seen people bring used games back that had been refurbished because they would not play on the gamer’s system. It got to where some customers would refuse to buy an refurbished game, knowing it would more than likely not play in their consoles.
Then there is the fact we on more than one ocassion received “refurbished” DS games. Now other than cleaning the contacts, how exactly do you refurbish a cartridge game? Seriously, who did the company think it was fooling? More than likely, whoever “refurbished” it at the warehouse just cleaned it up a little and sent it back out to be sold. In other words, that person took a game which was returned to GameStop because it would not play and sent it back out to be sold. Tell me how that is taking the customers into consideration.
These are only some of the charges that could be leveled against GameStop for they way it treats its customers. I won’t even get into the stories I know of people getting cheated out of special editions of games, pre-order bonuses and unique items employees were allowed to buy before customers even get to see them. There are a lot of policies at GameStop that just do not favor gamers.
For many of you, this article may have been a bit of a revalatoin. For others, you have probably already experienced many of these objections all too many times. You may even have stories of your own you would like to share. Please feel free to do just that.
This is only the first half of the case against GameStop. We at EDG have yet to call our second and final witness: the employees.