Let me take you back a few years. Okay, let me take you back about 20 (yes, I am old). There was a time I used to actually like going to Kmart. It was a fun store, with many things to entertain someone of my age at the time. As time went buy, however, the stores began to develop a reputation. They tended to be dirty, poorly lit and understocked, and I honestly reached a point where I could care less if all the ones in Phoenix just closed down.
This all started to change earlier this year, and it was mainly due to @KmartGamer on Twitter. He started tweeting the different deals Kmart was offering on games, and I started to think maybe I should give the store another chance. So when Crysis 2 went on sale with a gaming coupon, I popped into the store closest to me.
Unfortunately, things had not changed. Yes, I got the game, and I went back in for the incredible deal for Portal 2, but I was not exactly impressed with the store. It was still dirty, understocked and the games were really not displayed well at all. It almost struck me like they just did not care, which really bothered me. Still, the deals were good, so when the major game sale hit earlier this summer, I struck out again to buy Alan Wake, Uncharted 2 and the Gears of War Triple Pack. Thing is, the Kmart store closest to me did not have the games, so I started going to other stores. Most of them were the same, and in the end, I started wondering if I really wanted to keep going to Kmart, even with the good deals.
It was later that week that I stumbled upon a Kmart a little out of my way. I passed it on the way home from a Bible Study, and I decided it was worth checking out. From the outside, it did not look very good; the lines were not hardly visible in the parking lot. Inside was not much better, at least until I go to electronics. What I saw there shocked me. Games laid out in such a way you could actually see what the store had. Sales prices clearly marked. Order that was obviously intentional.
Even more impressive was the knowledge of the clerk. When I had bought Alan Wake from a different store, the clerk was surprised to see it was on sale. This one not only knew about the sale currently going on, he was familiar enough with the stock of the store to advise me that, unfortunately, they had just sold their last copy of Uncharted 2 earlier that week. I was really impressed, and I ended up not only buying a couple things but also making a mental note this Kmart may be worth the drive.
Fast forward to last week. I could not resist the deal Kmart was running on Gears of War 3, so when it came time to pick it up, I made the drive to the further store. While I had to wait a bit for service, the service I did receive was incredible. I was helped by the lead of the electronics section, and not only was he familiar with the deal on Gears 3, he was going to make darn sure I got it, even if that meant ringing things up a little differently when it looked like the deal was not working. As I left that night, I just had this feeling the guy really wanted my business, and this just solidified my choice to drive the greater distance from here on out to take advantage of Kmart’s deals.
So why am I typing this? I mean, this is a “feel good” story, but what is my point? Well, I actually have a couple.
The first is not all stores are alike, even if they are the same brand. Every store takes on its own personality, no matter how much some corporate office tries to get it to fit into some form of a cookie cutter mold. Even Walmarts or Targets, which basically all look more or less alike based on the type of store (super versus normal, etc), will be different just because they employ different people. The other Kmarts in town I have visited seem to be staffed with people who either don’t really care about putting in the time to make the place look good or have bought into the image Kmart tends to have. This one, the people in the electronics department seem to have understood that @KmartGamer is trying to change the culture, and they seem to be working right along side that. So if you have tried a certain store chain and had a bad experience, it may benefit you to try another one. Heck, even some GameStops can have good, knowledgeable employees.
The second reason is just to reiterate something I have said time and time again: competition is a good thing. Why did I start going to Kmart? The chain is really competing for my gaming dollar by offering great deals. Many stores have gotten into the battle for game sales, and who can blame them. When you have a group of people who routinely spend $60 a pop for one game, wouldn’t you try to cater to them? Best Buy, GameStop, Toys R Us, Target, Walmart, Kmart, Amazon…. These retailers and more are working hard to outdo each other in the battle for gaming dollars. In the end, this can only mean one thing: