A new allocation of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X / S bundles brought crowds of hopeful customers to physical GameStop locations over the weekend, according to a report by Bloomberg and corroboration by a Kotaku source. Staffing shortages and the threat of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic in the United States made employees feel both overwhelmed and unsafe.
GameStop workers were first made aware of the allocation on Saturday morning, with just 15 minutes between the internal announcement and the time customers were notified via email. As the next-gen consoles have been nearly impossible to find, stores were almost immediately overwhelmed with phone calls and visitors hoping to get their hands on the limited stock.
What was already a stressful situation grew more so when GameStop’s point-of-sale system crashed as the event went live, which left crowds waiting for hours in retail locations whose covid-19 precautions have previously been revealed to be less than perfect.
One employee, who asked to remain anonymous, told Kotaku the entire situation was “bull crap.”
“I have no idea what our corporate office was doing trying to get people to flock to the store in the thick of the pandemic and rising covid numbers,” said the employee.
GameStop’s subreddit, which employees use on a regular basis to anonymously complain about the company’s working conditions, is full of similar accounts.
Speaking to Kotaku, a GameStop rep said the weekend’s events were the company’s way of discouraging scalping. We’ve included the company’s entire statement below.
“GameStop recently received a new inventory supply of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles. To reward our most loyal PowerUp Rewards Pro members, we made the decision to notify these customers exclusively of the new supply of consoles as a way of expressing our appreciation for their business and trust in GameStop to meet all their gaming and entertainment needs. Our approach to quickly notify these customers was designed to ensure they, and not resellers, were able to purchase the console of their choice through our Web-In-Store e-commerce application. We realize that in some situations our approach of notifying customers of this opportunity may have caused unintended reactions from both our associates and customers. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
Over the last few years, GameStop has seen a massive reduction in both locations and workforce, but the struggling business has managed to stay alive in spite of the complications introduced by the covid-19 pandemic.
The employees that remain, however, have seen their hours cut, which often leaves GameStop managers without necessary support to cover both regular work hours and the currently extended hours of the holiday season. A controversial internal promotion recently asked stores to compete for Black Friday hours by submitting dances to video-sharing platform TikTok.
While dressed in noble intentions, GameStop’s surprise weekend allocation is the cherry on the shit sundae that has been its treatment of employees in 2020. Being a worker in a capitalist society is rarely a cakewalk, and can only become more stressful when the people who run your company seem to care so little for your well-being.