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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  • http://www.facebook.com/adelewen Courtney Mohland

    Really enjoyed this article, especially because it wasn’t bashing or sucking up, but plain and whole-hearted honest experience.

    • http://twitter.com/Digital_Vix3n Tatjana Vejnovic

      Thanks for the awesome feedback, Courtney! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tiso.spencer Tiso Spencer

    Interesting. Honestly thought there would’ve been more talk about the nonsense corporate puts the workers through on a daily basis that adds to the frustration of the job. Overall surprised at how good this was.

    • http://twitter.com/Digital_Vix3n Tatjana Vejnovic

      Thanks, I really appreciate that! If you do have any other questions that weren’t addressed, please, feel free to ask!

  • Malcolm

    An enjoyable read. Always nice to hear people’s stories.

  • Joshua

    I went to GameStop last Tuesday and the employee at the register asked me for my phone number which I was not giving to him. I had to drive home and get my dad because the employee wouldn’t tell me that he was trying to give me a membership card in the first place.

    • http://twitter.com/Digital_Vix3n Tatjana Vejnovic

      Not all employees have good ethic, or moral, unfortunately.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lauren.riddle.14 Lauren Riddle

    You did a great job explain everything with an experienced point of view, instead of biased. Way to go, Tatj!! ;D

  • Phillip Carter

    I always said the best sellers was a horrible idea! I found it funny when I read that. Good article all in all.

  • Jeff Masser

    I got hired by gamestop for the holidays last year… I ended up not working a second…. even though they were swamped most of the time (incompetent manager, who was recently fired)… anyways, I’d like to go back maybe next holiday and try it out… nice article, thanks..

    • http://twitter.com/Digital_Vix3n Tatjana Vejnovic

      One of my philosophies as a manager is to train and develop someone not only for the job at hand, but for a future job as well. Find a manager that you feel makes a good impression. Nobody should ever have to work for a bad manager. Managers are supposed to be here to train, develop, and most importantly support you. I wish you good luck, and hope your second time is more enjoyable!

      • Jeff Masser

        Yeah, I completely agree… maybe he either lost that along the way or never had it to begin with….. or, he was hired straight – on as a manager, because he had “experience” or some kind of degree.

  • scir91onYouTube

    every job has its ups and downs. this one is no different. gamestop is not hell neither is it heaven. when you deal with people, you get a mixed bag. i am not surprised one bit about the trade in values. GS needs to make money to pay its bills but i believe it is a publicly traded company and when that happens…well, all morality and fair play (if that even exists in business) are out the window. your stories correspond with those of the avg. joe in any service-related industry based on working directly with people. great to hear your side of it

  • Michael

    Wow so Commander Shepard endorses gamestop. So you get discounts now right? (;jk but thanks for the article! I’m considering applying.

    • Tatjana Vejnovic

      Hahaha, the Commander does. You’re most welcome, and good luck! Feel free to hit me up with any other questions you may have.

  • stephanie burdo

    Bless this article, Commander Shepard.

    • Tatjana Vejnovic

      May the gods be with you, Justicar Stephanie.

  • aicss

    I just started working at GameStop a few weeks ago. I really like it so far. I think the manager makes all the difference. My manager is a great guy and really down to earth. He actually makes the store a fun place to be and it rubs off on all my coworkers. Just like you said, this job isn’t perfect but it is not the worst job ever either. I was working a different retail job for over a year before getting hired at gamestop and I literally hated every moment of that job and it only took 1 week for me to hate it. Awful managers and really shitty coworkers. The GameStop I am at now is the complete opposite of my previous job. I love it.

    • Tatjana Vejnovic

      That’s great to hear! I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself, and your peers at work. A good manager really does make the difference! :)

      • aicss

        Thanks for actually taking the time to respond. We get some pretty weird people who come into our store but since I am in NYC weird people are a given, and they make for some interesting stories. The worst thing has to be when the shipment for a new game comes in and we put the games away in the back room. Every time I go in there I just see a huge pile of a game that I am dying to play (currently it is pokemon X and Y) but I can’t play it because the game isn’t released yet. So close yet so far away. lol.

        • Tatjana Vejnovic

          You’re most certainly welcome.

          Oh yes, I’ve worked in stores all across California, and I can definitely vouch for some weird people. I’ve never been to NYC myself, but 2D-X is based out of NYC, so I’ve heard plenty of stories.

          Haha, it can be, yes. However the consequences of taking said product ahead of time is never worth it. Trust me.

