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The Horrors of Videogame Retail

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Let’s face it: Retail is retail. It will always be retail, and it will always be shitty. However, I had never experienced such a toxic work environment prior to getting a job at a videogame retail store. It’s funny how I thought this was the perfect job for me. I love videogames after all, and I was finally getting paid to just talk about videogames all day.

To be fair, things did start out fine and dandy at first. That lasted roughly a month or so until my first promotion. That’s when I began to see how full of corruption and backstabbing this company was. So many people would come in and chat about how much fun this job must be, or how they’d love to get a job there. Stubborn as always, and with plenty of employees backing me up, we’d kindly assure them that that this job wasn’t as awesome as it may appear on the outside. So before you run off to buy your next game, keep in mind these few things, especially if you notice how disgruntled these employees are.

We are told to sell specific things…or else

Probably one of the most common questions I ever heard was “Do you get commission for this?” Not because I had particularly large sales, but due to the fact that the company I worked for legitimately forces us to spout off a thousand different things to the customer in order to make more money. From paid memberships to warranties on games and systems, despite not getting any type of bonus for pushing extra shit, we had to in order to keep our jobs. If we didn’t reach the percentage goal, an employee could simply lose shifts, or even their job if they continued to struggle with these numbers. So essentially it was a “sell this or lose your job” mentality, and let’s just say when you hit management it can be fucking frightening if you have a shitty week.

And I had plenty of shitty weeks. Some weeks you just would get those customers that didn’t want to hear a thousand different sales pitches when all they came in for was one measly purchase, or even a gift card. Other weeks I’d kill it in numbers. But in all honestly, once you gave me a no I’d let the sales pitch go. Why? Because I know when I’m shopping in a store I don’t want to be bombarded. It’s plain and simple.

Unfortunately there are those who chose to go on the shady side. I’ve seen employees, including the upper management, practically bully the hell out of customers into spending more money. Even if the customer saved only twenty bucks in the previous year via the membership, they would coerce the customer and continue to press forward until they gave in and paid the fifteen to renew their card. I’ve seen management even go as far as not mentioning the renewal/signup fee and simply just do it. Let’s be honest, how many customers actually check their receipts? But those who did and caught that shit, well let’s just say I fielded a lot of angry comments from customers about other employees.

This happened quite frequently with reserves on games and warranties as well. Or sometimes management would use the term “free” or “you aren’t paying out of pocket” because a customer had traded things in. However, it’s still coming out of their credit. I’d frequently have customers returning to the store and wondering what the extra charge was for.

And if you didn’t speak English well, you were pretty much shit out of luck. The auto add-ons come in droves.

Bottom line: Don’t let fancy language, bullying, and shady, under-the-table tricks take away your money. Always check for extra charges that you did not specifically ask for.

If we don’t shove pre-owned down your throat, we can be fired.

Obviously these companies that deal with trades make more of a profit if a customer buys pre-owned. They buy back your pre-owned game, even if it’s a week old, at a low price, and then sell it for a mere five dollars less. It is then the employee’s job to try and talk every customer looking for that specific title to buy the game used versus new. “The only difference is it’s not wrapped,” they’ll say, or something relatively similar. It is then a perfect opportunity for them to shove their membership fee down your throat so you can save an additional five dollars. Who cares if you are buying as a gift for someone? They still will attempt to make you buy it pre-owned anyway.

In the past few months I sat on many a call where the DM was literally telling us if a customer asked for a game, we should grab the pre-owned and not even say anything unless the customer asked. Even as an employee I was appalled and couldn’t even fathom doing that. I got an icky feeling just thinking about not giving the customer a choice in the matter. Obviously, I knew enough customers that always bought pre-owned and I could always assume they were looking to save the few bucks. But if a customer came in that I didn’t recognize or knew well, of course I wanted to give them a choice of how they spend their money. Why? Because I’d be fucking pissed if a store was trying to do things like that to me.

I’m not saying pre-owned is bad. In fact, the perks of having the capability of checking out the game and being able to return it is great. But there is no way in hell that I was simply not going to give the customer the option, and then try and bully them into buying a pre-owned copy even after they stated they wanted a new copy.

So what happens when our pre-owned sales are low? Coachings, write ups, and eventually, you guessed it: They can fire you if you’re struggling in that particular sale.

Fuck having coverage, you’re usually on your own.

