GameStop - Shady and Illegitimate Business Practices

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            Once upon a time, there was a small gaming retailer that can be easily found at your local mall. This retailer specialized in selling video games exclusively and that included mainstream and niche titles alike. Gamers enjoyed the fact that they were able to have a chance to purchase games without having to give their money to big and evil retailers like Wal-Mart or Target. But then one day, this small gaming store became big, eventually buying out multiple retailers that specialize in this business. Nowadays, this retailer is well known for shady business tactics and screwing over consumers on a daily basis.

            Who am I talking about? It would be none other than the GameStop/EBGames retailer chain. Gamers across America have been shopping there for years now. Trading in their old games for meager store credit, talking to certain (Not all) incompetent staff members who have no clue about the industry whatsoever (When you hear rumors about Halo 3 hitting the Nintendo PlayStation 3 in 2008, there is something up), and constantly bugging you to pre-order the next crappiest game hitting store shelves in a month or two. This is a gamer tradition, to endure the smelly, small, sadistic little store so we can purchase Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories because no one else will stock it. But, there is one little thing that has been kept on the quiet side over the years. It is a secret that corporations don't want you, the petty consumer, to know.

Welcome to bad business practices 101! Today, we will learn a modern example of such!

 

            What if I were to tell you that the games that you could have been buying all these years from them are not new whatsoever and yet, they are still charging you the same price? Worse, what if I told you these same games have been played before, have the potential to be damaged, and yet YOU, the consumer, are paying full-retail price for these games? This happens and frequently for that matter. Unfortunately, consumers don't have a single clue that it is considered to be an illegitimate business practice.

            Under corporate policy, employees are allowed to "check-out" games for a four-day period. Once the four-day period is up, they return the game, stick it back in the case, and re-seal it. Yes, there is a policy that if the game is damaged or is missing its original contents, the employee is supposed to pay for the damages. How often does this happen though? Not often at all, considering low-level managers are being paid by the hour, they don't really have an incentive in keeping an eye out for damaged games.

Yep, rented this Pokemon game below for a week. Time to sell it brand-new to some ignorant consumer!

            Regardless, this is a shady business tactic. This is like if I sold you a microwave as "new", even though I might have used it a couple of times in the past. Sure, I may have cleaned it up, put it back in its original packaging, and re-sealed it, but does that change the fact that it has been used? Nope. Do I, as a business, have the right to sell it you as a perfectly brand new item? Nope. If any other company or retailer pulled this kind of tactics off with other items, the general media would have a field day.

            That is not the only way they sell you "brand new games" in a different fashion. Sometimes, GameStop and EBGames like to be extremely cheap. Instead of getting a photocopied version of the original box-art to put up for display, they will instead take a new game, gut it out and stick it in an envelope for storage, and put the box-art up for display. Is this a bad thing? Not really and I can understand why they would do this. What makes it bad is that when that is the last copy to be sold in the store, the consumer ends up completely screwed. The retailer will put the game back in its case, attempt to find the manual and the remains of its content, and then they will sell it to you at full-price.

            As I said, if this was done with any other item in any other industry, you would never hear the end of it. The very minute you break the factory seal on an item, it is no longer new. If you emailed any video game publisher about this, they will tell you the same. Once the factory seal is broken, it is not a new game and it considered to be used. GameStop and EBGames can't understand this simple concept though. Who ends up paying at the end of the day? The consumers, they are the ones paying $50 for an opened up product, which may or may not have already been used, and it has been sitting around in an envelope.

Alright, popped my corn, now it is time to re-wrap it and sell it as new!

            Going back to my original example, that is like BestBuy taking a HDTV out of its original box and putting it up for display. Lets say that is the final TV they have in the store. BestBuy will sell it to you at a reduced price, because it has been used as a display model. But what if BestBuy were to say, "Oh, this TV is brand new! Oh, well, we keep it on display for the consumers but rest assure, it is brand new and you will pay the full retail price for it, despite us using it as a display". As I said, if anyone else were to pull this kind of shady business tactics, they would find themselves in some serious trouble.

            So what can we do as consumers to fight back? Easy, we don't purchase the display model games. It is that simple. If they try to sell you an opened up copy as a brand new game, you tell them you want a sealed copy. What they are selling you has been used as a display model and more than likely has been "rented out" to one of their employees in the past. Demand that you want a factory sealed game if you are going to pay full price for it. We're consumers at the end of the day, we DO NOT bend to the will of a business. The businesses should be catering to us ultimately and there should be no compromise for that.

            You don't see BestBuy, Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us, or any other business pulling strategies like above. Why should GameStop and EBGames be considered a special case? They're not, they are huge a business and by no means are they struggling to stay alive in this huge retail industry. It is up to us in the end to show them that we are quite simply not taking this crap and we should be treated better as consumers.

Jason Giles - Staff Writer - Microsoft Division