The Case Against GameStop: The Employee’s Perspective
Welcome to our second Case Against GameStop article. If the first one, we looked at how GameStop as a whole does not really focus on helping the customers. Whether it is giving next to nothing for trade or selling preorders to people who did not pre-order them, the company has a history of not considering its customers first.
Still, that is only half the case against the company. The other half comes from those who have worked for the company. As anyone who has worked for GameStop can tell you, it is not the kind of fun atmosphere you would expect to have working at a video game retailer.
The Second Witness: The Employee
So you think working for GameStop would be fun. After all, you are surrounded by games, you get to talk to other gamers and you get to stay on top of the latest gaming news. Add to that a discount on games and the ability to check out games to play, and it sounds like the perfect job for the game enthusiast. It does not take most employees long to find out this is far from the truth.
1. The Pay (or lack thereof):
Okay, it’s easy to write this one off as working in retail, but you are lucky to make much over minimum wage. In fact, the only raise I ever received is when the minimum wage for Arizona was moved higher than what I was making. The company also does not come anywhere close to paying managers what they deserve for the work they are expected to do. It’s like GameStop just figures we will work for less money because we are getting the privilege to work around video games.
Then there is the way the company actually pays its employees. Sure, they offer direct deposit; who doesn’t anymore? You had better have an account you can have your pay deposited into, however. If not, you have to deal with the companies “cash card.” That’s right, the only alternative to direct deposit GameStop offers is a Comdata Comcheck eCash card. Want to know what’s so wrong about that? Take a look at what an anonymous employee had to say about trying to use the cards:
Now I only had to deal with this thing for one paycheck (the time it took to activate direct deposit), but I confirm much of what was mentioned by this employee. All these cards are is a way for GameStop to save money, and the company really does not care if it inconveniences the workers.
2. The weak discount on games:
Did you realize that GameStop employees only get 15% discount on games? It’s sad but true. Now I can understand getting a small discount on new games; GameStop really does not make much on them. 15% on used games, which are pretty much pure profit, is a joke.
Now some will argue that you actually get 25% off used games thanks to the Edge card. While this is mostly true (the actual discount, since it is 10% off the already discounted game, ends up being 23.5%), employees still have to pay the yearly fee for the Edge card to get something approaching a halfway reasonable discount on used games. In other words, you have to pay the company to get a better discount. While I was grateful the company gave me the extra 10% off, would it really have hurt GameStop to give as better discount to its employees on something it was not paying anything near market value to obtain?
3. Answering the Phone:
Okay, you are probably wondering what can be so bad about answering the phone. After all, you just have to thank them for calling GameStop, give your name and ask how you can help the perons on the other end, right?
If you have called many GameStops, you know that is not all there is to answering the phone for this company. They expect you to rattle off a litany of information about the latest sales, preorders and game releases before you can give the caller a chance to talk. If you have ever wondered why someone would take the time to say something like “Thank you for calling GameStop where you can buy and sell new games and you can get an additional 20% when you trade in games towards a pre-order of Modern Warfare 2,” it’s because it was expected of us. We had a script we were supposed to follow when answering the phone, and if the District Manager called and we were not following the script, our manager would hear about it.
Now I’m all for adding the part about buying and selling used games. It is amazing how many people still do not know GameStop does that, and really that does not add too much to the call intro. The rest…well, it was just stupid, and the customers did not want to hear it anymore than we wanted to say it. Once again, my manager refused to follow this or get upset at us if we did not, but just the fact the company expects you to say it is ridiculous.
And yet, during the height if the we craze, we were not allowed to answer the phone with “…where we are unfortunately sold out of the Nintendo Wii.” That at least would have saved us some time on what was easily 75% of our calls.
4. Employees are treated like thieves:
I understand that much of retail theft is committed by employees. I can even understand the idea of bag checks; many retailers now ask their employees to submit to those. While I was working at Borders, I was asked to have a manager put a property sticker on anything I brought in that was sold at the store so I could prove it was mine. In my mind, those are all legitimate steps for an employer to take to prevent employee theft. I just happen to draw the line at emptying out my pockets.
That’s right. According the the GameStop employee handbook, all employees are expected to empty their pockets to prove they are not taking GameStop product anytime they leave the store. We are not just talking at the beginning and end of your shift. If you decide to leave the store for lunch, you have to empty your pockets. If your store does not have a bathroom and you have to leave it to relieve yourself, you have to empty your pockets. If you are just going over to the neighboring store to see if you can borrow something, you have to empty your products.