In general, you can’t expect to have too many hours while working retail, but it was downright ridiculous at the amount of times we were in the store alone without being able to leave the store. During the week I was lucky to overlap with someone for two hours, just enough time to give them an overview of what needs to be done after my shift ended. Maybe I’d take a break if it wasn’t busy. But normally I had already eaten my food quickly on the floor at 1 o’clock, since waiting until 3 was downright ridiculous when I came in at 8. My last few weeks there, management didn’t even have coverage at night on Friday, Saturday, Sundays. Why? Because we just weren’t getting the hours, even on high volume launch weeks. Here’s the clincher: Our manager was actually in charge of two stores, and was hardly there. So while you would think we would be able to have a few extra shifts, things were legitimately down to the wire.

Of course, on plenty of week nights the store can be entirely dead and downright boring. But at least once a week, and especially on the weekends, things would pick up with a ton of sales/trades and I’d be sitting there wanting to rip my hair out because there was no possible way things would get done by the time I had to leave. Of course, leave the store a mess and that constitutes as a write up too, if your manager wants to be difficult.

Cutting hours was the norm during the middle of the week as well, causing even more stress as shifts became smaller or completely vanished from the schedule.

As females we are supposed to expect some sexual harassment.

Yeah, read that fucking one more time. Because I’m a chick, I should expect to be hit on, therefore I shouldn’t get bent out of shape about it. Listen, I get it, I have boobs, and a decent face and body, but that does not give customers a green light to treat me as some object when I’m trying to sell them their shit.

Sure I’ve gotten plenty of sweet compliments that weren’t perverted. “You’re eyes are so pretty.” “I love your smile.” Things like that I can appreciate. I can even stomach dudes trying to get my number, because a lot of the times the guys were just trying to be nice. However, I never liked when customers would continuously return to the store and not only stare at me hungrily, make comments about my boobs, or even harass my coworkers about my love life. That shit doesn’t fly with me and I believe I have every right to turn a customer away from the store or at least opt out of helping them and passing them onto one of the male employees.

And let’s not forget that it wasn’t just the customers, but employees as well. One of my not so fondest memories was during a call I had to take. A few of us had made it on early and were jabbering away. I’m still confused as to how the conversation turned to the “rule of thumb” and jokes about beating females, but let’s just say I take severe offense to things like that. You can be assured I reported it, however, the only thing that was done was a verbal warning. No write ups. No nothing. It simply went away.

Let’s just get this straight, no woman, even when the workplace is male dominated, should have to expect harassment from anyone. It’s crude, vile and degrading. Sure I received a few slaps on the wrists for speaking my mind about that, but it was worth it.

Trying to enforce a dress code that wasn’t in the handbook.

It’s by far one of the lesser of the evils, but near the end of my time at said job our DM was trying to enforce a dress code on us that legitimately was not in the employee handbook. You’re probably asking who the fuck even reads those? The answer is me. Why? Because I dye my hair, have tattoos and piercings, and I like to to know what I can and can’t have while working.

Don’t get me wrong: We had a dress code, but it was a much wider range than the required collared shirt the DM was trying to make us follow. First off, as I previously stated, I’m a bit busty and let’s just say most collared shirts don’t fit me correctly, especially if they are button ups. Secondly, you can bet your ass I printed out the handbook and found that not only could we also wear sweaters instead of collared shirts, females could wear dresses, skirts, blouses, and open toed shoes apart from flip-flops. The only thing we employees really had to stop wearing? The standard t-shirts that we were accustomed to under our previous manager. The DM eventually backed off when he realized there was no way in hell he was going to win that argument.

Your family does NOT come first, no matter what.

Unless you are deep-throating the upper management, taking off for family functions, even very important ones, can be very difficult. Although I didn’t personally run into this, because I hardly ever ask for time off, I saw several instances that are down right cringe worthy.

My previous manager, before he found a much better job, ran into a particular issue during football season. He coaches his children every Sunday, so he would take every Sunday off and make it family time. It’s fairly simple, and I had no problems working a Sunday shift. However, a particular event was going on in an upcoming Sunday and our company wanted all managers on duty. My manager went to not only the DM, but also the RM, and told them that it was the championship game, and reminded them that he is the head coach of his child’s football team. He went as far as saying he would open early, leave for the game, and then return to close the store.

The answer? If he didn’t stay for a full shift, and left for the game, he would get a first and final warning. Let’s just rewind. He has been coaching for years, he offered to come and go, as long as he can make it to his child’s game, and they still were being dicks. What did he do? He took the damn write up. Why? Because you only get so many chances to spend time with your kids, and that should always come first.

Although that may not seem like such a big deal to you, there was yet another instance that many of us were made aware of. For months we had always wondered why our previous DM had up and resigned from his position. He had always seemed to be legitimately content with his job. Well, finally it came out that it was due to the RM not allowing the DM to take his wife to a doctor’s visit during a cancer scare. That’s right, the woman was dealing with a cancer scare and wanted her husband with her, and the RM would not let him. Fed up, and realizing that this shit is absolutely ridiculous, he left soon after.

