Ask Tatjana: What’s it REALLY like to work at GameStop?

Posted on May 18 2013 - 2:37pm by Tatjana Vejnovic

ask tat Ask Tatjana: Whats it REALLY like to work at GameStop?

Good question. I spent nearly four years as a manager for the biggest video game distributor in the world: GameStop. I worked in different stores, districts, and regions. I hired, trained, promoted, and fired countless people. I did things both above and below my pay grade, and did it with pride. Did I leave the company on bad terms? Not even in the slightest.

I have been asked many, many questions about the behind the scenes happenings at GameStop, but as an employee I signed a contract stating I would not speak of the company in any shape or form on the Web. I left Gamestop on January 19th, 2013. I’m finally letting loose.

Disclaimer: This article is not about slandering GameStop. It’s just my honest answers, and my honest opinions to the most commonly asked questions shot my way.

Why is sexual harassment of female employees permitted by employees and customers alike?

I wish I had a thorough answer. I don’t. As a female manager for nearly four years, I went through tons of harassment by customers. I’ve had kids tell me “your opinion doesn’t matter because you’re a girl,” and many times asked, “is there a male around here I can speak with?” I even had people go to my male subordinates, assuming they were my boss, and them pointing right back at me saying I was the person they needed to talk to.

I was incredibly fortunate to work with people who would defend me in those situations (although I always bit back against the troublemakers). In fact, I can only recall one situation where I felt another employee harassed me. Needless to say, I wasn’t the only person that the employee harassed, and he was later let go from the company. GameStop terminated him after I left, but I’m sure he received corrective actions, suspension, followed by his final check. GameStop does not tolerate sexist nonsense.

The gender stereotypes state that boys play video games and girls play with Barbies. WRONG. I played with cars and video games all throughout my childhood. Sure, I had dolls, too, but I rarely touched those. That close-minded, biased mentality has carried on, sadly, into today. From a psychological perspective, I think people are afraid to defend their female co-workers in fear of losing respect from other male customers. Male customers harass female customers due to internalization of insecurities. It’s as simple as that.

If GameStop employees were treated as valuable team members, do you think they would commit less theft?

One thing that I love and respect about GameStop is its loss prevention procedures. I was infamous for being my regional loss prevention manager’s “protégé,” and famous for knocking both external and internal theft to all-time lows. I have terminated and watched others be terminated for theft, and I can tell you they were by no means abused by the company.

The desire to steal comes from within in a person, not in the way they’re treated. Still, there are ways to decrease internal theft rates. You need a good manager to teach values, enforce policies,  and to demonstrate that it is truly is wrong to steal. It affects the circle of business.

A former co-worker was terminated for stealing. He admitted to the crime, and returned the product. The difference between him and others, however, is the fact he realized it was wrong, and learned from this. Others compulsively steal at every job they get. Of course, bottom-of-the-chain employees steal the most, feeling they have the least amount to lose. However, the higher up you go, the more serious the crime, although less often committed.

In the event that you are terminated from the company for loss prevention issues, you’re labeled as “non-rehireable.” GameStop is not the only company notified, however. This detail does go on your background check, and forbids you from having any retail job for five years. If you do attempt to get re-hired, and make it to the final process, your social security number will come up with a prompt to contact human resources, and they will give you the gist of why you cannot proceed.

Why doesn’t GameStop give us more money for our used games?

As pro-GameStop-hoorah as it sounds: To pay its employees, and keep it’s doors open. GameStop is the leading company in pre-owned sales. You think trading in your game, you think GameStop. It’s how the company makes its money. All distributors, not just GameStop, make a mere 1-3% on new console and game purchases. The other 97-99% goes to the developers, the publishers, the UPS guy, the people who made the discs, the cases. You get the picture.

So, suppose that Halo 4 came out yesterday. You played it, thought it was bullshit, and don’t want it anymore. In some states,  a person is unable to resell an open game as new — it’s on the books (this is also GameStop’s company policy). So, you have no choice but to trade it in. The employee rings it up, and tells you that your fresh Halo 4 is worth $30.

$30? But I just paid $60 for it yesterday!

Yes, yes you did. But what sense would it make to purchase a game we sold you for $60 (that netted a $1 or $2 profit), for $50 and sell it for nearly the same price? None. The employees wouldn’t get paid, and the lights wouldn’t stay on. Instead, GameStop buys it from you for $30, or $33 if you have the PowerUp Rewards card , and then sells it for $55, or $50.

