Gamestop: You Decide — Friend or Foe?

Hopefully after this article you’ll be able to make a more informed answer to that question.

America has a love-hate relationship with the video game reseller Gamestop. The ubiquitous retailer of new and used games and collectibles has made a very good business out of what is essentially pawn shop mentality;

Buy cheap from the desperate and resell for big profit.

It is hard to consider video gamers looking to flip silver discs as “desperate” but the truth is — Gamestop has the market for used games covered pretty well.

While hardly a monopoly (after all, the best part about physical ownership of video games is the ability to sell, rent or trade to anyone you want after you no longer want them) they offer a level of convenience and accessibility where online resale mediums like CraigsList or eBay do not. You can find them on a street corner in every neighborhood and in every mall (the ones that are left, anyway) in America.

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Welcome to Gamestop.

Despite the seemingly universal hatred of Gamestop they were able to turn a profit of over $3 billion last year. The aggressive suggestive selling, often in-ept and rude employees, ridiculous pricing (especially when they jack up the price of used games during sale periods) and terrible trade values are all just a few reasons why people tend to dislike the chain.

Since the disdain of Gamestop is well-known lore and easily discoverable with a few good Google searches (I provided some in the last paragraph) — and I agree with a lot of what is said there — I wanted to offer some alternative, positive thoughts about Gamestop as I believe that a lot of people aren’t using them to their full potential.

Gamestop != Gamestop

One of the benefits of being a chain store is that your experiences from one store to another (even one in another town, state or even country) should be very consistent. With some cultural differences aside, if you order a Big Mac from McDonalds in California you’re going to get the same sandwich if you order one in Tokyo, Japan. You would expect that every Gamestop features the same service and culture.

This isn’t true with Gamestop.

People shouldn’t be blamed for believing this to be true. However, perception of Gamestop grossly vacillates from customer to customer for a good reason.

There are Good Gamestops and Bad Gamestops.

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The Wizard of Oz — © MGM

Sure, the store pricing models and displays along with stock and such are a constant — what makes stores different are the people that are there; employees, managers and even customers.

If you go into a Gamestop and are revolted by the service, the staff and/or your treatment — drop your potential purchases and drive the 4.2 miles to the NEXT Gamestop. Your second experience could be poor as well but I’m willing to bet if you poke around a few stores, you’ll find one that you actually like and appreciate the staff that works there. Management has a part in this but when you find employees that really love games and are interested in helping you? You’ll enjoy a totally different experience.

Find a “home store” and call it your own. Build up a little rapport with the staff (and not just the cute girls; they won’t be there long enough — they revolved in and out like actresses in Charlie’s Angels).

When dealing with customer service employees? A little kindness can make all the difference — and Gamestop is one of those places where you will catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar. This isn’t limited to Gamestop, either. Write that down.

Gamestop Rentals

Did you know that Gamestop has a 7 day, no questions asked, no restocking fee return policy?

That’s right, you can purchase a used game from Gamestop and return it for no other reason than “I didn’t like it” — and you will get a 100% refund of your purchase in cash.

This makes Gamestop even better than Blockbuster Video (er, Redbox for you Millenials). You get 7 day video game rentals for net zero dollars and zero cents.

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You didn’t get your money back when you returned movies here.

You can’t beat that. No subscription. No cost. No brainer.

Of course, this is limited to used — sorry, pre-owned — games in stock but if your “home” store doesn’t have it, you can have them quickly search nearby locations. If you’re nice, they might even call ahead and have the other store hold it for you.

… and you can return it to ANY store. How about that?

Watch For Actual Sales

As with most retail outlets these days, Gamestop sales are hardly good deals when you break it down carefully (or if you’re even a remotely smart online shopper). As mentioned, Gamestop has been proven to jack up the prices of used games prior to Buy x Get y Free sales. Sometimes, the used game is actually more expensive than buying it new!

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Wait .. what? How does THAT work?

However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an occasional good deal to be had at the video game retailer. Most come in the form of the X FOR $Y deals — such as the one that was going on at the time of writing.