If they want you gone, they will find ANY reason they can to slowly build a case against you.

My time with this particular company was sprinkled with all kinds of hell, especially in the last year as the company came under a lot of new management. More and more corruption began leaking it’s way out and waking up a lot of employees. The new management, realizing this, began targeting specific employees, writing them up for things that literally should have been slaps on the wrists. It became all about creating a paper trail, and I watched at least four of my fellow coworkers get canned over ridiculous things. Other coworkers wised up and left before the axe could fall on them as well. Practically every last person I started with is gone now, save for a very fair few who are constantly on edge and worried if their ass is next on the chopping block.

With that being said, I can’t say my time in videogame retail was pure evil. In fact, I met some of my closest friends from working for this particular company. I was even lucky enough to meet a wonderful guy, who was able to quit before all hell started breaking loose. Nothing can take away the friendships and work relationships I developed in my two and a half years selling videogames. First we bonded as coworkers, then we bonded over the shady dealings we had to endure. Now we simply bond over moving onto bigger and better things.

About Emily Horton

Emily is just your average twenty something girl who discovered her love for gaming at the age of three or four, all thanks to her older brothers. Mario, The Lion King, Aladdin, Zelda were her first loves, but Pokemon, Final Fantasy, Tales, and pretty much all Japanese games eventually fell into that category. She has an unhealthy obsession with Pikachu, hoodies, her 3DS, t-shirts, plushies, and purses. She may also fancy herself as an excellent lawyer due to number of times she has played through the Ace Attorney series. Outside of videogames, she is a Disney, Harry Potter, and Tolkien fanatic, while also recently discovering that she is now a hardcore fan of Supernatural thanks to Netflix allowing her to watch eight seasons rapid fire. She has elvish writing, the Deathly Hallows, a rather large Tinkerbelle and a large Yuna from Final Fantasy X all tattooed on her body, with only more geeky stuff to be added. Currently working on her own fantasy novel, she hopes to publish it eventually once all the kinks are worked out.

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  • mike

    This is awesome. I hate that place. I used to work there on and off continously quiting and coming back because of the way you were treated as an employee. Gamestop for me was always a second job. I was a hvac mechanic and at night I worked for gstop and god for bid I staid at work late to give someone heat or hot water. Because I could have pushed a game membership instead

  • JB

    The people at my local videogame chain store seem deadly miserable there and I rarely see them at the store longer than a month. (If you work retail and you don’t see familiar faces behind the counter often means they have a lot of turn around, so don’t dare ask for an application).

    As to being a female employee, there was a statuesque redhead at my gaming store. I only saw her twice and she was extremely gorgeous, hourglass figure and all. More importantly, she seemed to be a very nice person. I screwed up my courage to ask her for number before wondering – “How many guys ask her this daily? Work or otherwise?” I’m not a bad looking guy but when I considered that she must get hit on all the time, I decided it would be better to go home with a game than being shot down. Sort of regret it but chances were she got too much attention.

  • Vinnasty

    Emily I agree with you 100% everything you said is Gamestop S.O.P.! I was a manager there for 3 years and 2 stores, so many times I had top sub and reserves in the district but when they want to get rid of you they make up stuff! Mine was I made employees take a hour lunch, didn’t let them have a lunch but keyed them in for a half hour or hour, or my favorite clocked them out at 7pm but didn’t leave until 9pm (they clocked out and were playing a new title before they went home!) I hated that giving them a used game without telling them it was used thing I refused to do it! Trust me me as much as the associates jobs were threatened the mangers jobs was just as bad! I do miss my employees & customers but I don’t miss the stress & B.S.!

  • RetailReject

    Preach on sister. For the 2 years I put into that company I can honestly say that’s spot on. Heck, I remember getting written up because I was in the ER once on an opening shift. They’re lucky I even showed up that day but it didn’t stop them from giving me a first and final!

  • Bubster

    Ugh, currently am trying to find a better job from a retailer that used to be closely associated with GameStop, B&N. Lot of the same type of B.S. going on, especially with memberships, cutting hours, barely any coverage, etc. Oh and the dress code all depends on the manager, especially the DM. At least now they can’t stop men from wearing un-bifurcated (skirts, kilts, etc.) garments. Actually, thanks to recent new gender laws, they can’t specify any particular dress for men or women.

    Recently got a new DM and supposedly he’s coming down on everyone and pressuring all the managers in the area. I swear, it seems every time a new manager comes on at almost any level they have to be complete jerks in order to assert their authority and try and knock out anyone who won’t blindly follow them.

