G, a shift supervisor at GameStop, is tired of all the GameStop bashing that goes on on the internet, and has written us a very lengthy guide to shopping at his store. Some of it is useful. Some of it is a defense of GameStop’s unpopular policies. All in all, if don’t enjoy being harassed for reservations or sold opened, “gutted” games, you should probably just shop somewhere else.
If not, read on:
Here’s the skinny with company policies, what’s written in stone, and what a friendly employee may/may not actually be able to help you with. I’d going to be as frank as possible, because, honestly, the constant Gamestop-bashing on most newsblogs really hurts sometimes.
1 ) First off, the biggest thing, the ‘opened new games’ issue. While I admit the practice is messy, I can’t stress this enough; to remain a browsable, accessible small shop, ‘gutting’ a single copy is essentially unavoidable. As many UK commentors on such articles tend to point out, all small game shops over there have done this for years and they don’t expect otherwise.
Store policy is to gut one copy for display, occasionally two or more for new releases. We’re encouraged to keep as many unopened as possible, and at all stores I’ve worked at this is a is strongly maintained; we only gut multiples of a game if we have MANY copies to go around. The harsh side is the ‘checkout’ policy. Gamestop policy is, for better or worse, that employees may check out new games that are more than two weeks past their original release so long as they are returned in mint condition. I don’t agree with this, personally, as many part-timers and less-dedicated employees simply can’t be trusted to take decent care of products. Typically most good stores encourage employees to check out used, even though company policy gives used more weight than new.
The fact is, though, that checking out titles isn’t at the top of most employee’s to-do lists, and 98% of ‘gutted’ games have literally never been touched, only slid into a paper or plastic sleeve and put away. If you cannot tolerate an opened case, then insist on a copy in original wrap. This really is overzealous and impractical if you plan to open it yourself; the PRACTICAL thing to do is, if you see you are getting a ‘gut’, ask outright to see the disc first. Any decent employee will comply, and they have no valid excuse not to show you.
2) If there is anything justifiably wrong with the condition of the disc, ask about a shopworn discount; this used to be a regular (but not advertised) option that was recently taken out of our systems, giving 10% off a product that is in poorer shape than it ought be. This can technically be done manually but is not encouraged, but a seasoned or understanding employee (especially managers) generally shouldn’t mind if they see that the product is not in new condition.
3) The biggest misconception regarding gutted games is that we do not allow them returned as new. This is not accurate. A store following CORRECT policy puts a clear adhesive seal on all gutted game cases that are sold, allowing it to be returned as if it were entirely unopened for a full refund so long as the seal is undisturbed. This is sometimes substituted with other stickers or forms of seals, but ALL new games with open cases are meant to be sealed in some way to allow the customer their right to return it as unopened. If you buy a gutted game and they do not put any kind of seal on it, insist on one. They shouldn’t be sending you out the door with an unsealed game if it was rung up as new.
With only a few exceptions, the stores I’ve worked at are staffed by very careful people who know better than to take poor care of any new products. I have been a customer at stores that weren’t so gracious or careful, admittedly. There are better stores and some poorer ones; make a point of patronizing the good ones to send a message to the bad. It’s simple consumerism.
4) The return policy for games is straightforward. New, UNOPENED products are returnable within 30 days for full refund. An ‘opened’ new game with an untampered gamestop seal is counted as unopened (emphasis on untampered; its easy to tell if its been peeled back and reapplied.) Opened new merchandise can be replaced for an identical item within 7 days if defective. Used games and game systems can be replaced within 30 days if defective. Used games, though we don’t advertise this, can also be exchanged within 7 days for another title if it’s simply not what you wanted; it’s essentially a 7-day trial period. This is very useful for parents with small children who get picky with games or have trouble with varying difficulty levels. Doing it three or more times without making real new purchases tends to get that privilege taken away (and marked as such on the receipt,) so don’t abuse it.
5) Don’t lose your receipt and expect us to find records for you, it is quite difficult. If you lose your receipt but need to make a return or exchange, the ONLY way we are likely to pick it out of records is if you know the date you bought it on, which register rang it in, and you can confirm your means of payment and/or other details. This is NOT policy and not all employees have clearance to access register journals, so you can’t count on this.
6) Gift receipts are always available at the end of your transaction. Now that all EBs and Gamestops are corporate-managed, your returns can be taken at any Gamestop as long as you have the original receipt and it is within the permitted dates.
There are two sides to the reserve issue, one more valid than the other, but both important.
7) Everybody decries the nature of the Gamestop employee to push reserves on the uninterested consumer. Please understand, no matter how dedicated an employee may be, on the district level and higher, he is of no value beyond his reserves and Game Informer subscriptions. Nearly any employee is the sum of their reserves, and unfortunately good people who treat customers well will see their job fade away because of poor numbers. A Gamestop worker pushing a reserve on you is trying to keep their job, literally.