          • aicss

            Of course, my manager is good at noticing when things go missing. Had one person get fired for stealing right before I got hired and another for stealing right after I got hired. Also a few months before I got hired and before my current manager took over the store the company cleaned house in this store because apparently there were some shady things going on. GameStop (like most retail chains) does not play around when it comes to that kind of stuff.

          • Tatjana Vejnovic

            Usually when tenure managers disappear, it’s because they got stupid and stole something. I don’t know what area you live in, but the two regional loss prevention managers I know are incredible at their jobs.

          • aicss

            All my manager said was that the previous manager, assistant manager and the SGAs were doing something shady with the powerup cards and were stealing from the store. I’m not sure what they were doing with the cards that go them fired though.

          • Tatjana Vejnovic

            I’ve terminated someone for doing something along those lines. It’s pretty dumb how people think they can get away with it.

            Where do you work, if you don’t mind me asking?

          • aicss

            In Manhattan.

          • Tatjana Vejnovic

            Ah, yes. I’m familiar with the loss prevention in New York. I know they just brought in either new blood or someone from another region. Whenever a new LP guy is put in, they look through everything before they go on.

  • disqus_xuFDf3Jr8f

    So if a customer purchases a brand new game they can’t return it, but gamestop can open and gut new products and still sell it as new? Please tell me how that’s legal? Although I’m sure your going to say it has something to do with loss prevention

    • Tatjana Vejnovic

      It is a loss prevention thing, actually. And, because the entire company knows the product itself wasn’t used, it was opened and put away. Now, do I agree with that method 100%? No.

      There are test stores in the country that have live product on the floor. This means not a single thing is gutted, and everything is live on the floor. These stores see anywhere from a 10-25% shrink loss per inventory cycle. That’s a LOT of money lost.

      How can GameStop fix that? By forking out cash for checkpoint door security detectors, and placing product in weird magnetized things, like at BestBuy. Sadly these things are expensive, and I don’t see GameStop forking over the cash any time soon.

      • disqus_xuFDf3Jr8f

        Lol simply amazing. No kidding product gets stolen on the shelf. GameStop really needs to test that theory out? If they think that’s the only way to go about loss prevention is by opening product than someone in grapevine needs some common sense drilled into them. There’s no problem with printing generic artwork for used titles that have no original art. So what’s the issue with generic labeling to advertise new, in stock products? And btw many people, including myself have bought “new” copies of games that were gutted only to find download codes have already been used. But it’s never been played.

        • Tatjana Vejnovic

          You’d be surprised what other stupid stuff the company has been testing lately. Kind of scares me, to be honest.

          Problem with that is nearly 80% of customers I’ve dealt with refuse to even look at generic artwork. It’s all on the customer, too, and their expectations, sadly.

          Then that store isn’t following their directive, and stealing. That stuff never happened under my management. If it did, they’d be looking for new jobs, because they didn’t work for me anymore.

  • thatssumgoodcurry

    Hey! So I don’t know how often you check these, but I thought I’d shoot you a question anyway. So I do have an interview with my local GameStop soon, (unless for some reason I am not supposed to mention that I do, then all of this is completely metaphorical…ahem.), but I do have some questions going in that I was wondering about that I thought I should ask you about since you seem to know so much, being the manager that you, well, were. :)
    I actually do currently have a job, one where I work about 20-25 hours per week. My first question is, if I am being interviewed for seasonal hire, should I expect to get measly hours as an associate? Or will they give me somewhere near the hours I request? (i.e. 15-20 hours per week) I’ve heard GameStop gives hours based on performance, but that even if performance is good, these hours are still not many?

    • Tatjana Vejnovic

      In the regular season your hours do get based off your performance. Depending on the area you will be working in, and the volume of the store, you may have weeks where you don’t work at all. Holiday season 2010 I got completely screwed on a lot of hours I was told I would get (and this was an incredibly high volume store), and I had to have one of the highest-performing seasonal employees only work 4-8 hours a week. If you’re going for a seasonal keyholder position, you’ll get the 15-20.

      However, even if you don’t work that much, it’s good to have on your resume, and will be a hundred times easier to get a job at GameStop in the future, seasonal or non-seasonal, if you did well.

      Hope this answers your question!

  • http://people.ign.com/wildguy3922 VirgilX00

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I’ve been at GameStop for almost 4 years now and I could relate exponentially. When I was reading the horror story, I felt my heart drop and held my mouth in shock. But, I was very relieved to hear that your manager took care of that. I don’t know anyone that would do that, but it’s amazing that it worked out.

    Now that you’re out of GameStop, hopefully you’re on to better things. Good luck!!