Gimme Five! Things Learned While Working Video Game Retail

Ah, video game retail. Sometimes it can be awesome, like with your local used games store or a small retail chain with awesome prices. Or it could be Gamestop. Either way, every gamer has experienced the inside of a game store at least once. What everyone hasn’t experienced is working for one. The job seems simple from the outside, but there are things you discover on the other side of the cash register. Having just left a job at a cool used game place, I’ve seen these things firsthand. Here are the five biggest things I learned as a nerd for hire!

5. People want to buy and sell old systems like crazy

The two most consistent questions we got on the phone were “do you have this game in” and “do you buy/sell (insert old game system here)”. Shelves full of Wiis and PS3s and Xboxes, and all some people want is an N64. I don’t know why we didn’t sell them. It was either that the old systems were more liable to break down and get returned, or that we didn’t have the room for them. People still go nuts for them, though. Heck, I rang up a kid who bought a Gamecube even after I made it clear that his Wii would play the same games with the same controller. If it wasn’t a complete box with a tiny tray, then it wasn’t good enough! Ah, nostalgia. You turn cherished memories into cherished cash.

4. People use game sales places to fence stolen games (and they’re obvious about it)

Thieves have no imaginations these days. Either that, or they think people who work at game stores are complete idiots. We can tell when you’re trying to sell games you lifted from the distribution truck at Wal-Mart. For one thing, game cases have a certain feel to them right out of the shrink wrap – they’re more slippery than old ones. Also, nobody just brings in ten pristine games. (Even people who treat their games like museum pieces will get the errant hairline scratch.) It also doesn’t help when you have your friend walk up and try to sell the very same games, which are also pristine. Also, we can see the van you use to watch your henchmen go sell the games for you and then bring back the money. It’s white and you’re staring out the window like you’re waiting on your heist crew to get back from the bank. Not really all that subtle, guys.

3. People beat up their games and still expect cash for them

On the other side of this are the games that people try to sell that are basically just thin silver scratch posts. Sure, games get wear and tear, and in the used business you have to account for that. Some of these games looked like they were played with steel wool and a laser pointer. The people selling them never understood the game store worker’s position either. Look, people, we’re going to grab that game from the back and put it in the case and all it will take is one look to change the customer’s mind. People will not buy your copy of Game Kept In Your Key Pocket 2. We sure ain’t paying you 5 bucks for it.

2. Gamestop is horrible about paying out for games and systems

Where I worked, we paid in straight-up cash with no BS about store credit. We also had a board comparing what we paid versus what Gamestop paid for hardware. My store on average paid double, if not more, for the systems, and our store even paid for one relatively recent system that Gamestop didn’t even pay for at all! Yes, when it comes to video games, nothing is worse than Gamestop.


Oh right, never mind. So, there was a part of the game store where we tested consoles. The guy who manages that section would always try and keep a can of compressed air on hand. That’s because some peoples house’s were so filthy that a box made of electrified silicon and moving fans was still able to host a whole colony of roaches. I guess constantly smoking cigarettes inside your trailer doesn’t leave time to check if your Xbox is an impromptu roach motel. Even as I leave this job, these words will stay with me: “you’ll know if you find eggs.”

So, any other observations from fellow game store employees? Anything you witnessed as a consumer? Anyone know about a job opening at any of these places? Post it in the comments!

12 thoughts on “Gimme Five! Things Learned While Working Video Game Retail”

  1. I wouldn’t say 5 is necessarily nostalgia in all cases. I buy plenty of PS1, 64, Gamecube, PS2, NES, Gameboy,and etc. games most of which I’ve never played before, hence why I purchased them.

    Not really a nostalgia factor, more of just “hey this game looks cool, I wanna play.” But I’m weird where I don’t really care about graphics and tend to be able to wade through tons of bad or outdated game design lol.

  2. I bought a copy of Metal Gear Solid Twin Snakes from gamestop once and one of the discs had literally been microwaved. If that game weren’t so hard to find I wouldn’t have bought it from them.

  3. I agree whole heartedly about GameStop. It is ruining the entire industry with its horrible treatment of employees, dishonesty with pre-order bonuses (and in some cases flat out false advertisement), and awful business ethics. It doesn’t help either that their trade in programs clearly target kids with no source of income and are too dumb and/or inexperienced to realize that trading in 20 games for $30 of store credit is a total rip off. Their profits from used games are ridiculous, buy it for $2 and turn around and sell it again for $35…

  4. Lol roaches I never thought of that… But yeah anytime I’ve sold games I’ve done it at pawn shops they pay so much more than gamestop which is surprising.

  5. I has a question toast, when people asked for a used console, and they asked if they could test the system right then and there, did you allow this, or what?

  6. Speaking as someone who used to work at GameStop I can honestly say that yes, it is the devil’s workshop. Most of the time I kept myself busy on the floor in order to not feel like I was contributing to the abhorrent conning that was going on at the desk.

  7. As a collector of sorts, I’ve dealt with the good (independent game stores) and the bad (GameStop). For what it’s worth, GameStop occasionally works with you when you have a bum copy of SSBM, but when company policy forbids them from hooking up a GameCube and testing the thing, that royally ****es me off. Then there’s the good, where I went to a used game shop and had to return a bum Dreamcast after it completely destroyed my *mint* copy of Shenmue. They cleaned the disc and gave me my money back, after testing all the different Dreamcasts they had in stock. Heck, I even posted a favorable review for another used game shop and they gave me free store credit for loyalty, even after they sold me some bum games.

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