Dear Gamestop: This is why I hate you

OK fair is fair… I didn’t like Gamestop before today. I definitely have a bias against the company. Today was just one example why.

So Scott has been talking about Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga, and I caught the fever from him and wanted to give it a go. Problem was, Best Buy didn’t have it in stock. Against my better instincts, I headed to Gamestop’s website. Found the game on the site, and checked availability at local Gamestop stores. As I’m writing this, the site says it’s available, new (I specified) at the 4 nearest stores. Actually looking now, it says it’s in stock at the nearest 40 stores. Which seems unlikely, but I didn’t got past nearest 4 at the time.

The Gamestop in Sudbury, MA, used to have (the last time I was in there a couple years ago) a young hipster working at it that was fine to do business with. So I headed there first. Unfortunately it was closed for some reason. Now Irene blew through here a few days ago so maybe it had something to do with that; I dunno. Maybe it’s just shut down. Anyway, OK, there’re 3 other stores on my list.

I next headed to the Gamestop at the Framingham Mall. I walked in, two clerks behind the counter. One, who I’ll call Alpha Clerk, was finishing up with a customer. The other, Beta Clerk (I’m naming him that because he constantly deferred to the other, and asked him whether he should take a break) very politely said “Can I help you with something?” OK, so far so good. I tell him yup, I’m looking for Divinity II for the Xbox 360. He starts looking it up. I told him it was actually Divinity II, the Dragon something Saga. He says “Oh? Dragon Age?” I say no, that’s just the sub-title. No biggie, mis-communication.

While we’re chatting a kid comes in and goes up to Alpha Clerk. He asks if they have Madden 12. The clerk instantly responds with “Did you pre-order?” The kid says no, he didn’t. He’s looking a bit crestfallen. Alpha Clerk gives him a cruel smirk [OK I may be imagining that part] and says, “Oh, hmm, let’s see if we have any extra.” Beta Clerk pipes up saying “We got hundreds of copies in.” Alpha Clerk glares at his co-worker (who, I suspect, was pretty new) and says “NOT FOR PEOPLE WHO DIDN’T PREORDER, WE DIDN’T.” Beta Clerk hangs his head and goes back to looking in the computer for my game.

Alpha Clerk grudgingly sells the kid a new copy of Madden 12, and then asks him if he’s pre-ordered Call of Duty 3 yet. Y’know, the game that comes out in November, and here it is the end of August. The game that is a military shooter, very much NOT like the sports game the kid just bought. The kid looks a little confused and says no, he hasn’t. “Well are you going to play it this year?” asks Alpha Clerk, as if the only way this kid will get a copy of Call of Duty 3 THIS YEAR is if he pre-orders TODAY. Kids says “Uh, I dunno…” and I lose track of that conversation because my clerk has found Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga for me!

He tells me it’s $27 used. I know from the website that it’s $30 new. “I don’t want used.” I tell him, “Do you have a new copy?” Beta Clerk looks at me as if I just refused a fistful of $100 bills and a date with a promiscuous supermodel. He looks again and says “No, sorry we don’t.”

I say “OK thanks” and start walking out the door.

“Wait,” he says, “Let me look for one thing.” I stop, he peers into his computer some more. The other clerk, the Alpha Clerk, comes over, gregarious as can be and says “Did someone mention Divinity II?” and I said yeah. Beta Clerk asks him if he’s played it and he says, “Divinity II is like Fallout. You don’t play it so much as experience it.” I groan inwardly as Alpha Clerk says “What are you doing?” to Beta.

“Looking to see if any of the other stores have a copy.” says Beta. “We have it!” says Alpha. “He doesn’t want used.” says Beta. “Oh, you’re not going to find it anywhere new” says Alpha. “It’s a discontinued SKU.” Beta gives up looking for me. I say “The website said you had it. It said a few stores around here have it.”

“That means nothing.” says Alpha.

“Fine,” I say, turning to walk out, and add “Typical Gamestop, I should’ve known better.”

“What do you mean by that!?” says Alpha. I tell him my thoughts on Gamestop’s policy of doing whatever it can to sell used copies of games rather than new. He protests with “We have every new game that comes out!” I don’t mention that he was just fussing at a kid for not pre-ordering Madden 12. I say “Forget it, this is what I expect. The website says you have it, you say you don’t.”

“The website is run by a completely different company!” he says, and he’s getting louder and madder at this point. “We have no control over what they tell you. They don’t make that game any more; it’s not available anywhere.”

“It’s cool.” I say, and he adds “Maybe you can order it direct from the website.” and I say “I’ll just get it from Amazon.” I step out of the door onto the sidewalk, where I pull out my phone and do just that. I spring for the $4 for overnight shipping and of course don’t pay sales tax. It’s close to a wash, but I will have to wait until tomorrow. OTOH I could’ve saved myself an hour of driving around.

So what did I learn?

Either the clerks were deliberately not selling me a new copy of Divinity II (doubtful) or the website was wrong. I really wish Beta Clerk had gone through with checking other shops nearby, because if none of them had new copies of the game, that shows a real screwy policy on the part of the website. Worst of all is the website offers a “Pick up at the store” service. I’m sure if I’d used that, once I got there they would’ve tried to sell me a used copy.

Maybe they’re two different companies…I don’t care. What I know is that the website offers the service of checking inventory at stores. If they can’t do that reliably, they shouldn’t offer the service. If they got this 1 store wrong, ok, that’s a glitch. But if the game is really not available new anymore, why does the site claim that the 40 closest stores have it in stock. That’s not a glitch; that’s deceit. And just being in that store for 10 minutes was enough to get me angry about how they push pre-orders on people constantly. Beta Clerk was actually very polite and tried his best to be helpful, but Alpha Clerk had the attitude I always expect from Gamestop.

Maybe if their store wasn’t 4/5ths full of used merchandise, they’d be able to keep some inventory of older new games on-hand, eh?

In the end I’m glad, though. As annoying as the ordeal was, it meant I didn’t break my Gamestop boycott, and in retrospect, that’s worth waiting a day for the game. I really don’t want to support that company if I can help it.

[Update: After sleeping on the event, and talking about it on Google+, I do think I was needlessly harsh on the store clerks in this post. The clerk who helped me really did try to help me rather than just blowing me off and saying �We don�t have it.� And the other clerk� well, as much as he annoyed me I�m sure he was just following the script that corporate tells him to follow.

I still hate the company and its policies, but the two guys working in the store weren�t really at fault of doing anything other than obeying the rules their superiors gave them to follow.]