Last week, GameStop sent an email to its customers assuring them that the gaming retail chain was taking the necessary precautions in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Some employees, however, have shared concerns with Kotaku about the company’s ability to keep them and their customers safe.
GameStop’s message to consumers was that the company had assembled an internal covid-19 taskforce that would implement three key strategies to protect customers and employees. These included providing its 5,700 retail stores with cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer, instructing employees to stay home if they are symptomatic, and encouraging customers to purchase products online rather than at retail locations.
Despite GameStop’s outward messaging, internal documents provided to Kotaku by a current employee show that the company is less than prepared for this pandemic. Hand sanitizer is on backorder through the normal supply chain, leaving purchasing up to local management, which is not always able to find it due to shortages. Another employee says that GameStop locations in their area haven’t been provided the necessary tools to properly sanitize their stores.
“Thus far I’ve seen little to no measures taken from corporate, and I’ve certainly haven’t seen any supplies to prevent further outbreak,” said a GameStop supervisor who wished to remain anonymous. “My colleagues and I are sharing a small bottle of hand sanitizer that was purchased through our own pockets as well as making as much usage out of a depleting bottle of All Purpose Cleaner. We were only just given permission to turn off console demos yesterday and my cleaning supplies have been back ordered for two months. As far as more immediate measures go, the stores in my area have received nothing.”
“We’re enabled to go out to purchase these items ourselves and have them expensed,” said another GameStop store employee from California’s Bay Area. “At least in my store’s regard, it’s virtually impossible to find the items we need to adequately clean and sanitize the stores and keep ourselves as safe as we can.”
“One store is completely out of toilet paper and had to close their restroom because supplies responded to their email saying they were not shipping to stores,” said a third employee.
GameStop has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The upcoming releases of both Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal this Friday are also a cause for concern on the part of employees. The supervisor said that corporate has not yet mentioned anything to GameStop workers about the possibility of canceling the games’ midnight release events, which can typically bring dozens of eager customers together inside the small retail spaces.
The supervisor pointed Kotaku towards a lengthy Reddit thread, supposedly written by another Gamestop employee, that they say is a good summation of their experience. (Kotaku was not able to independently corroborate the veracity of the thread.)
With many people in social isolation and in need of entertainment, sources told Kotaku that more foot traffic has reportedly ended up at their GameStop locations. This could result in increased profits for a business that has seen sizable layoffs and store closures over the last few months. But the rate at which covid-19 is transmitted, even by those who aren’t feeling its effects, makes groups of any size a danger. The latest guidelines from the CDC recommend canceling or postponing gatherings of more than 50 people. This can easily be surpassed during midnight launches.
“Many associates are fearing losing their jobs because Store Leaders or District Leaders are telling us internally that if we stay home and do not supply a doctor’s note verifying we are being ‘doctor ordered to NOT work’ it will be an unexcused absence,” said one employee.
If you’ve already managed to burn through your backlog and you won’t just stay put (you should really, really stay put), GameStop employees ask that you know what you’re getting before you enter, and also suggest that you avoid loitering. A lot of people touch those games throughout the day, and without the necessary cleaning supplies, you never know whose germs you’ll be coming into contact with indirectly.
The GameStop Performance Center, an esports-focused gaming lounge located in Frisco, Texas, will be closed until March 23.