GameStop Takes Buying And Selling Stolen Goods Seriously

WHO: GameStop
WHAT:Authorities said today that eight current and former employees of the world’s largest video game retailer have pleaded guilty to theft of property charges for buying video games purported to be stolen.
WHERE: GameStop employees nabbed in undercover sting [Commercial Appeal]
THE QUOTE: “GameStop takes this situation quite seriously,” said Rory Rhoads, GameStop’s Regional Vice President of Stores. “We are pleased to partner with the ALERT Unit and have taken very deliberate steps to improve our operations. Specifically, we have suspended our cash-for-trade transactions in Shelby County and DeSoto County, Mississippi until February 2009.”

(Photo: Marike79 )

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  1. BrianDaBrain says:

    I love that phrase “taking it seriously”. It’s so worthless.

    I am curious, though, how suspending the cash for games transactions counts as a “very deliberate step”. Steal some games, wait a couple of months, then sell them. Big deal.

    • agnamus says:

      @BrianDaBrain: Dude, given the current state of bannage going on, insulting one of their bread-and-butter memes is gonna result in a banning.

    • trujunglist says:

      @BrianDaBrain:

      Well, stealing games right now and holding them would be a bad idea, because game value tends to plummet pretty quickly.
      Thieves: wait until February 2009 (conveniently just after Christmas!) to steal your games and also make sure to go for the new ones only (and games like Guitar Hero which retain a high resale value due to extreme popularity). Don’t waste your time and possible jail time over NHL 2005; it’s worth about $1.

  2. Haplo9000 says:

    Yes, it’s so serious that they are suspending the practice of buying and selling used games…here in Memphis, and nowhere else. Last I checked, though Memphis is a decent sized city…..there are 49.95 other states out there with GameStops as well. How serious can it really be?

  3. Nofsdad says:

    >>The officers said the GameStop clerks would get cash from the register and then purchase the items for a fraction of their retail value. The items then were resold at a higher price, but officials said the clerks did not profit from the transactions.<<

    If they didn’t profit from the situation then why in the world would they risk criminal charges and jail time this way? I can see an employee in a random store maybe being dumb enough to do this but this many spread over an 18 store area?

    Hopefully this wasn’t just a local operation and this investigation extends beyond just the Memphis area, because SOMEBODY was making money from this deal.

    Maybe this investigation should have been carried out nationwide instead of just one area.

    • goodpete says:

      @Nofsdad: Exactly. Pawn shops are very clear to their employees concerning suspected stolen property. GameStop is essentially a pawn shop (albeit, a really bad one) when it comes to games. They should make it clear to their employees that if they suspect a game might be stolen, they shouldn’t take it.

      The fact that employees, ostensibly, had nothing to gain from receiving the stolen property, should be a huge red-light to the cops that this might be a more institutionalized practice. They should look into GameStop as a company.

      As for stopping cash-for-games in that small area… Huh??? What good does that do? They need to retrain all their employees, and put in procedures, not just to prevent employees from profiting from taking stolen games, but to punish employees and managers when it happens. They also need to start random checks at stores to make sure this doesn’t happen.

      Of course, “taking it seriously” is much cheaper than actually doing something.

      • freelunch says:

        @Nofsdad: The media is presenting the ‘cash transaction’ situation like an under the counter unauthorized purchase/sale that is being performed by the Employee at their own discretion.

        What is not communicated is the fact that the business model works like this. GameStop, the company, will give you cash or credit for your used games, and then sell them for a higher amount. Saying that the clerks “get cash from the register and then purchase the items for a fraction of their retail value” is the media presenting the FACTS in a way that misrepresents the TRUTH (GameStop bought the game, not the clerk).

  4. Etoiles says:

    When I worked at GameStop in New York City, we were subject to pawn shop rules. We had to fill out a state form for every trade-in, we had to hold game consoles at least 7 days before resale, we had to track serial numbers, and we had to take ID (passport or driver’s license / state non-driver ID only). We also were instructed to refuse any item that came in “new” — if it had a price tag or shrink wrap. And we were told that we could refuse trades for any legitimate reason (i.e., if I had a sound reason to suspect the property was stolen, I could refuse the trade. If I just started refusing trades from, say, all non-white males, that would not be a legitimate reason).