The other half is much more important to you, the customer, however. Gamestop is a massive company, yes, but every individual store is a very small niche. A store’s allotments are based on its net sales figures and, among other things, reserves. A particular title that isn’t guaranteed to fly off shelves may not be sent to a store at ALL if no interest is shown in it. A simple example is Odin Sphere, a fantastic title that slipped under the radar but got rave reviews. My own store at the time got about a half-dozen copies of the game, as I had preordered it myself along with one friend and one regular customer. Other stores adjacent to us got a single copy or, at most, two. This is not some faceless abusive policy, this is fair business; video games are expensive, and no company wants to order excess stock for a store that seems disinterested in it.
Preorders are only taken when their allotment can be guaranteed. I cannot stress this enough. There are burps in the system here and there, but for every one or two preorder gaffes you read about online there are literally thousands of beneficial ones. Preorders do not cost any additional fee (only a base 5 dollar deposit) and are fully (though reluctantly) refundable for cash at any time. Yes, cancelled preorders count against the employee ringing it in and they will be reluctant, but it is your right to cancel for cash refund if you choose to and they can’t decline it.
On another hand, preorders really do save stress. Guitar Hero bundles in particular cause trouble because people assume that, as a hot title, they will be in mass supply. It’s true that Halo 3 was easy to find and perhaps not really worth preordering, but when Guitar Hero II came out for Xbox360, at most stores it was a nightmare. In my home area in particular, the common attitude is ‘I’ll just come in the day it comes out,’ but the large GH bundles were not in huge supply, and those that we DID have were all reserved out by people who had paid deposits on them. We accepted preorders on the game for months and plenty of people passed on it and got angry with us afterwards.
It’s as simple as this. If you know you plan to buy Game X, then place a deposit on it. It will
A) ingratiate that employee to you, whether or not they show it immediately
B) guarantee that store gets sent at least a few copies as opposed to one or none
C) keep one copy held with your name on it when it arrives.
8) Policy is to hold preorders for 48 hours after the title’s release, and then we are ordered by corporate to start selling unclaimed ones to the public. Most stores are compassionate enough that they will readily hold yours longer if you cannot make it within the first two days. If you know you won’t be there within 48 hours to pick up your order, call ahead and ask for a manager to earmark it for you. Tell them when you intend to get it if possible, so they can mark it as such.
9) Preorder gaffes are a big deal to us. It does help to keep your receipt from your deposit, although all information is stored on the store computers and should be safe from issue. If you have multiple reserves you can have a list reprinted with your current deposits at any time. If the company loses your preorder or accidentally (or stupidly) sells it, raise issue with it immediately. Talk to the store manager or, if they are unwilling to assist, get contact information for the district manager. We take preorders seriously and stores that do NOT need to be called to our attention.
10) As shameful as it may sound, regular customers that preorder often earn employee gratitude quickly. We can’t help but appreciate them! Customers that order and pick up titles regularly are very likely to get extra help or attention from employees and managers when they have a problem or need help finding difficult items.
SUBSCRIPTION / DISCOUNT CARD
11) The card is really a matter of personal utility, but, like reserves, are part of what determines an employee’s worth to the company.
The discount card is, in full, a hand-in-hand offer with one year of Game Informer magazine. If gives you a 10 percent bonus on trade-ins of games, accessories, and (at some stores) DVDs, and 10 percent off the purchase of used games, accessories, and DVDs. Customers buying a strategy guide at time of the game’s purchase get 20% off the guide with the card as well. The card is only good if you have it with you! It is not locked to your name or phone number and we do not yet have a means of retrieving it. Most directly, it’s actually a service of the GI magazine and can be replaced by them. It is 14.99 for one year of the card and magazine. Officially, you are buying the magazine and the card is a bonus.
The card is useful if you buy used games or trade them in often. It’s that simple. Admittedly, used game prices are geared towards cardholders; a typical recent release is 60 new and 55 used, but 10 percent off means 49.50, which is a palpable difference (and recoups a third of the original price of the card.)
12) If you don’t own a next-gen system, don’t trade in often, or simply never buy used, the card isn’t for you and you can tell an employee so. Game Informer is still a fairly good magazine and offers occasional bonus coupons that stack with the card, so don’t write it off entirely.
13) This is a really harsh point to people. This is the source of more shouting and anger (and even threats) than any hot-title shortage ever. All of our trade-in values boil down to two factors; sellability and demand for that title.
The Gamestop trade-in business is based on on key tenet; we hardly turn down ANYTHING. For all the rage and screaming we take from people getting one dollar for years-old Madden games, you need to remember one key fact; we are taking in games that are often unlikely to EVER resell.
Most trade-ins we ever receive are not recent or desirable games. We take games in awful shape, without original cases, and that are years-old and so saturated that they will never, ever sell. Every gamestop is drowning in used Madden NFL 2001-2007’s as we speak. Old sports titles have no resale value, and we offer a small amount for them with the understand that we will probably never make that back on its sale. The point here is, simply, that there is no sense in decrying Gamestop’s trade-in values for games that you are unlikely to sell anywhere else.
Not all trade-ins are like this, however. Games in high demand are, appropriately, worth much more. This doesn’t just mean RECENT games like Bioshock and Halo 3. Super Smash Bros for the Gamecube is still trading in for fifteen dollars at the time of this writing; much more than any other Gamecube game. Games or items we are likely to resell are worth far more than ones that are incomplete, in poor shape, unpopular, or overly plentiful. Always bear this in mind. Some tips for trading in;
14) Many Gamestops don’t take DVDs any more, and the company as a whole is phasing them out. DVDs are worth very little and you shouldn’t bother.
