in videogames

The madness of GameStop

Most experiences I’ve had at GameStops have been positive. The staff has been knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and helpful. But between the piles of used games, the warranties, and the endless tchotchkes everywhere, I’ve always felt like employees are tasked to upsell like their lives depended on it.

I had no idea. Jason Schreier over at Kotaku has written up a pretty nutso description of what GameStop employees are expected to do:

The program, called “Circle of Life,” gives each GameStop store different percentage quotas for 1) pre-orders; 2) reward card subscriptions; 3) used game sales; and 4) game trade-ins. Each of these quotas is based on the store’s total transactions. Pre-orders and reward cards subscriptions are based on the number of transactions, while used game sales and trade-ins are based on the total dollar value of transactions. 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 […]

The more new games an employee sells, the more used games they’ll have to sell to make up for it. In other words, according to salespeople speaking to Kotaku and elsewhere on the internet, GameStop is incentivizing employees to stop people from buying new games and hardware. GameStop staff say the company has threatened to fire people who don’t hit these quotas, which is leading to all sorts of scuzzy tactics.

“We are telling people we don’t have new systems in stock so we won’t take a $300 or $400 dollar hit on our pre-owned numbers,” one GameStop employee told me in an e-mail, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to press. “This is company wide and in discussions with my peers it is a common practice. We also tell customers we don’t have copies of new games in stock when they are on sale—for example, Watch Dogs 2 is currently $29.99 new and $54.99 pre-owned. We just tell them we don’t have the new one in stock and shuffle them out the door.”

I have a few friends at GameStop who confirm that these details are largely accurate. It’s a sad state of affairs and I hope the company puts a stop to this.

If a company structures its incentives incorrectly, sub-optimal behavior will always follow. For another example of this, see: that infamous Comcast phone call. Also, Wells Fargo.