    This is another one of those things that shows how inconsistent INTERNAL branding and inconsistent management training really brings down a chain. Employees at our store were educated and empowered; employees at the store nearest my apartment were high-school dropout potheads. (Literally; you could smell it on one guy’s clothes.) If the chain would grow a pair and have some STANDARDS maybe everyone wouldn’t hate it there.

    • seital says:

      @EtoilePB:

      I currently work at a Gamestop in Oregon, and in the store I work at, there is literally a ring of people stealing games and selling them for cash. When I asked my store manager what to do he said “Take them in anyway. It doesn’t matter that they’re stolen because it’ll make our store look better”. It’s absurd that he would perpetrate this, but we’ve finally consulted with the mall security and are trying to get the leader of this ring banned from the mall, as well as in trouble with the police if at all possible. What happened with this store was probably something similar, only the cops thought the employees were out for personal gain, instead of following company ‘policy’.

    • roguemarvel says:

      @EtoilePB: This is the how it was at the two stores I worked at in California. On occasion we would let things slide if we had suspicion, but were instructed to make note of there info so if they game in with more shrink wrapped games we could put them on a ban list. Our district also put out regular email alerts so other stores could be aware some someone trying to sell stolen goods or steal.

      I really wish the company could fix those problem stores because I actually like gamestop. A good store is a fantastic place to shop and hang up, but those bad apples screw it up for the rest of us. And it only takes one bad manager or DM to screw up

  5. MayorBee says:

    I was wondering how the clerks would know the games were stolen when they purchased them. Then I clicked through and read the article. The undercovers were telling the clerks “I have stolen games to sell”. How stupid were these clerks?

  6. techstar25 says:

    From the article:

    “The officers said the GameStop clerks would get cash from the register and then purchase the items for a fraction of their retail value. The items then were resold at a higher price, but officials said the clerks did not profit from the transactions.”

    It’s shady, dishonest, and probably illegal. It’s also GameStop’s primary business philosophy.

    • MayorBee says:

      @techstar25: I thought that’s how the trade-in program worked there, though. Whether the games are stolen or not, you get a little cash for the game, they sell it at a markup. That’s not shady, dishonest, or illegal. Well, the knowingly accepting goods that were claimed to be stolen is illegal, but for regular transactions, everyone knows that’s how it works.

    • jusooho says:

      @techstar25: Buying low and selling high is “shady, dishonest, and probably illegal.” As a salesman I better be careful in techstar25′s world…

  7. British Benzene says:

    Wholesale theft (theft of a large amount of goods before they get to the retailer level) is a HUGE issue in Memphis due to its role as a distribution hub. I know Nike has had several high profile wholesale theft problems and I’ve dealt with some distribution warehouses that say they’ve had semi-truck drivers with paperwork and uniforms come to pick up loads and it turned out later it was all faked, and they just stole truckloads of goods.

  8. ciscokidinsf says:

    Yeah, plus Memphis’ logistics-shipping-distribution companies tend to hire college kids and ne’er do wells at very low wages. Being the heart of Federal Express probably meant last year people in Memphis had all the Wii-s they could buy.

  9. Mr.SithNinja says:

    Other than the part where the officers TOLD them the stuff was stolen, it seems like standard operating procedure to me. GS aren’t supposed to ask where the items came from but when they TELL YOU up front that is the only time you are supposed to refuse a trade. (other than items with missing serial #s)

  10. kaizoku80 says:

    An undercover sting for “stolen” video games? Really?
    Don’t these police have, I don’t know, actual police work to do? Are there no murder/rape/theft/etc. cases in Memphis to solve?

    • Parting says:

      @kaizoku80: I always thought that this is a perfect opportunity for police students in training. Unload this type of small crimes on them.

      • kaizoku80 says:

        @Victo:

        I halfway agree with you. In one sense it can help train new officers, but it can also help give them the idea that fighting little crimes like this, which wasn’t even a crime seeing as how it was a sting, is more important than real police work.

    • mugsywwiii says:

      @kaizoku80:
      Yeah, we should just pick a few laws to enforce and ignore the rest of them. That makes sense.

  11. Geblah187 says:

    This is nothing new – Gamestop/EB Games have been stealing from people for a long, long time.

    Take the recent World of Warcraft expansion for example: they have a “handling” charge of around $5 to preorder the normal version, and for some reason – they changed the fee from $5 to $15 for the collector’s edition. That is in addition to shipping charges, and even applies to in-store pickup if I recall correctly. Then, only after public outcry, they put it back down to $5.

