GameStop has, in theory, a simple business model. It’s a store that sells video games, so you go in and buy video games, right? Well, in the past it turns out GameStop hasn’t necessarily had the customer’s needs first. And new allegations are surfacing that the company is punishing stores that sell you a video game.
The allegations, relayed by Kotaku, involve targets the store has to hit, called “Circle of Life” or COL, based on GameStop’s belief that players bring their new games back to be resold as used ones in an endless cycle. Each store has a quota for pre-orders, reward card signups, used games sold, and games traded in. Fairly typical so far, right? Notice, however, that actually selling you a game isn’t in those quotas. The issue, as Kotaku lays it out, is this:
If a store’s quota for used game sales is 30%, and the store sells $1,000 worth of merchandise, GameStop expects at least $300 of that merchandise to be pre-owned. So if someone walks into GameStop and picks up, say, a brand new copy of Yakuza 0 without 1) pre-ordering another game, 2) subscribing for a new rewards card, 3) buying a used game, or 4) trading in some games to help pay for it, then the transaction will knock down all four percentages.
It gets worse: Apparently every employee on the floor and the store itself has to hit 75% of their quotas, or they’re facing punishments that include being fired. Employees have posted a guide to surviving this program on Reddit that’s some rather bleak reading:
If a customer hands you a new case, your first reaction should be to check for pre-owned (hell, the POS does it for you). Keep the pitch simple – “I actually have a pre-owned copy if you want to save a few bucks, and if you don’t like it you can bring it back.”
That line alone should get you your PO%. If they still want new, gauge why – do they not trust pre-owned? Maybe you can convince them with the guarantee. Do they not think it saves enough money, or want something packaged with the new game? Just let them go. You’d be wasting time you could be spending on another transaction.
The comments to that guide are illuminating, if depressing, reading as well, with managers griping that four-hour-a-week teenagers have no reason to care about an incentive system for a disposable retail job, and some stating they’ve simply taken those employees off the retail end of things altogether. Frankly, the picture painted by the company’s own employees is not a flattering one.
It’s not a secret that GameStop doesn’t treat its workforce terribly well, or that it would vastly prefer you buy their used games, which they keep all the money from, than new games, which they have to pay for. But this is kind of a bizarre situation: GameStop had to know, first of all, that this was going to come out, and secondly, that it was going to anger both their customers and the companies publishing games.
Apparently, your beleaguered local GameStop team is hoping this program will just go away soon enough, and we have to agree with them. Like it or not, if you want new games, you’re probably only hurting the store by buying them.