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Buyer beware: GameStop, what's NEW?

With record sales being posted, GameStop is dominating U.S. retail game sales with little or no sign of slowing down. But at what cost? It seems GameStop has some secrets not all its customer base may be aware of.

In 2003, GameStop settled a lawsuit, "alleging that the company sold games as new even though they had already been bought and returned to its stores under the stores' return policies, in violation of state consumer protection laws."

One would think that after being caught once, well, they would "clean up their act" and avoid any sort of correlation to that of a pawnshop.

Which brings us to the ongoing procedure, to this day, at GameStop stores of removing the factory plastic wrap and breaking the factory seal from new game titles in order to use the game boxes for display. The disc is stored behind the counter, until at times, an unknowing customer brings up a display box, paying new prices, only to have a disc slid into the display box. GameStop refers to this process as "gutting", while the customer still pays the new price.

It has also been reported that these "gutted" games can also be taken home by employees to "test out" and learn about the games they are selling only to bring them back to the store to sell as new. "The alleged practice of GameStop lending new copies of games to employees at their stores and then later selling those games as new, unused copies, may be a violation of federal law. GameStop's "check-out" policy, confirmed to Kotaku by a number of the chain's managers and employees, could fall under scrutiny of the Federal Trade Commission." When confronted about this policy GameStop had this to say, "We (GameStop) do not comment on corporate policies that are competitive in nature," said Chris Olivera, vice president of corporate communications. "As your questions relate to company training, operations and discounting practices, I would not be able to provide feedback."

Being late to the party to this generation of video games and systems, I had some catching up to do when I got back into console gaming this past winter. Trying to avoid big chains like Walmart, I decided to make most of my purchases from my local GameStop but did no research on their business practices. Over the next few months, acquiring 30 some odd 360 games, all purchased as new. Though due to work and lack of time most of the games have yet to be played, and apparently being a complete idiot or perhaps just an honest person, until recently had not noticed that about 80% of the games I had bought were "gutted" copies most of which were scratched, finger marked and looked heavily played, looking worse than some games I've owned for 10 years. And no, the "gutted" process was never mentioned at the counter, but really, in my opinion, this practice should not even be an option when purchasing new products of any kind.

GameStop provided this template type explanation when emailed about my experiences with the company:

"First off, on behalf of the company, we offer our apologies for your lack of satisfaction in the products you purchased from our Meadville location. While all stores company wide follow the same display guidelines through "gutting" new copies of the game to provide the cases for display, this location failed in ensuring the games were transferred back to the cases in the original state they were taken out in. In a perfect scenario, we would not have to go through this process, which we agree, would not only improve the quality of games being sold, but it would also decrease the work load on our staff members, providing them much more time to spend talking to and helping our customers. While it is possible in larger "big box" retailers to simply place their games in racks with security casings or behind locked glass cases, we do not have those options as our stores are not suited for these type of display methods. Several options have been and are being looked at with regards to how we can safely display these new titles without fear of having them stolen on a regular basis however to make this jump in 4400+ stores commands a lot of time, planning and testing that at this point is not yet complete. Typically our staff members make sure to mention when selling these gutted copies to our customers why it is opened and explain our necessity for doing so. At this point, you as the customer, have every right to choose not to purchase. In past experiences, a very small percentage of "gutted" games that have been sold turn up in the condition in which you described, however, if you were not provided the information as to why the games were sold in the state you purchased them in, then again, we missed on a very big aspect of our customers experience."

"Should you not wish to purchase the title if it is a "gutted" copy, our associates can take your name and phone number and have the specific title either shipped in, or contact you back the next time they receive it in stock. As for the legal ramifications to our stores processes and policies, that is a matter in which the legal department has and will also continue to work on to ensure that GameStop and any of it's affiliates stay within all necessary rules and regulations regarding the buying, selling and trading of all video games. Lastly, should you wish to continue shopping with us we will honor your decision in any future transactions should you wish to not purchase the open "gutted" copy or wish to inspect the disc prior to leaving the store. Again, even if you purchase an open copy and do not notice any imperfections until after you've attempted to play the product, there is a 30 day return policy in place that will allow you to return, exchange or trade the game back in for a refund or credit towards any future purchases."

Since I used to take for granted the assumption that if the sticker says "NEW", it's of course new, I've found myself inspecting the data sides of discs before I leave any retailer. And yes, at first I didn't have a problem paying new prices for an open box, considering GameStop's entire store line of new games is sold this way, at least at my location, I again assumed the games discs were in new condition . But do me a favor and don't assume anything when it comes to GameStop or you will be left feeling like how your grandmother always warned you would when you do ass-u-me.

I'm curious how the gaming community feels about GameStop and their policies reguarding selling openned or "gutted" software as new and at new game prices and the reported employee "check out" company policy or training proceedure of letting employees take these "gutted" games home to play, only to sell them as new later on.

The fact that this may be old news to many of you is also very disheartening, since a company with such shady business practices has exceled over the years and continues to do so.

GameStop currently operates as "GameStop and "EB Games" at 4,400 locations nationwide.

SpongeBob SquarePants: I just don't get it.

