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February 27, 2007

Filed under: gaming»perspective

Memoirs of a Gamestop Employee

Where to start with a rant by Gamestop employees on how much they hate you, the customer? Ars Technica links to a messageboard post by a store clerk who was incensed by Kotaku's frustration with automated calls. How dare these uppity customers get upset by what basically amounts to telemarketing?

What basically comes across in the rant is the frustration and contempt for the customer. People call in who don't know the correct name for what they want to buy (although, to be fair, Ninja Garden does sound like a lot of fun), or they don't know the difference between a game system and its software (some kid's parents, perhaps?), and for these sins they are considered by the author to be the lowest form of life on the planet. He is also amazed that anyone would not be interested in the pre-order system, even though it is an alien abomination completely unique to game retailers--no-one asks me to pre-order movies, or books, or anything else that I buy off a shelf.

Clearly, he's not being supported or trained well, and he's bought the company line about its ridiculous policies. That's not necessarily his fault: he is probably young, and stupid, and we have all been there once. I don't like the game retailers very much, and I've tried to avoid them, but I wonder if we could actually step back from making this about video game stores and look at it from a wider context. The snarky, hateful clerk is a staple of speciality or geek retail niches--the snobby record store guy, for example, who makes snide comments about people who want to buy something that doesn't meet their standards of hipness. We could change some of the language in that rant and easily have complaints about customers who want to buy the wrong wines, or the wrong organic foods, or the wrong movies ("Batman Forever?!? You pedant!").

And yet these venues have not vanished yet, although in some cases (independent movie stores, small record shops) they are in danger of being eaten alive by the chains. I am no fan of giant chain stores and corporations, seeing as how they are grotesque avatars of The Man, but you have to admit that they usually put more effort into their training and hiring practices. They did not get to be large, abusive chain stores by scheming up new ways to alienate their customers. Maybe Gamestop is just leading the way by scaling up the sneer of small business into industrial proportions. Now I can get the distaste of a small store and an exploitative global business model all in one transaction!

These are exciting times.

Future - Present - Past