I’ve raked through miserable game store story after even more miserable game store story. So it warms my heart and restores my faith in humanity to learn just how many employees go out of their way for customers, too.
The Stolen Car
Shortly after I moved to Minnesota, I located my local Gamestop because I was hotly anticipating the release of Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core for the PSP. My only experience up to this point with a traditional game shop was with the awful people at a place called EB Games in Milwaukee, and I was pretty wary about the whole experience.
I was very unfamiliar with the city and the Gamestop was about 14 miles away. I eventually found it, parked in a parking lot near an eatery (the Gamestop lot had construction) and went in and purchased my game from an extremely nice cashier who didn’t try to push a preorder or extra stuff.
I left the Gamestop satisfied, and returned to the lot to find my car stolen and a pile of shattered glass where it used to be. At the time, the Gamestop rep was leaving work for the day and had parked in the same lot as me. I let him know what happened, and he offered to give me a ride to the police station, hung out with me while I filed the report, then gave me a ride home.
I never talked to the guy again, but damn do I appreciate the help. He went above and beyond, not only as an employee, but as a human being.
And the car was found 3 days later with only a broken window.
A Shitty Batarang
(via The Invisible Guppy)
I remember when Batman: Arkham Asylum came out, and GameStop had a big midnight release party for the game. They had free pizza, pop, snacks, and kiosks running various games to entertain everyone while they waited to line up prior to actually handing the games out.
At one point, early on, the manager had an associate open one of the collector’s editions so they could display all the cool swag it came with. While unpacking it, the associate called the manager over. They were inspecting something, and both looked concerned with flashes of what I guess were disbelief and disgust.
The manager called out for everyone’s attention. He pointed out the batarang replica that was in the collector’s edition, and showed everyone how bad it looked - and it did. They were cheap plastic, with these ugly gouges to make them look worn or something. They did NOT look like the ones in the ad. He told everyone that if they had a preorder for it, and wanted to cancel it for the regular version, they could.
About half the people who had reserved that version switched over to the regular game. They must’ve had plenty of extra copies, because everything went really smoothly.
It’s not like the manager saved a life or anything, but recognizing what a piece of crap the main item in the edition was, compared to the price, it was cool to see him go out of his way to make things right with his customers before they either felt ripped off, or walked away unhappy.
I shopped there a lot, and he always made sure customers were happy. His staff reflected that too. Eventually he left, a new manager took his place, and...well...let’s just say things changed.
The Whole Halo Banner
My freshman year of college I went into a local GameStop, for the first time, to pay off Halo Reach. The guy working was really cool, and we had a nice chat about Halo and other games coming out in the future.
As I was leaving I noticed they had Halo Reach promotional posters put up all over the store. I asked if there was any way I could get one, after the game came out or something, if they are just going to toss them out.
The guy I was talking to asked me to hold on and see what he had in the back.
A few seconds later the dude comes out with a LADDER, goes up and takes down a 7-foot long banner from the ceiling - a banner literally triple the size of the poster I was asking about; I’m a huge Halo fan, so it was an enormous solid.
That guy worked at GameStop for a few years after and he always hooked me up on free stuff for games I was into. I even ran into the guy at a party and we did shots. Sadly, the GameStop closed and I don’t remember his name nor did I add him on Facebook or anything, so if you’re the dude: hey man!
Not Technically Used
Most of my video game store visits are relatively standard retail experiences. One occasion does stand out however:
According to Wikipedia, Ghost Recon came out in November of 2001, so this must have been December of that year. I was in my go-to games store at the time, which in 2001 was an EB Games (it later was a Gamestop and then bought out by a local chain, but I digress), and I was shopping for a Christmas present for my brother.
I had been browsing/wandering for a few minutes and the manager of the store, who I think was the only person working that day, came over to see if I needed any help.
I told him that I was trying to pick out something for my brother and that we were both into the Rainbow Six games, so I had been eyeballing Ghost Recon for him. I also mentioned that I had only budgeted $20-30 for each person on my list, so $50 for my brother would minimize/cancel out somebody else’s gift. The guy, I think his name was Sean, said he would go check and see if they had any used copies in the back (remember when you could buy used PC games?). Unfortunately, they didn’t have any, so we were at an impasse.