15) Used accessories are split into two values; one for the official first-party versions (Sony, Nintendo, etc official controllers and parts) and one for off-brand models. First-party accessories and parts are always worth much more; they are generally higher quality, always more compatible and faster to sell. Some name-brand controllers are worth up to twice as much trade-in value as their off-brand counterparts.
16) Sports games come out annually and decline in value instantly. Never count on a good value from them.
17) Outdated consoles are traded in every day. Almost every gamestop literally has fifty or more used Xboxes and Gamecubes in stock at any time. They do not sell and we get one at least every day, so they are worth very little. The new slim PSP is in much higher demand than the original, and so the trade-in value on the old model has since dropped. If you want the hot new version of anything, trade in as far before its release as you can stand so you can get the peak value.
18) We can’t simply ‘trade’ one game for another in stock. I know it sounds silly, but its a very very common misconception from children to adults that we simply swap one for another of your choosing. It simply can’t work that way.
19) Don’t be afraid to sell things on your own! The going resell rates for any current games or accessories online is usually close to what we resell for. If its a much newer title and you don’t mind listing and shipping it, you could make a small handful more selling it online yourself. Ebay and Amazon.com are obvious choices, but you may find other outlets that work for you.
20) Most importantly, take good care of your games! We simply can’t take mangled games, and games with some damage or no cases generally aren’t worth as much because they either need repairs or will be unlikely to sell without case/manual. I’m always grateful to anyone who brings in a trade of good products in good condition, because it always nets them more value and is better for the store all around.
Here’s a few tips to get the most out of your local Gamestop;
21) When buying used accessories, always go first-party. Official accessories are consistently more durable and longer-lasting, even when pre-owned. Off-brand PS2 memory cards, even if licensed by Sony, are notoriously unstable. Pay the extra money for Sony or Microsoft brand, it’s worth it in the long run.
22) When buying NEW accessories, off-brand or Gamestop-branded accessories can be reliable and much cheaper alternatives. While I’d still recommend official first-party controllers, some products, like Gamestop universal AV cables / AC adapters are very convenient and incredibly cheap by comparison. When buying ANYTHING wireless, go for first-party or Logitech brand; all other brand wireless controllers are simply inferior in response and durability.
23) Many Gamestop employees are good at what they do and are knowledgeable enough to help you out of the occasional technical snafu, but we simply are not tech support and can’t be counted on as such. This sounds condescending, but you really need to read the instructions for new merchandise in full before calling for assistance or declaring it defective. We lose plenty of good product every week from people buying wireless Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3 controllers, not bothering to sync them to their systems at home, and returning them as ‘defective.’ It seems silly but it’s a constant, almost daily problem. If you bought a used item that does not have instructions, inquire at the time of purchase if there is any information or documentation that you may need.
24) Courtesy-wise, please, bring in your trades before 8pm if at all possible! A game or two here and there isn’t hard to organize, but all too often a person will carry a duffel bag of every game they ever owned into the store ten minutes before closing. Sorting out sellable/defective games, relabeling them, making new cases, alphabetizing them into displays and all other work requires time and effort that we don’t muster well when we’re trying to close our store without going over our allotted payroll! If you have a lot to trade in, save it for a day that you can go in earlier. You’ll get better, less rushed service and your cashier will be more likely to help you find the best offers or promotions to bring up your trade values.
25) We ID for M-rated games. Typically we ID anyone who appears to be under 30, but I have seen managers who ID any and all customers for M and R rated products. You need to accept when doing business with Gamestop that we have to enforce the ratings for safety of our own jobs and the industry as a whole. An employee will likely refuse sale if you can’t provide picture ID with date of birth for an age 17+ title. We are all warned regularly by corporate and the punishment for slip-ups is generally immediate termination.
26) If we don’t have an item you’re looking for, we can pretty easily check in with nearby stores so long as they are within our district. Some Gamestops even have an “On-hand Lookup” function that will allow them to search a larger area of stores for hard-to-find items. Ask if your store has this and take advantage of ones that do when trying to find specific games. The Gamestop website’s locater is also useful, but limited to items in the online catalog.
27) Wiis sell out within hours of shipments arriving consistently. If you want a Wii from Gamestop, contact the nearest and most convenient shops to you and ask what time of day they receive their weekday shipments. Call them around that time every weekday, and when they have one, get there promptly, because we cannot hold them for anyone. We rarely get more than one shipment of Wiis in a week, but it never hurts to call every weekday. We’d rather get multiple phone calls than see you waste a trip out to the store or, even worse, miss a shipment because you didn’t call that day!
28) More important than anything else I’ve said, a Gamestop is its employees, not its company or policies. This is capitalism, so vote with your patronage! Some Gamestops are definitely better than others, and they deserve to be rewarded with your business. If any one Gamestop is consistently poor, avoid them. Word spreads fast, and bad stores learn to shape up if pressed.