GameStop has always been a sleazy, infuriating operation, but a recent report from Kotaku exposed some of the newer business practices that are making it sleazier than ever. According to several GameStop employees, the retailer operates under a program called “Circle Of Life,” which assigns quotas to each store for things like game pre-orders and used game sales. This means, if you walk in, buy a new game, refuse any of the store’s pre-order offers or other crap, and walk out, you’re actively harming the numbers of that store. Naturally, the corporate side of the company is putting tons of pressure on managers and individual salespeople to meet those numbers, threatening to fire those who don’t hit them. And with that kind of pressure on their shoulders, shadier practices have popped up among employees who are trying to meet demands and save their jobs. That includes lying about when new games and consoles are in stock to encourage customers to buy used.
“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 employee told Kotaku. “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.”
Of course, GameStop insists these programs are in place to keep customers happy and get them the best value, but anyone who’s ever tried to actually buy anything at one of those detestable stores knows policies like these just make the experience worse than it already was, especially when they’re actively interfering with things like big game launches and in-store discounts. As another employee told Kotaku, “Why would I get reserves if it’s going to lead to a new sale? Why would I sell you a new game that you’re excited about if it’s going to hurt my numbers at the end of the day? Why would I sell you a new system if I’m going to be fired for doing so? It doesn’t make sense.”
[Note: Kotaku, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]