GameStop Is Not ‘Essential Retail,’ No Matter What They Say

Image via Wikimedia Commons//BentleyMall

If you’re like me, you’ve been taking note of which retailers are treating their employees well and which are treating them like dirt during this global crisis. Might I suggest adding GameStop to the ‘treating employees like dirt’ list?

GameStop has been handling this situation fairly poorly from the very beginning.  In a conference call earlier this week, store managers were dismayed by the company’s focus on sales as opposed to employee or customer safety. Polygon talked to several store managers who shared their frustration with the company’s approach and offered a glimpse into what GameStop’s plan for safety is:

Workers have been told to clean their hands every 30 minutes, and to regularly clean in-store surfaces. But the company’s promise to deliver hand sanitizer and other cleaning materials has not materialized. Five employees told Polygon that they have not received cleaning supplies. The company memo said its cleaning supplies order will not be available “for several weeks.” Workers are being told to buy their own cleaning supplies, and claim the cost back on expenses.

But things have seemingly gotten worse since then, when a memo went out to stores that encouraged them to stay open even during government-mandated lockdowns:

Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time.

They also imply that if the police show up to force their stores closed, they should show them that memo and have the police call corporate headquarters.  And I’m sorry, but what? Have they lost their minds?

I guess they did cancel a midnight launch event, but that’s not nearly enough, man. It does not make up for everything else they are doing. This is the bare minimum to give off the appearance that they care, but they truly don’t.

In no way is a gaming retailer ‘essential’ during this crisis.  Grocery stores and pharmacies are the only truly essential places that should remain open right now, with a few exceptions for take out or delivery restaurants on a regional basis (and even that gets tricky as the delivery drivers could inadvertently become carriers).  People need food and they need their medication, but in no universe are games essential.

Games, while helpful to pass the time when stuck at home under lockdown, are not essential for living.  Besides, if you really want to game while stuck at home, there are endless titles available for digital download on various platforms.  And you don’t have to venture outside your house to a store that clearly doesn’t care about their employee’s or customer’s health to obtain those games. Sure, not every title is available right now, but plenty are.

Besides, there’s more than just games, too. Check out our Bored and Quarantined Recommendations: Books & Comics, Podcasts & Video Games, YouTube.  Most of these recommendations can be obtained remotely, which means you don’t have to go to a germ-filled store to entertain yourself.

So basically there is no reason to leave your home and go to a GameStop to find entertainment.  You can easily find entertainment in plenty of places online and never leave your house.

So why is GameStop doing this?  Twitter user Beth Elderkin had an interesting observation:

This is, to put it simply, corporate greed. But it’s not just any corporate greed, but the greed of a company that has been plagued (forgive the pun) by years of closed stores and dropping sales.  They are desperate to keep their company afloat and they know that this crisis could spell the end of their company. 

Well, GOOD. I hope it does.  I hope this forces the store to close permanently.

My heart goes out to the retail workers who could be left unemployed by the company’s downfall, especially when we are about to enter a recession (which many think we are already in, but I’m not an economist).  For any GameStop employee who is concerned about that, I’m not going to argue against that concern.  I get you, man. I really do.  I hope our government passes a relief act quickly and you can cover your expenses during the crisis.

But I also want you and your families to be safe and, while I’m aware that this company going under or laying you off during the crisis will hurt you, I feel that you getting the illness or spreading it to your elderly or immuno-compromised relatives will hurt you even more

You may disagree with me on that, and that’s fine.  But I truly want you safe and what this company is doing to you endangers not just you, but your families, your customers, and your customers’ families. We all need to isolate for a while unless absolutely necessary and, frankly, as explained before, games aren’t necessary right now.

I haven’t stepped into a GameStop in years and didn’t really have any plans to do so as most of my games are available for download, but this series of incidents has turned me from a passive non-customer to someone who is actively hoping for them to fail miserably.  They went from a joke of a company to an absolute comically cartoonish example of pure corporate greed.  It’s quite stunning really.

Once all this wraps up and retailers start to open again, I’m going to be keeping in mind all the companies that closed shop and kept their employees safe: Hot Topic, Apple Stores, AMC and Regal Theaters, Microsoft, Sephora, and REI, among others. Most of the companies mentioned will also be continuing to pay their employees, which is absolutely incredible.  Disney Parks, while some were a tad late closing their doors, are also paying their employees. 

Stay safe, gamers.  And give your business to companies that care.  Which is definitely not GameStop.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.


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