We often hear from people who vow that they’ll never shop at GameStop again after one last straw of a terrible shopping experience. They’re usually not ex-employees, though. Marisa used to work at GameStop. It was a while ago: before, she claims, staffers were encouraged to sell quite so aggressively. Advanced sales techniques and even exceptionally good interpersonal skills aren’t required for employment at GameStop, or so we hear. Marisa’s experience annoyed even someone who used to spend hours in the store, though. That says something. She’s all irrational and expected staffers to know something about games.
Alright, so I know there are plenty of “OMG I HATEZ GAMESTOP” stories out there, but my experience this weekend was truly… exemplar.
I was in GS on a whim looking for Heavenly Sword. I know it’s an ancient game by most standards these days, but I wanted a hack and slasher for when I’m on the bike. I went into the GS, and a guy who hits every damn negative stereotype about a GameStop employee walks over.
Employee: “Hey, can I help you look for anything?”
Me: *holding Heavenly Sword in hand, looking at Demon’s Souls with my boyfriend, he’s holding a ME2 Collector’s Edition* “Nope, I’m good.”
Employee: “Sure, great! Just let me know if you need any help. By the way, Madden 13’s coming out, we’re doing a launch event you should think about!”
Now, if he had made any attempt to actually upsell me on something I’d be interested in, I’d give him a pass. But come on, if you try to upsell someone holding an RPG hack and slash, looking at another RPG hack and slash, with their boyfriend holding a space opera RPG, DO NOT TRY TO SELL ME ON MADDEN. It’s simple probability. If I seem to be interested in RPG’s, I could perhaps be interested in another RPG. I am most likely not interested in Madden.
So he heads on back behind the counter, chatting to his coworker about another launch event he completely botched. Yeah, that’s comforting. After wandering the store for a bit looking for other games, I took the case to the front.
Now, the case I’d grabbed was used, but was one of those miraculously intact copies with the art, box, manual, and presumably a disc. I’d turned down a copy at the GS across the street because it had their crappy replacement cases just a few minutes earlier, in fact. I knew the drill–the disc would be behind the counter, kept safely hidden away to make sure no one just walked out with it.
In addition, I’ve worked at GS before. I know how they try to manipulate their sales by trying to sell ‘bad’ copies before the good ones, or by resealing the games they use as employee demo discs if the game is new. What I didn’t know was that they’ve started a new way of displaying their used games. They store ‘full’ copies in the drawer, with only one shelf copy to sell folks on the item. All of the ‘bad’ copies (no manual, no cover art, replacement box, etc.) are hidden in the drawers to swap out with the display copy.
He took the full copy I’d held and went into the drawer, gesturing at a bin of sleeves for upcoming games.
Employee: “Take a look at that pile right there of games, and let me know if there’s anything you’d like to preorder.”
Me: “I’m good, thanks.” *makes no move towards the little bin*
He took the perfect case, turned around, and rummaged in the drawer for a disc. As he did so, we both saw there was a case with the horrific fake insert. They’d clearly set this up to [switch the copies] if at all possible–if the person making the purchase doesn’t care, he was obviously supposed to sell me the ‘bad’ copy.
Employee: “Do you mind–“
Me: “I’d like the full copy, please.”
I think he might have refused to sell me the nice copy if it weren’t clear he’d lose the sale entirely if he did. He scanned it, and did some weird shuffle with the cases–it looked like he was trying to decide whether or not to sell me the nice copy or not. Thankfully, he did not try to do this. Then came the pitches.
Employee: “I see your card’s expired; do you want to renew it for a discount today and the magazine? It’ll pay for itself over the course of the year and save you a lot of money.”
Me: “No thanks, I hardly ever shop at GameStop these days.” *HINT HINT*
Employee: “Alright then. Did you see anything you’re interested in preordering from GameStop? Just five dollars down gets you a copy of the game the day it comes out, for no extra charge.”
Me: “No thanks, like I said, I’m hardly ever in here, and I use Steam.”
Employee: “You sure? You could preorder…” (he trails off, trying to think of something)
Me: “No really, I’m not interested.”
Employee: “Alright. Do you want a protection plan on this game? One dollar protects it against scratches or damage and gets you a replacement.
Me: “I’m fine, I’m just interested in the game.”
Employee: “It’s only a dollar, you know…”
Me: “I’m just here for the game. Thanks.”
This is exactly why I ran to Steam as soon as I realized what a wonderful thing it is. This is exactly why I now speak of GameStop in such disgusted tones. I quit just before the indoctrination really got going (thank God), because if this is what resulted from it, I’m glad I got out when I did. This is not customer service. This is harassment. This is a complete denial of the customer’s desires or reasons for being in the store. I repeatedly stated I was not interested in any of the upsells or alternatives he suggested.
That’s not harassment. It’s retail. A manager at a retail clothing store once explained to me that taking “no” for an answer isn’t good enough when hawking store credit cards or rewards programs. Her employees are required to get three refusals: that is to say, they’re supposed to ask you whether you’re interested in the card three times, touting different benefits and phrasing the question a different way each time. A good salesperson can slide this into conversation smoothly: an unskilled one, not so much. Your disinterest doesn’t matter: the cashier must keep going until you refuse three times.
That said, a store that has customers look to very specific metrics rather than understanding what the customer in front of them wants and needs will drive customers away.