Welcome to Retail Hell, our new regular feature collecting the best and worst stories from the world of video game retail.
In today's round-up, we've got reader-submitted stories of grandmas playing Zelda, two-year-olds stealing Pokémon cards, and the case of the cockroach-filled PS3.
If you've worked in gaming retail and you've got stories to share—happy, sad, or anything in between—send 'em my way. Here are some of the best ones you guys have sent in so far.
The Two-Year-Old Pokémon Thief
So around Christmas of 2000, I was on my first GameStop holiday tour of duty. It was me and my assistant manager. Of course, parents shopping in the mall decided to leave their children at the local mall babysitter—aka GameStop.
Well, we had a few little 2-3-year-olds running through our store, but the main one that stood out to the both of us was this little 2ish year old girl watching us from the corner. At first, we thought she was just being a kid who happened to be weird, as some tend to be. She kept running out of the store, then back in shortly afterwards.
Eventually, my assistant manager noticed that the shelf of Pokémon card packs was beginning to get lighter and lighter in product and size.
Just then, the little girl comes in trying to play it off. We knew right away.....
So we went by our business waiting to see what she does. She's two, so of course she took the bait. Caught her lifting two packs at a time and stuffing them in her pants. She sees we caught her. She speed-walks out after the assistant manager calls out, "Hey sweetie, what are you doing with those?"
He walks after her and see her stuffing all of the packs in the side of her stroller, which was at one of those cell-phone booths with her neglectful parents. This kid was good! He gets the cards back from the parents, and we hear the little girl wailing outside, most likely because she didn't get her cards in the end, right? Well....
She was crying so bad, her mom relented and came back in to BUY the fucking cards for her instead of teaching her stealing is bad. My assistant manager was shaking his head at her the whole time while she bought them. The mom didn't make eye contact with us and quickly scurried out after the purchase was complete. The little girl stood there, smiled at us and skipped out behind her mom.
I am assuming this girl is now a world class thief.
And this is why we have sociopaths everywhere now....
This elderly woman was given a Wii by her kids, right at the still burgeoning era of Wii Sports. Some-goddamn-how she got a copy of a Zelda game, and loved it. This lady is mid-80s, if we're being kind and generous. So she comes in looking for another Zelda title, and I show her a copy of Wind Waker and explain that she needs GameCube controllers and all this and she says she has it all, so whatever.
She sees it's $40 used and has a hard time coughing up the cash for it, so she asks if it will still be there in a few days. I tell her I can't guarantee anything but since we have multiple copies she shouldn't worry too much. She looks at me confused. I tell here there are other copies, and she says she wants the one she's holding.
I pop open the case to reveal it's empty and reiterate that there are more discs behind the counter and she shouldn't worry.
She's totally bewildered.
Adamant, she keeps saying she wants the one she's holding, and I try to explain in as many ways as possible that there are more.
"There are more... Of them?" she asks
I explain that this game is not a loaf of bread. (Best analogy of my life.) My co-worker and I do not wake up early in the morning to make each individual game like a baker bakes bread every morning. They are produced by the millions, and we have four or five of those million copies. And in the past month, we haven't sold out.
She puts the game back on the shelf, looks at me, steely-eyed, the eyes of a woman who has heard WWII first-hand accounts from her friends and says, "I will have enough money in three days, I want this Zelda." She points and puts pressure on the binding of the game. "This one, here."
She leaves. It's been six years, and we've both moved on from this retailer. But to this day my co-worker from then still asks me if I have any "more... of them? You know... them, are there more?"
Reader Killer_Walrus here. I worked at GameStop for a few years. After working there for a few weeks, you quickly learn that people will try to get the most that they can when they trade their games and consoles in.
One day, a guy came in and was trying to trade in some games that were clearly not his. He brought in games that he took from RedBox and tried to remove the security tag from the center rim of the disk. We told him we couldn't take the games and gave them back to him. He pleaded and said he needed the money and we refused.
He eventually said, "That's fine. I know another GameStop that always takes my games." My manager, an old high school friend of mine, hit a couple of keys on our POS system and said "Not anymore." He sent his information off to all of the other GameStop locations banning him from bringing in any trades.
It was literally the most power a GameStop employee could ever wield, and he dropped the hammer down.
That's Not How You Use A Credit Card
A lady walks in on a quiet Tuesday night, and under her arm she has a small bag. I assume she just has some trades. On such a dead evening, I'm cool with it. Maybe we'll even get some good conversation, as my only other co-worker for the night is off restocking. She puts her bag down and removes a shiny new Wii. This was back when the Wii had maybe been out a year. So it was still new but demand had settled.
