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.