For the last few years I've noticed a disturbing trend among 25 to 40 year-old American males. Although I almost fall into that demographic, I've avoided falling victim to everything SpongeBob SquarePants (SBSP as I'll refer to him as).

Now I'm not talking about casual fans of the character, I'm talking hardcore SBSP fans, the kind of fanaticism that drives someone to wear their recently ironed SBSP boxers in front of their wife or girlfriend, a fellow employee admitted to such behavior.

How the conversation got to this point is still a bit foggy. Well, I simply remarked on the SBSP car freshener hanging from his rear view mirror and just like that, the next 25 minutes of my life was spent talking about the famous flamboyant sponge. To hear this middle-aged guy talk, it was like he was talking about a supermodel or sport's icon, he was that excited to share his love for SBSP.

After this display, I started noticing more and more grown men representing the SBSP camp and I'm left to ask, why? What is it about this character that attracts this crowd? The following are some theories as to why this phenomenon is spreading rapidly among America's Generation X male population.

1. He's a fan of the just underwear look.
Guys don't like pants. As soon as we can, off they come. And not wearing them on random occasions would be a dream come true. SBSP seems to know what's up in this department and I think some guys relate to that. Although he has to loose the knee high socks and dress shoes, that's just half naked senile grandad type behavior.

2. Undies can be restrictive.
When the no pants trick just isn't cutting it, it's time to just get freaking weird and get naked. SBSP seems not to be a stranger to nudity, in fact the little bugger is quite the exhibitionist. Fortunately, this sort of behavior will probably earn a night in the slammer in the real world.
3. Too much booty in the pants.
Yeah, I'm going to remain closed lipped on this one, but Shakira and Beyonce apparently have some competition.
4. A new age of tolerance.
These two really just need to get it over with. Acceptance is the new "PC" thing for any age group, instant popularity.

NO pic available.
5. Girls dig SBSP.
No evidence was found to support this theory but actually the exact opposite was found as two examples are provided...
Alcoholic. Sponge Bob stuffed animal collection.
Lifelong virgins.


The joy of cursing at inanimate objects.

For years now I've been taking my boiled over rage out on inanimate objects. Namely through cursing and downright belittling things that can't talk back. Whether it's a traffic stoplight which seems to have a personal vendetta against me, always changing its colors at the most inconvenient times, causing sudden stops, near death encounters and the beverage of the hour to go a flying, or, a great Nemesis of young childhood, bad video game controllers.

Many of my childhood hours were spent with the NES, completely disillusioned, at times, from what was going on in the real world, but thoroughly engrossed with finishing Iceman's stage before Miami Vice made its nightly appearance. At times that good old NES controller would receive so much verbal abuse form my adolescent lips. After verbally ripping that controller a new one, sometimes I'd look down at that black and grey rectangle and just reflect on how juvenile my actions were. Almost at that exact moment of doubt I'd be reminded why I hated that controller so much; the d-pad/A-B buttons took the liberty of painfully mapping themselves on the tips of my fingers. This meant war. Remembering back, frustrated at many failed attempts to accomplish a sequence of timed jumps in one of the Mega Man titles, my rage entered a new level. This controller must die, grasping that anti-ergonomic piece of crap with both hands, I twisted and tried to destroy what Nintendo had given me to waste endless "man" after "man" on said level, time and time again. My attempts were futile, that controller wasn't breaking in half, the only consolation I had was to curse at it to the high heavens. After insulting that controller's mother many times, somehow that took a tidbit of that animosity away. Just enough to attempt that near to impossible stage again. And what is to thank? Though it may seem like insanity, the luxury to curse at inanimate objects. It's my solution to some of life's smaller annoyances.

A good old fashion roommate rant.

We've all had them, or probably will before too soon, annoying roommates. Maybe it's something small, like the way he/she pronounces each and every time certain winds escape the body. Like you had to mention that you farted, good thing or I might of missed that because the whole noise from your ass combined with the god awful smell just wasn't that much of a tip off. Or, on to bigger annoyances. Like the way you eat all my good Hot Pockets. I'm not talking Broccoli and Cheese, hell, that's more of a favor. No, my roommate does the unthinkable, he gets all up in my Four Cheese Pizza. And when combined with the smaller annoyances, like mentioned above, it can get pretty unbearable on occasion. The whole package seems to come together when a certain American pastime takes place, NASCAR. This sport seems to bring the best out of my roommate, and by best I mean the qualities that make me want to run up and smack that Four Cheese Pizza holiness straight out of his face.

But like most people, my roommate does have some good qualities. One being, he sort of resembles Stimpy of Ren and Stimpy fame. His giant face seems to always hold an abnormal amount of the color red, which when accompanied by his trademark wheezing fits, the two are almost indistinguishable. Yes, folks, this is probably his best quality. Which one of Stimpy's many personas best describes my roommate you might ask? The one where Stimpy appears to have OD'd on one too many cat nip encounters. See below pic for visual example.

This has been a good old fashion roommate rant, though I feel somewhat guilty for this rant, it only takes the thought of a certain Hot Pocket variety then it's all justified...