Now let me put this in a bit of perspective for you.

You bought a couple of concert tickets on Ticketmaster for $50. Your boss is a total asshole and won’t give you the time off to go, so you have no choice but to sell them. Would you sell them for $50, or even less? Absolutely not! You’d sell them for a profit, and put money in your pocket. Uh, hello, have you not noticed how ridiculous ticket prices are on StubHub?

I bought my car, with all its additions and what not, $32,750. The second those tires touched public roads, the value dropped to $18,500. And face it, if it weren’t for GameStop, other companies like Target and Best Buy wouldn’t jump on the trade-in bandwagon, and you’d get jack for your games.

Do you feel like GameStop is a company someone would want to make a career out of by working up the ranks?

I will quote an anonymous district manager, “I’ve seen people leave this company, and come back with better offers than they ever would have got had they stayed.” And that is true. There are three positions before the assistant manager, than the two managers, an area manager (not in all areas), district manager, regional, and then market vice president.

My market vice president got promoted right before I left, and my regional from Northern California actually started off as a seasonal. So it is possible, sure. But honestly, if you want to get any further than the area manager level, good luck. Most of these people are tenure managers, and are there to stay. If you do show true interest in moving up and developing, the company does offer many in-between positions which set you up for the possibility of promotion.

I worked for some great district managers. Some of the most important people in my life came from working at GameStop. I am not ashamed to admit that. My time with the company developed me not only as a manager, but as a person; not every job can do that.

How many female managers were in your district? State? Company-wide?

In my Northern California district there was one female store manager. That district recently expanded and now has two; most of the assistant managers when I left were female. In my Los Angeles district, however, out of the ten we had, six or seven were female, with mostly female assistant managers as well. It varies depending on the location.

Is it true you get paid on cash cards, or some kind of card system? Seems shady.

It isn’t shady, but t does suck. Believe it or not, several companies switched to a service called Comdata. It’s a shitty not-really debit card that only works in select locations. If I recall correctly it cost me five dollars to withdraw from an ATM, and another five dollars to transfer the funds to an account. Solution? Direct deposit. You’ll get your first few paychecks on your Comdata card (which, don’t ever lose it, I’ve heard horror stories), and once direct deposit clears, the remaining balance and the paychecks from then on get directly deposited into your account. I’ve heard rumors that GameStop’s investigating a better payment system, but really, direct deposit is the way to go no matter your place of employment.

If a guy walked into a GameStop and asked to be hired based on his vast knowledge of games, would he get hired? Or would the Barbie/Ken who knows nothing get hired instead?

That is on a manager-to-manager basis. I interviewed and hired people based on their morals, personality, and customer service experience. I hired a guy who worked the stock room at a Zumiez, and another who did work at a bio-tech lab. It all depends on what the manager wants. And unfortunately, some managers hire based on looks.

Why must employees hound you about Game Informer subscriptions, the card, and pre-orders — even when the managers aren’t around?

To put it simply: It’s how the stores are ranked. You must achieve a certain percentage of transactions that are reservations, subscriptions, and in some districts, warranties. GameStop called it “The Circle of Life.” Pre-orders bring in new sales, new sales bring in trades, trades bring in subscriptions, and subscriptions bring in used sales. I think that’s how it went, at least.

Some employees thought the “Circle of Life,” was stupid, and a dumb rule to follow. Yes, it does sound cheesy, but it makes sense. Best Buy and Hollywood Video — places where I worked before GameStop — had no structure; just a boss yelling at you with a grading system that really didn’t reflect on your performance. If you break down “The Circle of Life,” it make sense:

What do gamers want? The newest titles, of course. Pre-orders help them make sure they get their new games, and help stock balance. Once these games come out, this brings in the new sales. The gamers play their games, and after they’re done, they  trade them in for store credit. By subscribing to the PowerUp Rewards program, they get an additional 10% for said trades, and additional perks, like a 10% discount on used games. It all connects, and it all makes sense. In the center of it all, of course, is customer service.

Does GameStop care about the ESRB ratings?

Absolutely! GameStop is a member of the ESRB Council, making sure these policies are very strongly upheld. Plus, each store is audited at one point or another, if not multiple times. If you sell to someone you didn’t ID, and they end up being under the age of seventeen, you better whip out the want-ads, because you’re looking for a new job.

