We've all had awful experiences at Gamestop and EB Games. These juggernauts of corporate greed have pushed out all the "mom and pop" game stores and taken over the used game market. They are notorious for buying low and selling high. Got an Xbox 360 game you're bored of? Take it to Gamestop! You'll get $20 for it! 'Course, they will turn right around and sell that game for $55, but what do you care?
You should care. These games have already made Gamestop money! If you shop there regularly and purchase new games from them, Gamestop already made their $5 profit. They squeeze every last droplet of sweet, sweet cash out of the game industry, and they'll treat you like dirt each time. We, as gamers, love the convenience of being able to drop a load of old games and get a new game in return, but we are getting ripped off. Yet we keep coming back, and fueling the machine.
Gamestop and EB Games are both broken, and I have some solutions as to how to fix them.
I had just gotten the master romancer award for breeding Candaries, something that I had been putting off for a while. I was going through all the different awards for getting variants and breeding other pinatas for a while, but it was time to try and lure in that all-elusive Buzzenge. Ding! I finally had enough Candaries to get the master romancer award... and look! It's that sweet, delicious "achievement unlocked" message at the bottom of my screen.
The drive starts to get louder, reading from the disk. I brace myself in eager anticipation as something is going to happen. Something does happen. I get a message that my Viva Pinata disk is unreadable, and that I should take it out and clean it. Ok, I thought. These things happen. I took out the disk, adoringly wiped it with a clean cloth and put it back in the drive. It just spun and spun and eventually came up with a screen that said: "Please put this disk in an Xbox 360 game console".
That part confused me. My disk no longer worked! I tried all the troubleshooting tips I was given by Microsoft: taking off my hard drive, starting a new profile, clearing the cache. Nothing. The next step was to go exchange the disk at the store I bought it from, so I set out to do just that.
I arrived at the Gamestop just down the street from my office. I shop there almost every week, constantly trading in games for new releases that companies obviously forgot to send to me (hint hint). I kindly ask the tragically long-haired goatee'd man behind the counter if I could exchange the disk for one that works. I explained that this was the next step in the Microsoft Recommended Troubleshooting List™ and he asked me if I had a receipt.
"No, don't you guys keep transaction records? You ask me for my address and driver's license each time I come in here and trade in games."
"Oh no," Mr. Register Biscuit says, "that would be too much information."
"Well, that's your issue. I bought this game here, I just work down the street, I come in here all the time."
"I'm sorry" he puts his hands in the air "there's nothing I can do."
"You can get your manager." I tell him. Starting to feel the blood rise a bit.
Manager walks out and happily starts searching for a copy of the game to exchange for me. They don't have a used version, so he opens a new one. Then he asks me if I have a receipt.
"No, I don't keep those. I figured since each time I shop here you ask me for personal information you actually utilize it to help your customer." I snark.
The manager then notices that the box I brought the game in was marked "Not For Resale". He throws the box down in front of me and says, "I can't take this anyway, it's marked NFR."
"Okay. I bought this game here. From YOU, specifically. YOU SOLD THIS TO ME."
"Sorry, unless Microsoft sent it to us or something, it shouldn't say that."
"Awesome. Either way, I bought it used from this store. You sold me this box. Please exchange the non-working game for me."
The manager sighs and looks at me, "Okay. I'll let you put one over on me this time." He asks for my personal information again before printing out a receipt and exchanging the disk for me.
I just didn't want to deal with it anymore. Here I am, a regular customer of this store and a member of the fucking games journalism community, and this manager wants to call me a liar? Even if I had brought in a game marked NFR, since when has Gamestop let things like that get in the way of making money? They would happily accept even counterfeit games as long as they knew they could make some cash on it.
I had a pile of games there, which he asked me if I still wanted to trade them in.
"Not anymore." And I walked out.
These kinds of experiences are all too common at Gamestop. Managers who don't care, cashiers who spend too much time trying to sell you a player's guide, or insurance on your new game, or whatever scam of the week they've been told to push. Where's the customer service? Why is it that when I walk into a store like this I have to feel intimidated? We get consistantly ripped off when we trade in games when we know that they are making money hand over fist off of us. We get treated like dirt and constantly badgered to purchase needless things. How to fix this horrible experience?
1. Train your staff to like humans. I know, it's an amazing revelation. You work in retail, you have to deal with people. I understand that most of the people who would be drawn to working in a game store tend to be a bit... antisocial, but you can train them. Look at Starbucks. Have you EVER had a bad experience at Starbucks? No. The employees are happy working there, and more than willing to bend over backwards to make your experience in the shop just as happy. Train your managers to have a better attitude towards the customer, and the rest of the staff will follow. Quit treating us like criminals or an easy buck, and people will start coming back more often. You make TONS of money off of games. Pass some of that on to the consumer. Which brings us to...
2. Give more for games. Getting $5 trade-in value for a game I bought a month ago at full price is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is that you turn around and sell it at just below full price. We can go on eBay or Craigslist and sell our used games for just as much as you are selling them, but we are lazy. We want the convenience of being able to just hop into a store and plop down some old games for new ones, but that doesn't mean that we should pay such a huge premium for that convenience.
3. Post trade-in values. I don't like going into a store with an armload of games and only getting $10 for them. I'd like to know ahead of time how much I could get for games in my collection. I'd love to find out what titles are super-rare and will net me a big trade-in, and which ones are just not worth the hassle. Post values online. Make it like a stock ticker! Video game values should be like comic book values. They should be collectable, and we should be getting more value out of our investment.
4. Quit trying to sell me a player's guide. I have an internet connection at home. I understand that there are "web sights" that I can get "facks" from. Some games lend themselves well to a meaty tome, Animal Crossing comes to mind. Games that you need to be constantly referencing something during the gameplay. You know what game doesn't need a player's guide? Gears of War. Shoot things; rinse, repeat. I can go online to see where all the hidden cog tags are. Player's guides, game insurance, preorders... all of these are scams run by the game stores to squeeze more coinage out of me. I know this, I am aware. Quit trying to rip me off.
Maybe I just yearn for some sort of game... spa. A place where I can feel completely comfortable hanging out in and purchasing from. A place that celebrates my hobby instead of blatantly trying to sap money out of it. Maybe this is what ran the mom and pop game stores out of business. People came in, hung out, and never bought anything. Games are sold to retailers wholesale very close to their retail price, so it's difficult to make any money off new games to begin with. I can see how that can be an issue for smaller shops, but these larger corporate chains need to have a bit of social responsibility. They need to make the experience better, to help me feel better about myself when they rip me off on a trade in, or call me a liar when I don't have a receipt.
Do you have any horrible used game store stories? Any suggestions as to how these places can improve? Post in the comments!