    Used to work at a mall-based bookstore and they made us sell even harder, more similarly to a Gamestop, and I hated harassing the customers with 20 questions and pushing things. Guess what happened to that company; it went out of business! IMO a good retail experience comes from happy employees who’ll then treat the customers well, creating repeat business. Not forcing loyalty through club cards. That should come after establishing rapport with customer through repeat business. But of course, that doesn’t look good on paper, its all about the numbers and beating last year and making x% over plan and and….yeah guess what guys, normal business trends up and down.

    Been at it for quite a few years now, through several DMs, SMs, ASMs, etc., and actually been asked candidly by an Assistant Manager why I didn’t “play the game” and try to climb the corporate ladder since I’ve actually got a good grasp on the dynamics of the business and ideas on how to improve things. Actually I was a manager-on-duty at the mall store until a new store manager came in and we didn’t get along (see comment on new managers above). I told him because to me it was just a job, not a career, and that I never expected to work in this environment for so long. That I didn’t like playing politics just to get ahead. Which by that I meant I’m not gonna kiss ass and wear a tie to make the DM like me. What I didn’t tell him was how I felt sorry for anyone who decided to become a retail manager, like they actually try to make a career and living out of it.

    TL;DR – Agree with OP and do not suggest anyone work retail unless you really don’t need to rely on the cash and can take advantage of employee discounts. Also, never use any identifying personal info when talking about a company. They often times have Social Media rules against that…

  • Josh

    The first two sentences pretty much sums up the entire article. You can replace “videogame retail store” with any other retail store. I’ve realized that gamers are the most exaggerated people. Even I’m exaggerating to a certain degree. Think your work environment is “toxic”? Pfft. Must have been your first job. Don’t tell me Wal-Mart is any better.

    • Dosbilliam

      I’ve actually worked at two different Wal-Marts, and while staffing can be similar, at least there it’s not THIS bad. I’m not really expected to push things except the WM credit cards, but I never do and no one’s said anything yet. It’s actually surprising how much I’m “supposed” to do as a cashier that I forget and no one seems to care.

      • Justin McGill

        actually they expect you to push the “warranties” as well.. the credit cards, and as I mentioned earlier we even were schilling for a third party car insurance company. I’ve never gotten in particular trouble for it, but then again I’ve found since moving into Electronics we are much more short handed and seeing bad scheduling. I have my hours cut In the upcoming schedule by a day while simultaneously it comes to NINE days straight. I can’t even make logical sense out of that combination.

  • Spyder

    I work in manufacturing and it’s every bit as bad, if not worse than the things in this article. I am truly sorry for the things you had to endure. I still see many of them on a daily basis, even though I “escaped” the retail world..

  • Josh

    The shady dealings and management of the video game retail industry needs to be brought into the spotlight. Companies need some very bad publicity in order to try and force change, or they will risk losses and collapse.

  • Steve Ward

    Yep that’s basically any retail from supermarkets to stationary stores.

  • lee

    … I honestly think you need to reevaluate your thought processes I assure you its not just a video game store. Starbucks doest the same thing, at&t does it over the phone . I think honestly you are just complaining because there was something you didn’t quite understand. As an manager sexual harassment is never tolerated if u feel uncomfortable in my store I become the hulk and make people back up. And finally…. it’s a job do u think we get paid to play video games …. no we get paid to help customers

  • Justin McGill

    sadly what you describe in a lot of ways has just become more of the norm in bigger retail in general.. or even fast food.. do you think the cashier at McDonalds wants you to buy an Apple Pie.. or to upsize your drink? nope.. you get told to do it. I work in retail myself and we push credit cards, extended warranties, and they even had ads for car insurance a few months back.

  • Seishin

    “As Females We Were Expected to Expect Some Sexual Harassment”

    OnlyI worked in a computer/gaming store 15 years ago, and learned very fast why the ‘token chick on staff’ never lasted long, and if there happened to be 2 of us we were *never* scheduled at the same time.

  • LarryBundyJr

    I worked for EB games in the mid 90s during the launch of the PS1 and have to say it’s exactly how I had it.

  • Rufus12131

    Actually all the selling points she stated above is why I never go to the Gamestop two blocks from my apartment anymore. I used to go twice a month on a Saturday and want to buy a game under $15… Definitely under $20. It was annoying how much they tried to upsell me. It made me flat out uncomfortable. They would try to help me pick out games, follow me around… Get to the counter and it was a bunch of different questions about games. Now I’m Amazon all the way with my game shopping.