I respect the ESRB ratings. I feel that children these days are not mature as we were back then, and need to be monitored . GameStop sends out many reminders and flyers for both employees and parents to educate them on the ratings and why they’re in place.

When an auditor comes into a GameStop, there’s a certain list of steps and what-not that they go through. When the auditor’s audits are complete for the day, the auditor sends off the results to someone who relays the information to the district manager, who then relays and gives props to the successful teams. If you weren’t successful, your information was most definitely not public, and you received a nice one-on-one meeting with your district manager shortly after. And by nice, I don’t mean nice at all.

Was there anything the company made you do that aggravated you?

Like any company, of course. The thing I hated the most, and still do to this day is marketing. Roughly every three to five weeks you’d change all the signs in the stores, the posters, and endcaps. There were some fun marketing kits, and others that were just downright annoying. Of course, companies paid for their marketing to be placed in certain areas, so we had to display them. But it doesn’t mean it was aggravation-free.

The thing that pissed me off the most was the “pre-owned best sellers,” and “hot games under $20″ sections. These sections were roughly seven facings wide (seven game cases across, top to bottom), and were in between the pre-owned and new sections of that specific console. Seems simple enough, yes? Unfortunately with these sections, we were not allowed to use actual game cases. We made planogram and fake cases for these games. And, honestly, seven times out of ten, someone would bring up the fake case, and I would have to disappoint them and tell them, “I’m sorry ma’am/sir, unfortunately I don’t have this game in stock. Is there another game I can recommend, or would you like me to see if a nearby store has a copy?” And the response would usually be, “then why do you have a case out there for it?”

Then I would have to explain that these sections were set up by corporate and had to be maintained with certain titles and blah blah blah. The customers didn’t care, they just wanted their game! This did become a little easier to deal with once the Web In Store function debuted. This allowed any GameStop employee to search our website, and order the game for the customer right there in the store. If you wanted rushed shipping you’d have to pay, but usually the 5-10 day shipping was free of charge.

What is the worst horror story you have about GameStop, either dealing with a customer, fellow employee, or management? What’s the most heartwarming story (if there are any)?

The biggest horror story? There are several little ones. Many, MANY sexist comments along my career, honestly. But the biggest was the one and only time I cried in front of a customer. It was my first holiday season, and the store was busy. A woman wanted to buy a bunch of stuff, and as I ran her third-party gift card, she mentioned she had an Edge (now PowerUp Rewards) card. It was completely my fault for not asking at the beginning of the transaction, so I voided it, and went back to the beginning.

As I rang up her items, and scanned the third-party gift card again, the computer prompted me with an error stating that there was no money on the card. I swiped, and I swiped, and I swiped and nothing. The line started building up, and my associate helped other customers. I called the number on the back of the card only to be horrified with the response of, “I’m sorry, but since this is a pending transaction, it will take 48 to 72 hours to refund to the card. There is nothing we can do, even if you voided the transaction.”

I started to shake, and the mother was understanding, but her daughter kept boasting off about how “stupid I was,” and how she “couldn’t grasp why this was taking so long.” I eventually apologized repeatedly, started to cry, and went into the backroom to let my tears flow. My manager eventually came back, near-crying because I was crying so much. The good guy took $50 out of his own pocket in trade for the gift card, and sent the customer home with a smile.

Heartwarming story? I can’t just pick one, really. Customers can be shitty and awesome people. There are many customers I still speak to today, and consider my friends. I’m connected with some on Facebook, and dick around with others on Xbox Live. I had a grandmother cry when I told her I was moving and relocating to the Los Angeles area, and a kid tell me she wanted me to be her mommy. And that’s just to name a fraction of the heartwarming things I experienced.

You probably went into this article going, “YEAH! MORE GAMESTOP BASHING!” Nope, sorry! I’m giving you the truth. Am I saying GameStop is perfect? Hell no! But it has done a lot of good for a lot of people, including paying for schooling for those who couldn’t afford it. Every company has highs and lows. GameStop is no different.

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Gamer. Photographer. Internet superhero. Commander Shepard. Specializing in urban decay photography and being a gamer since she was two, Tatjana is one unique cookie. Not only does she climb fences and risk arrest for the perfect shot, she's also convinced that she's actually Commander Shepard.

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