Many have talked about how Gamestop (and other stores) are getting rich by selling games more than once. Their trade-in and used game business makes big profits, and there’s lots of detractors who have problems with it. I want to weigh in about my personal experiences; well, two linked experiences that I’ve had.
I just bought Endless Ocean for the Wii from the local Gamestop, which isn’t in the best part of town (though there are certainly worse). I go in, and spot the…game on the shelf, with a used sticker, so I snap it up and walk to the register. At the counter is a 30ish man, hunched over the counter and talking in hushed tones to the store employee, who seems to be talking trade-in with the man. I get in line, and another store clerk comes up to me to chat.
Cool, you like the Wii? He sez, looking at the box in my hands. Yep, I reply, but I really like the oddball games like this Endless Ocean game. He sez Cool. Then I say I’m surprised to find this Wii game used, since it just came out.
His tone gets conspiratorial. He sez Yeah, we get a lot of used games, even one day after they come out. See, people steal the games from the Walmart just down the street, and bring the games to us to sell. They sometimes don’t even take the wrapper or the Walmart stickers off them. We can’t accept them like that, of course. We tell them to open the packages and bring them back tomorrow. The game in your hand might even have been one.
Just like that, he admitted to accepting stolen property. And I can’t believe he’s saying this, since such a deal seems to be going down right in front of us.
So who does this crime benefit? Well, me, apparently, since I can get a game used (and thus cheaper) so quickly after its release. And Gamestop profits handsomely from accepting stolen games; each one is pure profit, since they don’t have to share the profits with the publisher, and they don’t have to transport the game anywhere. Walmart loses, which is why you see the games behind locked glass doors now, and other draconian security techniques (not that it seems to be doing that Walmart any good).
And ultimately we all loose, since Gamestop seems to care little about stopping or punishing these crimes. Which brings me to my next anecdote.
Last summer, the eve of our move, someone broke into our house and stole 2 DSs and a PSP (plus a camera and some games). Now, when you buy any game machine these days, it comes with a unique ID scancode, and the clerk scans it and adds it to the database. I had purchased all three devices from the local Gamestop, so I knew they had the IDs of my devices, and I went to talk to them about the theft.
I asked the girl behind the counter, Is there any way I can check to see if the devices I bought from this store have been re-sold? No, she sez. If you had your original receipt, maybe.
But I bought them from this store, with a credit card, and I saw the clerk scan my serial numbers. Don’t you have them in your computer?
No sir, she sez. They keep that stuff at corporate headquarters somewhere, and you have to send in a written request to get access. But look, I said, every time someone sells Gamestop a used game or device, you have to take all their personal information. And you know you’ve already sold those DSs and that PSP before. So can’t you put those together and catch the criminal? Well, she replies, we only collect that information ’cause it’s required by law. I don’t think we actually use it for anything.
It’s pretty clear that Gamestop, as a corporation, not only doesn’t care about accepting stolen property, they profit from it. And while the individual clerks in the store go through all the motions they think will protect them (and the corporation) from being liable, they know exactly what’s going on and they not only fail to stop it, they tut-tut like it was a car accident they just drove by.
I think the end result of all of this was best expressed by Penny Arcade (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2007/03/30).