    Just another reason I stopped giving them my business years ago.

    • golfinggiraffe says:

      @Geblah187: I never thought I’d be sticking up for Gamestop, but for the honor of my friends who work at one in Berkeley, I’m going to step up to the plate for them.

      That “handling” charge is applied to the game. It’s to lessen the amount of people who just pre-order and take forever to pick it up. Also, for highly coveted (or expected to be highly coveted) games, distribution sends only enough copies to cover pre-orders; only after all pre-orders are covered will they allocate extra copies to high-sales stores. A fee like this makes sure that, more often than not, people who pre-order seriously want the game.

      At that store, $25 is required for pre-orders of the Rock Band 2 bundle. Considering that it’s about $200, and that fee is credited towards the purchase anyways, I don’t see a problem with that charge.

      • Geblah187 says:

        @bluemonq:

        The thing is … that fee is NOT credited toward the charge, and it’s for ordering via the web for DELIVERY.

        And it’s in ADDITION to the shipping cost.

        What you’re thinking of is when you go and do it in person, where you have to put a minimum amount towards the guarantee of the purchase – something I have no issue with whatsoever.

        • Koinu says:

          @Geblah187:

          I just tried to buy something on Gamestop.com and was not charged a 5$ handling fee. Neither for instore pickup (Warcraft: Litch King) or for home delivery.

          • Geblah187 says:

            @Koinu:

            It’s been removed now, but do a little Google searching and you can witness the amount of outcry it generated. Cached versions of the pages might be available as well, but you’ll certainly find something on most forums.

            Why is it mysteriously less expensive to “process” these items now, hmm? Could it be that the initial charge was only because the game is so popular and Gamestop/EB just wanted to line their pockets? Nah …

            And since people continue to doubt that it happened – here’s a nice picture for you:

            [img401.imageshack.us]

            And if you type this into google:

            “lich Additional handling fee of $14.99 will apply site:www.gamestop.com”

            without the quotes – look at the cached page on the first result, and you can see where the image came from.

            Any more doubters?

  12. Greenzo says:

    I worked at an FYE and we bought/sold used games, cds and dvds. we would have regular “customers” who would bring in multiple copies of the same cd or dvd to sell. We always assumed it was stolen shipment boxes from walmart because there was one down the street from us, but we weren’t allowed to ask where the cds/dvds came from, we just had to buy them. the company’s policy was to buy everything we could, it’s cheap inventory and it tended to sell better since it was cheaper than buying something new. our manager’s assumption would be that if it was stolen stuff, we had their names, addresses, etc in our database and could provide the information to the police. he actually did call the police and walmart when a lot of stuff turned up, but they usually blew us off.

    • DantePD says:

      @Greenzo: I worked at GameXchange in college and we had the identical thing. There was a Wal-Mart within walking distance and we had one family bringing in sealed in box X-Boxes, PS2s, and Gamecubes. Along with 15 copies of SSX Tricky (5 for each system.) We called the county sheriffs department but they we’re a little busy handling bigger things (Birmingham seemed to be discovering meth at the time). We just took down their information and drivers license numbers. I did have one fun exchange with them.
      *guy comes in with his 15 SSX games, still shrinkwrapped*
      Me:Just didn’t like it?
      Him:Nah, it sucked.
      Me:It sucked 15 times? On 3 different systems?
      Him:Uhhh…
      Me:*sigh*

  13. Parting says:

    How would they know they were stolen?

  14. RanChan03 says:

    OMG i posted the taking seriously quote yesterday on kotaku, i was wondering when it would hit here. Funny thing, this happened in my hometown too. XD

  15. satoru says:

    If I were those employees I’d initiate a class action lawsuit against Gamestop. Basically we didn’t receive the training necessary to handle these situations and we were affected because of it.

    Lawyers in Memphis should be leaping on this like flies on poo! Gamestop has gazillions of dollars, lots of money for them to just settle for like $5 in gift cards for each employee.

    • Mr.SithNinja says:

      @satoru: Actualy they DO recieve the training. They are trained to turn down people (or at least alert the Manager) when someone walks in and says “Hi! I have stolen stuff to sell you.”

      • mugsywwiii says:

        @Mr.SithNinja:
        They actually need training for that? You’d think it’s, you know, common sense.

