9 Insider Secrets From A Retail Video Game Salesman

A salesman working at a popular video game store shares nine insider tips for customers:

1. Extended warranties are usually unnecessary. Nintendo and Sony have one-year warranties on their systems. Microsoft recently extended their 360 warranties from 90 days to a year. Most broken systems stop working before the year’s end. Nintendo has the fewest issues and best customer support, in my personal experience.

Eight more, inside…

(Photo: Tengaport)


I’ve worked for a pretty popular video game retailer for almost two years. I’ve worked on more than one location, and I’ve had plenty of encounters with various levels of management. I thought that Consumerist readers might be interested in hearing some of the things that go on inside these sorts of companies – practices, policies, etc.

2. Having a game reserved does not guarantee you will get it on launch. We over-reserve games all the time. Systems are even worse. It’s an unfortunate fact that, while the pre-order system is useful and helps a lot, any company that guarantees the game if you pre-order it is lying to you. They can’t guarantee it, and what’s worse, it’s often first come first serve for those that did.

3. Customer Service hotlines are powerful weapons. I once witnessed a man get a 360 premium system on launch day, despite being about 30th on our reserve list (we got 10 in our allocation) because he called and complained to the Customer Service hotline. Every time I’ve heard of a customer calling to complain, our higher managers bends over backwards to accommodate the customer. It’s almost sick. Please – use this power for good and not for evil.

4. Stores MUST honor signage. I’ve seen a $60 game placed in the hole where a $19.99 game was displayed, and we were forced to honor that price. I refuse to do this to stores on a matter of karma, but if you really feel like it, you can get the prince advertised, even if it’s a mistake.

5. We are often told to bundle as a RULE. I know of stores that refused to sell any high-demand system (Wii, 360, etc) to someone who didn’t purchase their membership card, and who refused to tack on at least $200 in accessories/games. Attach rate is how many stores are ranked in terms of priority for getting new shipments – those with higher rates of accessory sales get systems faster because those items are quite profitable.

6. Used game sales are a game retailer’s biggest source of profit. Companies like GameStop, EB Games, and Gamecrazy generate the largest margins through selling used games. If we give you $2 cash or $3 store credit for a game, most likely we’ll be putting it on the shelves for $14.99. These companies would RATHER sell you the used copy than the new, because they make more money on the used.

7. Membership card = Customer Retention tool. If you already shelled out $20 for a membership to one of our “clubs,” chances are you’re gonna return to our store. Ever notice how we rarely give discounts off new games with those memberships? Again, it’s all about the used game sales. We can afford to give you 10% off used games because we’re still making a ridiculous amount of profit. I had one manager who refused to hire anyone who didn’t shell out $20 for the card.

That being said – sometimes these cards end up being worth it. I’ve had people come up and buy $300 in used Xbox 360 games – at that point, the 10% off is actually LESS than they’d pay without the card. My advice? Don’t be swayed unless you’re getting your money’s worth from the start, or you KNOW you intend to make a big used purchase soon.

8. Employees are ranked. Companies often rank employees by various metrics: the number of membership cards they sell, the number of games they convince customers to reserve/preorder, the number of extended warranties they can sell, their “attach rate” (adding accessories, strategy guides, and other profitable items to games and systems), their ratio of new to used sales, and (especially during the holidays) the number of gift cards they sell. Management will use these numbers to determine job performance, and they can influence raises/promotions/threats of being fired. Some of these items are even commissioned.

9. KNOW THE RETURN POLICY. Most stores have very generous used game return policies, but not always. Know the return policy and don’t expect a retailer to bend it to your will: Management are draconian about returning stuff beyond set dates, and it can hurt employees to violate that policy. Most of the time, an exchange or trading the game in (at a significantly reduced price) will be your only option.

Working at a video game store isn’t always bad – I get to discuss a topic I’m passionate about with people who are the same. And nothing beats the feeling of having someone come back into the store and exclaim: “That game you recommended was awesome! What else do you think I would like?” But for a lot of customers, it can be a frustrating experience to walk into the store and immediately be bombarded by high-pressure sales pitches aimed at nothing but the company’s bottom line. Try not to let these people get to you: I guarantee at least as much pressure is being directed at the cashier by management as he or she is leveling towards you. Just remain calm, put your game face on, and don’t buy anything you didn’t want when you walked in!

Happy gaming, everyone!

Thanks, Anonymous! We love hearing from people on the inside. — BEN POPKEN