Right now, for example, there is a sale on used — sorry, pre-owned — games under $10; get four games for $20. For those a bit simple with math (like me), that’s a whopping 50% off sticker price.

Not to mention if you have a paid membership (aka PRO or ELITE) you still get that 10–20% discount on top.

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I paid $17 for four Xbox One games.

If you’re lucky enough to still have the Elite membership (fortunately I do), you can score four $10 games for 60% off each. You won’t get that on eBay or CraigsList.

Oh, and you can still return any of them in 7 days for full cash back.

Paid Membership That MIGHT Make Sense

As with any subscription or paid membership, it has to work out right for you in the end to be worth it. People would rather dismiss this as “Gamestop nonsense” than to actually do the math and see if it has value.

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Believe it or not, this MAY be a good deal.

The recently deceased Elite level membership was the best deal ever (which is probably why it is six feet under) — which entitled you to 20% off used games and accessories (including crazy deals like 4 for $20). It also earned you Reward Points faster, getting you crazy fast access to digital coupons scoring you $5+ off products (30 per dollar means at $133 spent, you get a $5 off coupon).

The cost of this membership was $30 per year. Again, for we the simple math folks, you would need to spend $150 per year on used products at Gamestop minimum to break even (actually a lot less if you figure in the coupons you’ll earn spending that much and if you do some trading in).

Unless you’re grandfathered in, the best you can do now is the Pro membership which is considerably watered down; offering 10% off and slower point accumulation — but costs only $15 per year. Oddly, you still have to spend $150 on used product to break even here — and those coupons won’t offset it very far ($400 spent = $5 coupon).

You will break even a LOT faster if you trade in products, participate in those sales we talked about, etc.

While not guaranteed, your friends and family can probably get away with getting your discount by giving Gamestop your phone number. They get the discount, you get points faster to get your $5 off coupon.

I would like to point out that the paid memberships come with a year subscription to Game Informer magazine — either in digital or physical format. I happen to be a really big fan of Game Informer magazine. In today’s cesspool of crappy gaming “journalism” and “titty Twitchers”, it is refreshing to find some decent, relatively unbiased writing which extends to even covering retro gaming stuff.

Plus, the digital edition is pretty interactive and you can use native mobile apps to access it.

I’m a big fan of this magazine; free with your subscription.

If you enjoy physical magazines still (and I do), you can opt to get the ‘zine in the mail. That’s worth more that $15 on its own.

Unfortunately, you can’t get BOTH editions. I would love to have the mag and the digital — but since I can only choose one, I get the digital.

Other Stuff

Now that you know how to find a decent store, how to exploit their zero cost rental program and get in on a discount plan that can actually work for you — what other decent things can I say?

They don’t pay much attention to hard to find (aka pricey on eBay) games for older systems. Wii, PS2 or Xbox games going for $30+ on eBay may be obtainable locally at one of your neighborhood Gamestops for $10 or less (maybe get it as part of a deal).

Gamestop typically has a much bigger selection of games on hand than Target, Walmart or other local retailers. Sure, Amazon is going to be a good source — but if you’re looking for something to play over the weekend on a Friday night? Even with Prime, you can forget about Amazon getting it to you for your days off. As Blockbuster Video patrons will (er, WOULD) tell you — there is value in selection.

We talk about PRE-OWNED games a lot here, but it is important to remember that Gamestop sells used accessories too. Using one of the paid membership plans (and maybe a coupon or weekly deal) you can get that second or third controller, that headset or some other thing you’ve been putting off because you would rather not pay retail for it.

So which is it? Friend or Foe?

As with most retail outlets, the answer is both. Gamestop is a boogeyman for sure, East Texas* … but if you understand and play by the rules? Gamestop can be used like a Shake ‘n Bake bag — excellent for your needs and you can throw it away when you’re done with it.

*By the way, the East Texas thing was a reference to The Stand. I don’t typically spell out my references, but I figured it was esoteric enough that I needed to.

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I write, blog, record and review anything that interests me — including humanity, parenting, gizmos & gadgets, video games and media.

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