We both stood there mulling it over for a minute and then he turns to me and says, “You know what? Let me see if I can do something for you.” Then he turns, grabs a new copy off the shelf and goes in the back.
A few minutes later he comes back out with the disc and manual shrink wrapped together and a “Used” sticker on it, priced at $29.99. I then proceeded to buy a new copy of the game for $20 off, thanks to this guy’s awesome Christmas spirit.
I had (HAD) an Xbox 360 and a PS3. Both ended up having problems and no longer worked. The Xbox had RROD and the PS3 had the Blue Light of Death. When talking to Microsoft and Sony they both told me I would have to pay to get them fixed. I decided that maybe I should just trade ‘em in and see if I could get like $20 for each and just start putting some money towards the Xbox One. A little bit each month.
So, I got to Gamestop, explained to them about my Xbox and my PS3, the guy was very understanding and was telling me about his console horror stories. We ended up talking for about 15-20 minutes during the transaction. Near the end of the transaction he said (and I’ll never forget it), “Okay, so with your working consoles, games and controllers this brings you up to $476.85. Did you want to go ahead and preorder anything?” He then winked at me and said, “I mean I heard you talking about Battlefield 4 and Titanfall so what do you say, $5 down on those?” Then chuckled smiling.
I was absolutely stunned and it was probably one of my favorite moments in buying anything let alone the newest game system.
Helping With The Amiibo Craze
My best experience isn’t my own, but rather one my dad relayed back to me. This was extremely recent - this past Friday, September 11th, to be exact. I had asked my dad if he could go by Toys ‘R Us during his lunch break to see if he could find two Bowser Jr. and Classic 8-bit Mario amiibo, one of each for me and my brother.
So my dad walks into the store and finds a clerk in the electronic section. (She was the same one that my dad met when Wave 4 had released, which is why I think she let my dad do what he did.) He asked about the two amiibo, and she brought some from the back. After finishing the purchase, my dad explained that he had two children that were really into amiibo and wouldn’t like to share and was wondering if he could purchase a second set, despite them having a one-of-each policy. She looked at him and whispered, “My manager’s here and she’s really strict. Wait out in your car for a bit until she leaves and then come back in.”
My dad did just that, and when he came back inside she already had two more of the figures ready for purchase. Needless to say, my brother and I were really thankful for her, because without that kind act, we would have been scouring eBay for the best deal. Glad there are people like her to help a customer out.
A Little Gift
(via Artboy NYC)
Simple story: I had preordered Dragon’s Crown (at Gamestop) chiefly for the art book, but due to circumstances was unable to pay the full bill at launch date. So I shifted the credit to another title and casually mentioned regret for not getting the DC book. The clerk merely shrugged and gave me one anyway. Very simple gesture but it made me an exclusive customer to that store.
Boom, Free Copy Of Gears
My buddy’s Xbox Red-ringed and instead of sending it to Microsoft we went to the local mom and pop store to get a refurb unit. Just a regular 360, nothing fancy. We get home, open it up, and inside is a copy of Gears of War 2. Must’ve been used to test it out. The next day we go back to the store like the honest youths we are and tell the owner what happened. Since he wasn’t the guy that gave it to us, he says, “No worries, you can just keep it. We’ve got a bunch of copies of Gears 2 anyways.”
Boom, free copy of Gears 2. Went home and played through co-op in one day. That store is awesome, and every time I go back to my parents’ house, I always try to go in and see if they have anything I want to buy.
Can I Trust You?
I love Jade Empire because of a Dayton area Gamestop employee.
I had to wait around to pick up my brother at the mall, so I decided I’d waste time in Gamestop. I saw Alpha Protocol, still a fairly brand new release, was already $20 off, and I went to the girl at the counter and asked why it was discounted despite its new-ness. At first she just gave me the expected response of someone wanting to sell me something: we discount things regularly, corporate tells us what to do, yada yada. Basically avoiding the why. I ask if she’s played it, she says yes. I ask if she liked it, and she pauses with a coy look on her face, looks both ways to confirm no one else can hear, then says really softly, “It’s one of the worst games I’ve ever played. Cool story if you can get through it, but not even worth forty dollars. Wait until it’s in the bargain bin in a couple months.”
