Just like Wal-Mart has become synonymous with big box retail stores, Gamestop (and its Canadian subsidiary EB Games) have become engrained in gamer culture as the most ubiquitous game store franchise around. Everywhere you go, there is one conveniently located and many gamers rely upon them to purchase their new and used titles for the current generation of consoles. However, like Wal-Mart, they also define “love or hate” with gamers since their convenience is offset by their prices, the condition of the games they sell and their sometimes dismal trade-in value. Some people love Gamestop and swear by them, however I am not one of those people for the reasons noted above as well as some of the worst experiences in customer service I have ever experienced. Grab some popcorn – this is going to be a long one.
The issues I have experience with Gamestop are likely echoed by thousands of gamers, but they start with a pricing structure that is beyond idiotic at times. It’s no secret that many people prefer to buy their games used because they either can’t afford to pay full retail or they don’t feel the game warrants a first day purchase. Perhaps sensing this, Gamestop typically prices their used games at a meager $5 below the full retail, therefore a game that goes for $59.99 brand new will cost $54.99 used. There is very little value in a negligible price difference when the purpose of buying used is to save enough money to justify waiting. I frequent a few independent game stores and they price their used titles $10 to $20 below retail, which represents a better value in my mind and is the reason why I shop there. This disparity in price is also reflected in order titles, some of which Gamestop is very slow to reduce the prices on. The best example of this was finding a copy of Nier on the Xbox 360 that they priced at $37.99 used when it goes for $20 new almost everywhere else. The one thing that Gamestop does guarantee is that the title you are looking for will be in stock on release day, which is far enough for people who have no choice but the shop there, however I have plenty of places in Toronto where I can buy my games from and I choose not to make Gamestop one of them.
The prices aside, the condition in which they sell the games is the biggest reason that I avoid Gamestop. Due to their anti-shoplifting policy, all games that are displayed on the selling floor are opened and empty and the discs and manuals are kept in drawers behind the counter. This would be fine if they were simply for display, however Gamestop sells these gutted copies at full retail price, despite the fact that they are opened and effectively rendered used. You can avoid this by requesting an unopened one that they keep behind the counter, however if they are out of stock, you either have to settle for the gutted copy of wait until new stock comes in. As bothersome as this is, it’s nothing compared to the abundance of stickers that Gamestop sees fit to plaster all over the game cases, and even on the game artwork itself on occasion. Most used games sold at Gamestop have three stickers – a price sticker on the front, a barcode sticker on the spine and another barcode sticker on the back. Talk about overkills, and worse yet, these stickers seem to use a cheap adhesive that makes removing the stickers a major chore. There are no games I have purchased at Gamestop that don’t have torn stickers or “sticker gunk” adorning the cases. For more casual gamers, this is not a problem and many don’t care about these stickers, but they can be the bane of a collector’s existence.
My third main complaint about Gamestop is the customer service I have experience there, and I would be very polite in stating that it has been terrible almost every time. One such occasion was the time I went looking for a Suikoden game that as released on the Nintendo DS. At the time, the store was empty and it was just a girl and a guy working there, and they couldn’t have been any older than 19 or 20. I asked the girl if she had this game in stock and she gave me a quizzical look akin to the almighty “WTF”, and she proceeded to ask me how to spell it. This was not a big deal, since I can’t reasonably expect people to know every game on offer, so I spelled it out for her. It came up as being not in stock, and she asked her co-worker if he knew of this game. His response hit me like a load of bricks: “Yeah, it’s one of those gay RPGs”. It took me a minute to process what this asshole just said, and when I finished my double-take, I replied that his commentary is uncalled for and I just want to know if the game is in stock. He confirmed that it was not and I left the store, struggling with the urge to give him a beat-down for his attitude and partially kicking myself for not doing so. After debating what to do, I decided that this was unacceptable and I called the store later and asked to speak with the manager. If the employee was Beavis, this guy was Butthead. I told him what happened and his demeanor was one of total indifference. I ask him what he planned to do about it, and his reply was “What do you want me to do? I don’t pay these people much and I can’t really control what they do when I’m not there.” This from the manager of the store, the one who hires employees and handles customer complaints. I did entertain the thought of complaining to the corporate office, however I sensed that it wouldn’t get me far because the culture of the company is such that they put morons like that in charge in the first place. I moved on and thankfully found the game elsewhere, purchased from a nice guy who complemented my taste in games.
I’ve always held the firm belief that you should never paint an entire group in a bad light just because of the misdeeds of a select few, so I will avoid hyperbole by not insinuating that all Gamestop stores are terrible and all staff who work there are bad. While I have had some bad experiences with their customer service (or lack thereof), there are probably many great people who work there and I’m sure some customers have had nothing but good experience with Gamestop. Sadly, I cannot claim to be one of them. Their prices are uncompetitive and sometimes just plainly off the mark, the condition of the games they sell is very questionable and the management of the stores is sometimes terrible. Other issues I could harp on include their aggressive push for people to pre-order games, but that's a lesser concern for me. However, I do recognize that Gamestop is the only option for some people due to a lack of other options where they live, so the convenience is one factor that works in their favor. If you just want a place you can quickly and conveniently get a game and you’re not bothered by the condition you get it in, Gamestop is not a bad option. If you’re a game collector, bargain hunter or someone who wants some friendly service, you may want to look elsewhere as I do. I have several stores in Toronto that are better than Gamestop in every way and this is where I prefer to put my money. With so many other places and great places like Amazon where you can get games, Gamestop's time has passed in my opinion.