Now I understand that you can smuggle a DS or PSP game out in your pockets, but it seems like there are better ways to track this than forcing me to remove my keys, MP3 player, pen, Leatherman, wallet and change from my pockets (there is a reason I wear cargo pants). What’s next, asking me to prove I have nothing stuffed in my socks? EDIT: A friend of mine who used to work there reminded me that sock checks were actually a part of that policy as well. Since my manager never enforced it, I had completely forgotten it was policy. There is no excuse for that.
Now while the manager I worked for never enforced this policy, it was in the books.
The Third and Final Witness: The Manager
While things were hard for the standard employee of GameStop, nothing compared to being a part of management.
1. Everything is seen from a corporate perspective:
GameStop is a large corporation. As such, everything the company does is seen from that perspective. Now this may seem to make sense, and in some ways it does. There are problems with viewing it only from that perspective. Stores are not given the right to determine what they carry or the quantity of those items. Instead of giving managers a chance to order in titles and quantities appropriate for their stores, their hands are tied, and they have to make due with what they get. Thing is different stores sell different types of games. Some may have JRPG fans who would be all over the latest titles, but a manager might only get 1 copy. Or a game will sell very well in several stores, so the company will decide everyone needs multiple copies, whether or not the store in question can actually sell it. As an employee of a couple of different stores, I can tell you I saw this play out again and again. It was frustrating running out of the games that sold and getting multiple copies of the ones that never would just because the quantities made sense to corporate. We had to become the apologists for the company because we did not have the games we should have carried and could not really order more.
On top of that, managers are often given lists of used games they need to send to other stores. It never ceases to amaze me what titles end up on these lists. We would be told to box up games that sold well at our store, whether or not we had enough copies to meet demand, and we constantly received games from other stores we were never going to be able to sell. The company seemed to never pay attention to what really sold at any given store, meaning we were wasting a lot of time shifting product among stores that was not going to sell.
2. Emphasis on numbers, not service
Ever wonder why GameStop pushes pre-orders and Game Informer subscriptions so much? It’s not because the people working there really want to put that much emphasis on these things. Managers are given a quota of subscriptions and preorders they are supposed to meet on a weekly basis. Failure to reach these quotas could affect several different things, including the manager’s likelihood of getting promoted to a better store.
This issue became really evident at the last store where I worked. We had a heavily international clientel there, which meant we could not even ship the magazine to them if they wanted it and pre-orders made no sense as the customers were not even going to be in the country when the game came out. Despite numerous atttempts by my manager to point this out to the district manager, my store manager still found himself having to defend ou store’s numbers just about every week during the district conference call. This was despite the fact both customer service ratings and sales had increased sharply since he took over the store.
It’s hard to say who is more tired of these getting pushed so much, the customers or the employees.
3. Automated scheduling leads to poor staffing
Ever wondered why your local GameStop never seems to be staffed appropriately? A big part of that is the automated sceduling system employeed by GameStop Corporate. Instead of giving the managers the hours they are allowed to staff and giving them the ability to set the schedule accordiungly, GameStop has a program that automatically does the scheduling for them. This may sound like a time saving device, but it wasn’t. Managers had no way of entering employee availability into the list, so employees were often being scheduled at times they could not work. What ended up happening was managers would have to take a look at the schedule and try to modify it in such a way that would actually work for their stores. My manager hated when they switched over to this system; it meant he spent a lot more time putting the schedile togethter than the old system where he was just given the hours to staff the sotre as he saw fit. It was like GameStop did not trust its managers to know what was best for theiur stores, and somehow it thinks a compujter that really does not take the employee’s schedules into account could do the job better.
Whether you are a manager or just a lowly Game Advisor, GameStop is not a place you really want to work. The only things that tended to keep some of us there so long were being surrounded by the games and the relationships with customers and coworkers.
The sad thing is this really should not be the case. Working at a game store shoudl be fun. As gamers, we should really enjoy being surrounded by what we love and relish the chance to introduce others to this passion of ours. GameStop found ways to take the fun away.
So in the end, we the Crew of Everyday Gamers have a hard time supporting GameStop as a whole. If you have alternatives, we would encourage you to use them. If you are looking for soem alternatives, try checking out the article Not the Only Game in Town. it might just give you some ideas on where else you can go.
What if you are in a position where you have to deal with GameStop? Well, that is a position we will be dealing with in the third and final article in this series, Living With Gamestop.