She says: "My son wanted to download a game and showed me that we could buy it online. So we got to the point where we were prompted to insert credit card. So I inserted my Amex card." It was at this point I raised an eyebrow and tried to help her move the story along and point her towards Nintendo support as I could not help her with online purchasing. But she continues: "It didn't accept my Amex so I tried my Visa, and after that my husband's MasterCard. Is there a different slot to insert them into?"
I looked at her with a deadpan stare for what felt like a millennia before slowly looking down at the Wii. I reached for it and lifted it and could immediately hear the rattling sound of three, THREE, different credit cards inside her Wii.
I lost. I couldn't stop laughing. When she asked what was so funny, I explained that no, you can't put credit cards inside your Wii. She too found the humor [in this], which was relieving, because as you can imagine, laughing at a customer is kind of a no-no.
She went on her way with a scrap of paper on which I scribbled down Nintendo support number and website. To this day I can only assume there are three canceled credit cards hiding inside their new home.
This Is Gross
While working at GameStop as a senior game associate, I had to open the store by myself on a regular basis. One particular day, we were very busy (I think it was a title launch day). This guy who looked like Jamie Kennedy in Malibu's Most Wanted came into the store to trade in his PS3 with his girlfriend. I began my inspection and opened where the hard drive should go, and a good 12 to 20 live cockroaches came pouring out, along with a pair of very used panties.
I got to spend the next half hour trying to explain to him that we didn't sell him a PS3 full of cockroaches and then witnessed an enjoyable 20 minutes of his gf chewing him out because she doesn't wear "whore" panties like that. I think they broke up.
Stop Wasting Fruit!
I used to work for a Microsoft Store, and we definitely saw some ridiculous people come in. There was one woman who was particularly infamous, though. Basically every employee had a run-in with her at some point, as she came in at least a couple times per week. I don't like to throw around the word crazy, but this lady should have had her picture next to it in the dictionary.
On day, as I was standing at the front and greeting people, I noticed her staring at the kid playing Fruit Ninja on our Xbox display. After an almost uncomfortable amount of time, she walked up to me and declared, "this is a terrible game." Before I could even think of a way to politely respond to that, she reiterated with a hint of disgust, "this is a terrible game. You are wasting fruit."
Trying to not disagree with an agitated crazy-person, I replied in the most diplomatic way I knew how, "Well, I guess you would be if they were real fr..."
"You are wasting fruit," she says again, cutting me off. "This is a terrible game. You are wasting fruit. You are teaching children to waste fruit."
"Well, ma'am, it's just a game. He's not actually wasting the fruit."
"You are teaching children to waste fruit!"
"I'm sorry you feel that way ma'am. Not all of our games are educational, though, some are just for fun."
"What do you mean not educational?! This is Microsoft! Microsoft is about education! I come here to learn!" [She was part of our personal training program]. "Do you know Blackjack? Solitaire? These games are educational! They teach me how to count! This is a terrible game!"
There was no way to reply, so I just stood there in shock, trying to find words. Fortunately, I didn't need them. With an incredible amount of venom, she declared, "wasting fruit!" a final time, spat on the floor and stormed out, while I looked around to see if anyone else had just witnessed all of that.
Everyone Plays Pokémon
I briefly worked at a Target store at the electronics counter. I had a young guy, maybe 14 or 15 or so, come into the store with his mom and sheepishly approach the counter. He looked nervous to be there and asked if he could get a game. When I asked him which one, he looked around and told me it was embarrassing, then almost whispered it:
He looked ashamed and emasculated. It was heartbreaking. I told him, "Ah, great pick. I just finished it. It was awesome."
His eyes lit up. He perked up his head and asked if I was kidding. I told him of course not, and that he should never be ashamed of having something that makes him happy. I let him know that in the game design program at my college, we had problems keeping the programmers on task because all the grown men couldn't stop catching em all. He grinned ear to ear. He left the store with his head held higher than he came in, Pokémon proudly in hand.
It felt really good, having an opportunity at a horrible dead-end job that I was not pleased to be in, to make a small difference, and hopefully boost some kid's self esteem.
This actually took place on my 18th birthday, the same day that the original Game Boy Advance came out. I was working at an Electronics Boutique and had an older gentleman call the store asking for advice on how to set up a PlayStation 2 that he had purchased for his grandchildren, not knowing how the wires needed to be plugged in. I tried to explain that the wires were color-coded, but he was confused to the point of tears. He asked if he could use his video camera to record the back of his television and I could point out where the wires needed to go, I said that was fine.
The gentleman came in with his video camera a couple hours later. The video started with the back of his television and then immediately cut to him masturbating on his bed for five seconds then back to the television.
Illustration by Sam Woolley.