      • freelunch says:

        @Neuro223: yeah, I worked at a GS competitor for a few years back and actually laughed when they wanted to fire me because my ‘per week’ metrics were too low. I worked 4-8 hours a week, so of course I didn’t sell enough to make them happy. They told me I had “one more week” to try and hit metrics for 5 straight weeks before I told them to ‘man up’ and just fire me.

  16. Neuro223 says:

    I used to work for GS awhile back and I can tell you that while there was “training” to not take stolen property it was not very comprehensive at all. Normally just a manager or another associate saying not to ask, but if you are told the merchandise was stolen then refuse the trade.

    However with so much pressure on the employees to get good stats (trade-in totals among many other stats) I could see why employees would turn a blind eye to this in order to boost their stats and be able to keep their jobs another 2 weeks.

    I guess what I am saying is I agree with plamoni, they need to look at GameStop as a whole, this is not an employee issue at all… This is a Company issue..

    • damitaimee says:

      @Neuro223: i completely agree with you.

      this is NOT an employee only issue!! this is not a situation where we need to take individual employees to court. this is a situation where the company OVERALL needs to retrain and to hopefully be more lenient on employee stats regarding sales and buybacks

  17. SudhamayiKabong says:

    I never received any such training when I worked there a few years back. Granted it ought to be common-sense, so I’m not defending these guys. I’m just relating my experience.

  18. damitaimee says:

    i’m really confused as to why this article wasn’t clearer. it took me about 15 minutes to understand what happened. at first i thought gamestop employees were selling games that they had reported to the company had been stolen. now that is WRONG.

    BUT after reading several comments, and links provided, i now understand that officers were trying to sell used games at gamestop and announced that they were stolen. the employees still accepted them for resale, which is the ACTUAL crime.

    i think this whole story is being blown out of proportion.

  19. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

    At the Record Store, we had some thieves hit us up for box sets over the course of a week or two, then they tried to sell them back to us. We were instructed to buy them back, since it was our merchandise to begin with, but the dumb shiats didn’t think our buyback prices were good enough. One even said that it was her livelihood, so I opined that she might want to find a better way of making a living.

    Bottom line, they never sold them back to us, and probably ended up selling to a pawnshop for significantly less than what we were offering, if they didn’t just get stuck with them.

  20. kokoling says:

    Isn’t it standard policy for stores to buy things at a cheaper price and then sell at a higher price at retail. How’s that any different from all the CDs that Warehouse Music used to buy from me and sell them at twice or three times the price? It doesn’t make sense to me at all that these guys would be arrested.

    Mind you, they really should enforce something like this in New York where bikes and bike tires are stolen ALL the time and resold back to bike shops. Then those people who lost their wheels end up purchasing again from the bike shops. It’s ridiculous and totally uncouth. I go to school with a security guard who knows exactly who it is that’s been stealing all the bikes, and despite the fact that he’s been a guard for 18 years, he still hasn’t caught the guy. He just doesn’t care.

  21. chartrule says:

    here we have EB – if you want to trade in / sell a game they take down your drivers license information

  22. Koinu says:

    I feel bad for the employees because they were just doing what they were trained to do. Take in a tradein. This article makes it look like they are stealing money from the register to “buy” the games, and then trade them in themselves.

    We get stolen merchandise in all the time, we know it, the company knows it, the police do jack shit about it. Now if the undercover cops did tell them that it was stolen, I can see their side, but doing some research on this, it was just shady, and Gamestop is just covering it’s ass on this one.

  23. TrevorYYC says:

    I encountered somebody who told me they were trained not to question the source of used merchandise out of sensitivity to those who are selling the goods out of financial hardship…

  24. John H. says:

    In my book, Gamestop should not be trusted for anything. I once bought a “new” DS game from them that, when I got it home, turned out to have a save file on it. When I confronted them they said “if you’d look up our policy,” they were allowed to sell returned games a new.

  25. jonnewb says:

    I gotten my ps3 and wii stolen from my house so i went to my fav gamestop and purchased a used model and when i plugged it in i realized that it was the one that got stolen. They have to be able to track s/n or something. A customer service agent referred themselves as a pawnshop, are you kidding me customer do not consider gamestop a pawnshop and parents would not take them there if they had a pawnshop sign on there door. I will never spend 1 dollar there again