Refreshed by her honesty, I laugh and put the game back, then start talking with her about other story-heavy video games to see what she would recommend. We chat about Mass Effect and Dragon Age, and the Bethesda games, etc., and then she mentions Jade Empire. I have no idea what that is, since I never owned an original Xbox, and she comes out from behind the counter to find a copy for me in their overstuffed Xbox section in nothing but white paper CD covers. She eventually finds it after telling me about why I would like it, and then when I get it in my hands, I just kind of get this feeling that I don’t really want it. Despite being an old game, it was still $20, it had no case, I didn’t know if it worked on X360 (she’d look it up for me and confirm it does) and I remembered that I didn’t even come to get something. I just wanted to waste time.
After going back and forth with it and almost putting it back, she leans over and talks really quietly again, asking, “Can I trust you?” Really weird question, and I’m sure I looked at her weird, because she followed up with, “Like, can I trust you won’t steal something and get me in trouble.” Of course I tell her yeah, still not understanding. So then she offers, quietly, for me to sneak the game out and play it at home, then pay for it next time I come in because she’s that confident I’m definitely going to like it. And if I don’t, just bring it back. I really felt weird about that and at first don’t want to, then think, okay, yeah. Sure. Why not?
I turned out to love the game. And I came back about a week later with the game sleeve. She’s there, and when she sees me, she perks up and throws her arms up, saying immediately, “You liked it, right? Right?” And I paid the $19.99 plus tax. I left her a couple bucks on the counter for a tip, which she told me she wasn’t allowed to accept. I reminded her that we all do things we probably shouldn’t, and she nods and slips the dollar bills into her pocket.
Dayton usually sucks. Gamestop usually does, too. That Dayton Gamestop employee totally didn’t.
Out Of His Own Pocket
When I was a kid I used to buy all my games from a local Toys R Us. My, how the times have changed. There was an employee there whose name I can’t remember but in my head Phil sounds right so that’s what I’ll call him. Phil was a true gamer. He appreciated games and gaming as a way of life and that’s why he worked in the games section of a Toys R Us even though he could have gotten a labor based job anywhere. Phil saw all gamers as comrades regardless of age. Even though he was probably in his 20s and I was only 13 he used to talk to me and presumably other gamers about gaming on a serious level. He took us seriously and respected us as his equals in the gaming community.
I used to talk to Phil all the time but on one such occasion in 2002 when I was 13 I went to Toys R Us to preorder Super Mario Sunshine. To this day it’s one of the only preorders I don’t regret and I still have the collector’s towel that came with it. I had to buy all my games with my own money from working under the table and birthdays and such. My parents wouldn’t just hand me money for games. For those of you who don’t live in shitty places like America, the tax is never included in the total price. Now as an adult I can easily account for that when figuring out the prices of things but as a kid I could never get the figures exactly right. Not to mention that taxes change from time to time. In America they always go up, by the way.
I was short $5 for the preorder and this was before the GameStop layaway system they have now. Preordering essentially meant you paid the full price of the game in advance to reserve a copy and sometimes you got a physical bonus. Not just some crap DLC skin you don’t really want/need. I could get the $5 but I didn’t have it on me and I didn’t want to go all the way home and then have to come all the way back. Phil happened to be standing by the register and overheard my plight. Without hesitation he pulled $5 out of his pocket and paid the difference saying I could pay him back later. This in and of itself is an unheard of occurrence by today’s game store clerks, and for good reason if we’re being honest, but the story doesn’t end there.
About a week later I went back to Toys R Us to pay Phil back the $5. When I handed him the money he didn’t even know what I was talking about which led me to believe that not only did he not mind or even worry about giving me the money for my preorder but that he helped gamers out like that so often that he couldn’t even remember who he had loaned money to. And on a Toys R Us salary no less. Phil was a class act and 13 years later I still remember that story.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby