I sometimes read Kotaku, a video game news blog. I know, it’s surprising — I can’t tell you the last time I turned on my XBox, yet I still stay somewhat informed of goings-on in the game industry.
This headline shocked me. GameStop Manager Killed During Robbery. The facts are these. An armed robber entered a GameStop store last night, bound and gagged the store manager, his employee, and his employee’s father, stole games, systems, and DVDs, and by the time police arrived the store manager had died, likely as not from asphyxiation.
In my seven years as an EB Games manager I never experienced an armed robbery. A friend of mine, who managed the store in Fayetteville, was held up at gunpoint. Another friend of mine — likewise a former EB manager — this morning passed along a news article from Durham, North Carolina about an armed robbery at the North Pointe GameStop.
That’s not to say that my store wasn’t robbed. Three times in Cary it was robbed. Three times.
The first two times, the front glass was broken out. It was a smash-and-grab job — break out the glass, get inside the store, grab whatever’s at hand, and get the hell out before the blaring alarm summons the police. The first smash-and-grab was a six thousand dollar loss of PlayStation 2 and Xbox games. The second, which fell exactly fourteen days later, was a fifteen hundred dollar loss.
After this — and a series of similar smash-and-grabs in north Raleigh — the company installed gates inside strip stores to prevent thefts of this nature.
I began sleeping easy again.
Then, eight months later came the third robbery.
They took off the back door to my store.
It was a methodical job. The phone lines to the store were cut. The security camera of the Japanese restaurant next door was blacked out. And sometime around three in the morning, the back door was pulled off its hinges.
I’d just received a massive shipment of PlayStation 2 systems a few days earlier. I might’ve had forty or fifty systems in stock. Plus twenty or thirty XBox systems on hand.
My video game backstock? Much of that was taken as well.
It was a strange experience, to be in my store that day. The backroom, which the night before had had stuff everywhere, was nearly devoid of everything major. The game systems were gone. The wall against which they had rested was just a wall. I sat against the wall and just… thought for a while. I felt violated; the store was me, in a very real way. The enormity of the loss had to sink in.
My backstock shelves behind the counter were heavily picked over.
My Loss Prevention investigator — a guy named Tim — called me on my cell phone. “What’s the loss looking like?”
“It’s bad,” I said.
“I need a number.”
“It’s a bad number. I don’t know yet. You’ll know by five.”
I was meticulous — no, methodical — when it came to knowing my on-hand quantities. For three years running I had the best shrink in the region. That doesn’t just happen; you have to work that.
I counted everything in about six hours.
All told, the loss was twenty-six thousand dollars.
Twenty-six thousand dollars.
The inventory shrinkage report I generated that day — as I had to key out every piece of inventory that was gone — ran some forty pages. I had fourteen days to make the adjustments, I didn’t need to do them that day. But I needed them out of my system. I needed them gone.
Twenty-six thousand dollars.
Why video games? There must be a thriving black market for them, a quick turnover for fast money. I never really felt threatened by an armed robbery. It was the shadows, lurking in the night that haunted me.
There aren’t many things about those seven years of my life that I miss. I certainly don’t miss the threat of a robbery.
Video games aren’t worth losing one’s life over.
My heart goes out to the young man’s family. This is beyond senseless.
ETA (10:00 pm): I went digging back through old e-mails. I knew I hadn’t written about the robberies directly on my blog at the time — EB Games wasn’t comfortable that I even had a blog, and there were some delicate negotiations that were done to permit it. Suffice it to say, writing about the job was one of the things that wasn’t allowed.
Corporate policies. You gotta love ’em.
But I thought I might’ve written something in an e-mail about the robberies. Especially the big one.
Turns out, I did.
I wrote my very good friend Terri Osborne a completely bonkers e-mail. I sometimes write bonkers e-mails. It’s what I do. And she wrote back, and wanted to know what was going on in my head.
This is what I wrote on October 6, 2002:
The serious answer is that I’ve been through a pretty shitty week and asking goofball questions is a way of venting some of the pain, anger, and general frustration I’ve been going through.
Back in January my store was broken into twice. Guy broke out the front door, ran into the store, jumped the counter, and grabbed what he could from behind the counter before the alarms sounded and the police came. First time we lost about 4500 in merchandise, second time about 1500. So, the company splurged, invested in a security gate for inside the store so someone can break through the glass all they want but not get anywhere, and I learned to sleep through the night again.
Wednesday morning one of my sales associates called me. We’d been robbed, he said. Don didn’t say anything more, and I wasn’t really awake, drove down to the store, and the sight wasn’t pretty. Someone had pulled the backdoor to the store out of the frame. They had cut the phone line to the store, so no automatic call to the alarm company. And he cleaned out my store of every game system I had, and a lot of games. All told, the loss came to 25 thousand.
I dealt with January’s robberies by rationalizing them as something a drunk guy did on a lark. But I’ve been having some trouble wrapping my mind around the time and trouble Wednesday’s robber went to and the dollar amount of the loss. I went home Wednesday after talking with the police, overseeing the installation of a new backdoor, talking with the phone company, the alarm company, all of that, and sat down and cried for an hour, when it really all just hit. The Loss Prevention manager at corporate called me that morning and wanted a rough estimate of the loss, something he could go to his boss with, and all I said was, “It’s bad. It’s really bad.”
And that looks like the sum total of what I wrote on the subject of the twenty-five thousand dollar robbery.
At the span of four years, my memory wasn’t quite so bad. I’d obviously conflated the first two robberies into a single dollar amount, but the second one was quite accurate.
You know the thing I remember most vividly, at this late date? I’d ordered a pizza from Dominos that day — October 1st, 2003 — because I’d seen commercials for a Philly Cheesesteak Pizza they were selling. And it was sen-fucking-sational. I was hungry out of my mind, and I scarfed the whole thing down without a second thought.
Eventually, the company ordered a four-point locking mechanism for the new back door. Metal rods went out from the door into the walls, floor, and archway above. The locksmith said that there probably wasn’t a single business in the state of North Carolina with such an apparatus. “This is what they use in New York City,” he said. He took some real pride in being able to install a piece of equipment like that. I couldn’t blame him.
I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that shit any more.