I would describe myself as a "casual gamer." By that, I mean that I enjoy video games more than the average person, but do not spend the majority of my free indoor time playing them; my Xbox Live profile describes my "gamer zone" as recreational rather than "pro" or "underground," so you can take from that what you will. Anyway, as a guy who likes to play video games. I am often buying video games. Not just the new ones, but older ones that I never got around to playing at the time of their release for whatever reason. Now, the Internet is a great place to find used video games, but with the cost and delay of the shipping process, I sometimes seek alternative options. Fortunately, there are several used video game stores close by. Unfortunately, they are all GameStops.
The mall used to have a Babbages upstairs and an Electronics Boutique (later EB Games) downstairs. There was also a Funcoland across the street. Due to a series of buy-outs and mergers, each of these is now a GameStop. So now we have two identical stores in the mall and a third across the street. To me, this is stupid. To succeed at selling any type of media, you need a large library. Why split that library into three parts within the same region? It's endlessly frustrating. Sometimes, I'll show up at GameStop A looking for a game. When they don't have it, they tell me to check GameStops B and C. They won't even look up whether or not the game is in stock at either of the other locations. In this day and age, how can it be impossible to do this? Obviously, they just want me to spend more time in GameStop stores, as more time in stores means more potential for them to make a buck. This is company policy; GameStop employees are not bad people (several of my friends have found themselves working there at one point or another), but part of their job is to refuse to let me know if other area GameStops have something in stock. After all, encouraging customers to waste their time is the right thing to do if there's a profit. Sadly, this is hardly the only example of GameStop shitting on its customers.
Try to buy a new game at GameStop, and they'll pester you to get it used instead. Even when you explain that the game is a gift, they'll try to convince you that giving somebody a used present isn't an egregious faux pas. I once went to GameStop seeking a DS game for my sister's birthday. When I asked for it at the counter, I was handed a used cartridge. When I asked for a new one, I was given a different cartridge. When I asked the man behind the counter if he had any unopened, factory-sealed, "no way this has ever been used" versions of the game, and not just loose cartridges, he gave me a funny look and hesitated before asking if it really mattered. I cut my losses and went to Best Buy for the game.
Try to sell GameStop a game still sealed in cellophane, and they'll accuse you of having stolen it. It doesn't matter if the game hasn't been sold new in years. I once tried to sell back Max Payne 2, which I had purchased new for no more than $1.50 a year ago and never opened. They weren't having it.
GameStop's worst offense occurred when I went into one a couple years ago with a bag full of PS2 games I did not want. There were probably 15 to 20 in total. I just wanted to see if any would fetch more than $10 or so. I put the bag on the counter and asked, "Can I see how much these are worth?" The GameStop employee immediately began to ring the games up, one after the other, without telling me the value of any of them. A second employee started taking the games out of the cases and preparing them for markup. These games were still mine. They were still my property. All I had asked for were some price checks. Yet here was a decent-sized chunk of my gaming collection being processed for resale right before my eyes. Adding insult to larceny, the employee taking out the discs had been in the midst of a meal from Burger King. Chicken fry grease and all, hands just working the game cases. She even put her dipping sauce on top of one stack of my games, spilling a dollop or two right on the cover, not giving even the slightest shit. It was horrible. It was like watching somebody kick your dog without understanding that it is wrong to do so - you can't get mad at them for not knowing any better, but still, you're just crushed witnessing it. When the games had been tallied, the man behind the counter said, "Sixty-four dollars. You want cash or store credit?" I told him to hold on a minute. I wasn't sure I wanted to sell all these games, or even more than a few, for that matter. Many were old favorites, and to get rid of most of them for less than $5 seemed depressing. But the guy made a big deal out of the fact that they had already been scanned into the system. Instead of asking which ones I wanted to sell, he asked which ones I wanted to keep. In his mind, they belonged to GameStop now, and he was doing me a favor by letting me choose a few to keep. In the end, I sold about a dozen games for $44 or so - less than the price of one new one. The guy was upset I had taken so many back (really, kept so many, as "taking back" implies that they had left my possession in the first place), but I had still only sold 2 or 3 that I really wanted to part with. I felt taken advantage of. Violated, in a way. When I later recounted the story to my GameStop employee friend, asking why the guy wouldn't just tell me the prices of the games before attempting to steal them from me, he shrugged it off and said it was just company policy. Of course.
Of course GameStop wants to buy as many of your games as possible. Of course they want to sell you used ones instead of new ones. After all, fifty percent of GameStop's revenue comes from the sale of used games. Half! GameStop will buy your game for three dollars and sell it for seventeen. I understand that, obviously, the middle man needs to make a profit for any middle man to exist. But in this modern era, why does a middle man need to exist? Why do GameStop's customers allow it to make 400% profit on many used games? If I'm looking to buy and somebody else is looking to sell, let's meet halfway and make a $10 exchange. In the aforementioned scenario, we both save $7. With sites like Craigslist and eBay existing, how in the world does GameStop stay afloat when they're blatantly (seriously, they don't even try to hide it - they can't) marking up their used games by ten to twenty dollars apiece? I suppose the answer is the dreaded word "monopoly." Again, there used to be three different competing used game retailers in the area. Now there's just one three-headed monster. I swear, anyone could make a killing (for a little while) by just setting up their own used video game store nearby, provided they had a moderate catalogue. I'm not going to explore the legality or financial stability of it, but how could a small business not succeed by advertising "Used Games: We pay 150% what GameStop will on all games, and sell them for 2/3 the price!" or something somewhat similar?
I hate the way GameStop treats both its customers and its merchandise. I hate that people enable GameStop by trading with them for twenty cents on the dollar. I hate that GameStop has bought out virtually every competitor outside of the Internet. But I can't bring myself to hate GameStop. After all, where else can you stumble upon NHL Hitz 20-02 for $2.99?