On Recent GameStop Searches

A few days ago it was “pitchers.” Now, it’s GameStop and EB Games that are clogging up the search engines on the readers’ way to here.

Sadly, no fun searches. Nothing humorous like “pitchers of David Tennant.”

No, these are generally serious questions. People trying to figure out something, perhaps to understand something.

“GameStop Trade-In Lawsuit in Maryland,” for instance.

I’m unaware of any specific lawsuit against GameStop due to game trade-ins here in the state of Maryland. Some quality time with Google, however, turned up a class-action lawsuit against GameStop that related to selling used merchandise as new. But that was about four years ago, and GameStop has on their website information for customers affected by the practice.

The other major search on the subject of GameStop was this: “What happens if EB Games can’t give you pre-order.”

I’m not exactly sure what that means. I see three ways of interpreting it.

1) What if it’s a game that can’t be pre-ordered?

When I worked for EB Games, we had a massive list of upcoming titles that we could pre-order. After GameStop took over, the list shrank to a third its former size.

EB Games would take a chance of B-list and C-list titles. EB Games would take a chance on niche titles like Electroplankton. GameStop won’t.

I like to think that EB Games’ buyers in West Chester were smarter. They probably weren’t any smarter, but they had different goals. EB’s buyers stocked stores so that customers didn’t walk. GameStop’s buyers don’t.

If the question is, “Why can’t I pre-order game X?” it’s because GameStop’s buyers don’t want you to pre-order game X. They didn’t put it in the system to be pre-ordered. It may turn up in a GameStop somewhere. Chances are, though, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

2) What if I pre-ordered a game and I didn’t get it?

When I worked for EB Games, pre-orders were to be held for forty-eight hours. At that point, the copy we held for the pre-order customer would go back in the “general population.” The pre-order could still be picked up, of course, assuming we had stock on hand. But we wouldn’t have one set aside for the customer. And in rare circumstances, we would have to refund the customer the pre-order deposit and send the customer to another store if we no longer had the game in stock.

Now, on some titles we might have two pre-orders and receive forty copies of the game. In a circumstance like that, I didn’t even bother to set aside pre-orders. Or on something like Madden or NCAA Football, it made no sense to set aside pre-orders because there would be so many. A smart manager would learn how to “play the float” — the difference between pre-orders and total stock. You banked on receiving a second day shipment to handle stragglers who didn’t pick the game up on day one but whose copies you sold to walk-in traffic.

This is how I sold all but one copy of Fable on the first day. Out of seventy-two received. And how I had the highest sell-through percentage on Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker on day one in my region.

What I learned at GameStop is… you can’t play the float. A manager who plays the float will get burned, because replenishment on a title is not guaranteed. This goes back to corporate buying decisions. There may have been three pre-orders on the game, so the store received four. And when the customer didn’t pick up the game on day two, that copy was put back into the general population and sold.

It sucks, but it’s what had to be done.

The customer’s options at this point are two. One, roll the pre-order over to something else. But given that the customer has already been burned on the pre-order, it’s not likely. Or two, get a refund on the pre-order deposit and go elsewhere to buy the game.

Which leads to question interpretation number three:

3) What if I can’t get my pre-order deposit back?

GameStop, when I worked for them, graded stores on the number of pre-orders they generated. That was the only thing that really mattered. Sales numbers were less important than the number of pre-orders.

It’s possible that has changed. I think it unlikely, but it is possible. It’s such an ingrained part of the GameStop culture that I can’t imagine it changing. And it occurs to me that because their corporate buying decisions are so tied to pre-orders that stores simply wouldn’t be stocked if pre-orders were taken off the table as the top priority. Why? Because there are stores that simply wouldn’t pre-order a game again.

That’s all background.

The reality is that a GameStop store will not want to give you back your pre-order deposit. And they may run you through all sorts of gauntlets before they give you back your five dollars. Taking back your money hurts the store’s ranking.

My advice? Be firm. Be very firm. Don’t threaten. Just be polite. They will, eventually, give you your money back.

But they may be malicious and put you through some hell, and they’re going to do everything they can to try and get you to roll the money over to a different pre-order.

There. That covers the two “questions” on EB Games and GameStop.

There are other searches, but they’re about things I don’t know about. Like store hours. Or what the store down the road is like.

People! I don’t know the answers to these questions! Google is not a smart thing. It indexes words, but it’s pulling words from multiple places and out-of-context to give you your results.

Bring out your dead, Google. Bring out your dead.

Any questions?

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

2 thoughts on “On Recent GameStop Searches

  1. “And when the customer didn’t pick up the game on day two, that copy was put back into the general population and sold.”

    If someone pre-orders something and puts a deposit down (or pays for it outright), they are then expected to be in the shop within 48 hours of release lest it be sold out from under them? That’s so patently not cool.

  2. A good question, De.

    At EB, we called customers to let them know the game had arrived. And if the customer said, “I can’t make it in until the weekend,” that was usually fine. Especially as EB restocked games quickly in the first week. Other than system launches, I can think of only one instance in my seven years where there was an issue with a customer not being able to get their game.

    GameStop managers were, in my experience, aghast that EB would call customers and let them know that their games had arrived. (Which led to some interesting discoveries in the six months post-merger. EB stores had much higher sell-through ratios on pre-orders than GameStop stores.) There’s an automated system in place to inform customers, but it didn’t seem to call except for on major titles. It’s possible that may have changed, though I doubt it — I never got a phone call about a pre-order on Age of Empires III: The War Chiefs.

    As for games that were paid for outright, there was a different way of handling that. Simply ring the transaction through, and have the customer sign for it when they picked it up. The only time that was an issue was with one of the Madden games — customer paid for it in full, we rang it through, and the customer never showed. At my next inventory, which was eight months later, the game was still there, and we scanned the piece as inventory. The customer never, to the best of my knowledge, ever showed up for the game.

    In short, I do agree that it’s “patently not cool,” but only if the store hasn’t made an effort to contact the customer. If you are touching base with the customer — and that means an actual salesperson picking up the phone and talking to a live, human being — then it was never, in my experience, an issue.

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