GameStop’s Circle Of Life

No power to the players.

At some point in all gamers’ lives, we’ve at least considered the idea of working at a gaming store. The thought alone sounds perfectly normal and innocent. If you are into video games, why not work at a place that sells them? But just like the dream of being a developer for either Konami or EA, the idea may not be as pretty as it seems. And there are plenty of public horror stories out there, that would warn you off those particular career paths. The same goes for being an employee at a GameStop/EB Games store. 

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Not too long ago, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier released a report on one of GameStop’s newest programs, titled the ‘Circle Of Life.’ Without going too deep into the fine details (you can read the article for yourself), this new program incentivizes and pushes employees into selling used goods over new ones—no matter the price or situation. I’m sure you don’t need me to persuade you into thinking how messed up that is. Not only does this screw over the consumer, but theoretically, it also meddles with the companies that make these games. In some of the worst situations described, customers are lied to about the stock of new games and are instead encouraged to buy pre-owned. So in the end, the purchaser doesn’t get what they really wanted, and the game’s publisher is cheated out of a proper sale. Now, I’m all for the sale of pre-owned games, but this is downright criminal. GameStop appears to hold its buyers in pure contempt. 

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Since the release of that report, GameStop corporate has sent out a memo that states this behaviour is not widespread and that the article itself ‘couldn’t be further from the truth.’ They also used the fact that they apparently issued one billion trade credits to customers last year (70% of whom spent it on new products), as a reason for their innocence. But that fails to address the main issue outlined in the article, which does not affect the people who trade in their games, but affects those who are trying to buy new ones, not previously owned. Even if it did somehow prove they were right, the ‘Circle Of Life’ program itself, has some fundamental issues. The percentage quotas are inherently designed to force employees into pushing used games onto customers. 

Before this comes to a close, and for anyone who has gotten the wrong idea, this piece has simply been a critique of GameStop as a whole and not of the individuals who may have to enforce the aforementioned store policy. But, I digress. So other than being shady as hell, all of this new information just goes to show how much GameStop is on its last legs. 

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I’ve talked in the past about how I mostly buy and prefer physical media, but even I’ll be the one to admit that brick and mortar is on its way out—especially in the gaming industry. More and more, consoles are becoming like PCs in pretty much every way imaginable, and that includes how its games are sold. Sure, GameStop will try and struggle to stay relevant, but just like RadioShack, it won’t be long until people will start thinking of their brand as less ‘retro,’ and more outdated.

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12 thoughts on “GameStop’s Circle Of Life

  1. Brick and mortar game stores days are numbered I would say. Once the price of digital console games starts to come down and people continue to buy their physical games online I would expect them to almost disappear in the next decade (which will lead to a LOT of lost jobs sadly). It’s no huge surprise that these companies resort to these tactics to keep the money flowing in for as long as possible, but it certainly isn’t right. Especially if you make your employees lie to your customers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I believe I can shed some light on this a bit. Former store manager here.

    The Circle of Life program isn’t new, it’s been something that GameStop has had on the books for years. The incentive for selling used over new has been something they’ve preferred for years, and my store’s target preowned sales goal was about 60% of total sales. So, without breaking out spreadsheets here, if I ended the week with my store selling 75% preowned items, I was golden. If I finished a week with 20% preowned sales, I’d be in hot water.

    My personal practice for sales that I saw some success with implementation was to _suggest_ preowned over new; no lying or shady tactics were necessary. I’d make full use of the 7 day guarantee for my customers, telling them that if they wanted to buy the game without the risk of being stuck with it and not being able to return it, they could get a preowned version. If they wanted to buy a new item after I explained it, I’d sell them the new item.

    In other words, I never told my staff that their jobs were on the line for not having “good” numbers, we did our jobs well and it worked because our customers liked and trusted us (I hope). My bosses in turn were satisfied because they didn’t need to breathe down my neck for any reason (except credit card applications).

    That doesn’t mean that there aren’t examples of CoL gone wrong. There ARE Store Managers out there that will throw their staff under the bus if sales are low, Game Advisors that will lie to and cheat customers to make their numbers look good, and senior staff that will storm in and can people over low sales. That wasn’t my experience however. I get the feeling that Kotaku’s report is not only old news, but anecdotal to say the least. Granted, so is my experience. However, despite me being glad that I’m out of that shit, the environment that Kotaku is accurate.

    Liked by 3 people

    • While I’m not a hardcore GameStop fan, I also get the feeling that GameStop is a sort of scapegoat for anything and everything wrong with game marketing. I never worked at a GameStop, but I worked in a watch store/repair shop where I worked for commissions. I didn’t lie to the customers, but there were certain products I’d push, of course. You’re in a store; the clerk isn’t your friend – they’re trying to get you to buy a product that is either going to help their store stats or boost their commission.

      Again, though, that doesn’t excuse lying, and you shouldn’t sell your customers a bad product under the guise of “helping them get a deal.” And I think we can all agree that the upper management folks in any business have a tendency to forget what it’s like in the trenches when creating policy… GameStop is no exception.

      Like Blockbuster before it, I hope GameStop doesn’t go anywhere, actually. I like perusing shelves of media more than I like shopping online, even if it’s a little more expensive.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sales oriented jobs tend to attract some cutthroat people, because that’s how you really excel in sales. It’s a shame, because GameStop really could be a great place for gamers to go. I agree that GameStop usually is a scapegoat… I really hate how some people take out their frustrations on the staff though.

        Frankly though, I have no interest in revisiting the chain anytime soon. Too expensive for what they offer compared to Amazon or Best Buy, and I don’t get harangued by staff trying to get me to sell my games or preorder something.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, it’s hard to really take sides, because on one hand you want to clerk to be objective, but on the other hand, consumers need to be informed and realize the “sales” situation they’re in.

        And that’s fair. I haven’t really had a bad experience in a GameStop in regards to hard sells, so that might color my view. I went to high school with the store manager of the GameStrop I usually go to, and the other clerk there is a pretty honest guy, too. A little more expensive than online, for sure (and I don’t usually go to BestBuy because I actually get hassled there more than GameStop), but I figure I’m helping someone keep their job (and it curbs my spending a little bit! 😉 )

        Liked by 2 people

      • I shop almost exclusively online now from Best Buy and Amazon, but only because they offer new game discounts to the tune of about $12 off usually.

        I’ve had both good and bad experiences with GameStop, and there have been many good managers and DMs that have worked at my district’s stores over the years. I’m happy to call most of them friends, but the folks that I knew while working there are almost all gone.

        I’d say that if you have good people in your local store, do everything you can to keep them. Do a survey every time you go in if you can, and call them out specifically. It helps more than you may think.

        Of course, the same goes for negative experiences too. If you have a negative experience, make sure to let them know immediately.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not so surprised that this program isn’t anything new. I don’t blame GameStop for taking advantage of markets where they can come away with the most profit, but only when it is done ethically. I think it’s kind of sad, though, that the bad eggs are always the ones that are most recognised and reported on. But that’s just the nature of news media.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I worked at gamestop for three years, and in that time went from being excited and hopeful about selling video games to not even wanting to play them anymore because it reminded me of that hell hole. they treat their employees like dirt and don’t really care about anything but the bottom line (which to be fair is the point of most business). regardless, I still, to this day, say that they were the worst job I’ve ever had.

    And I’ve done insulation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sucks how a bad experience like that can ruin your taste for video games. Hopefully, in the future, GameSpot can start realising that employee well-being actually matters. Can’t exactly make your bottom line if everyone’s quit from your store.

      Like

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