If you work on games that are sold on store shelves, you should know about a new report from Kotaku alleging that GameStop employees are under renewed pressure to sell pre-owned games -- even if it means misleading customers.
While cynics may feel lies and half-truths have always been a part of the sales business, this report is notable because it references a new program that GameStop reportedly implemented a few months ago as part of its "Circle of Life" business philosophy.
The program requires every GameStop store to hit certain percentage thresholds for used game sales, game trade-ins, reward cash subscriptions, and pre-orders. The company has internal "COL" scores for both stores and individual employees, and Kotaku reports employees are being threatened with disciplinary action or dismissal if their score is too low. Under such pressure, it appears as though some employees are deliberately engaging in shady sales tactics.
"We are telling people we don’t have new systems in stock so we won’t take a $300 or $400 dollar hit on our pre-owned numbers. This is company wide and in discussions with my peers it is a common practice," wrote one source trusted by Kotaku. "We also tell customers we don’t have copies of new games in stock when they are on sale—for example, Watch Dogs 2 is currently $29.99 new and $54.99 pre-owned. We just tell them we don’t have the new one in stock and shuffle them out the door.”
The rest of the Kotaku article is worth reading in full, as it includes further comments from anonymous GameStop employees alleging how much pressure they're under to sell pre-orders and pre-owned games. As Kotaku points out, you can also find some interesting conversations about GameStop's sales tactics on the GameStop subreddit.
Also, it's important to keep in mind that while GameStop's sales of both new and used games have been dipping for a while, the company has just come off an especially "disappointing" holiday season and is deeply interested in expanding its business beyond games.
UPDATE: While GameStop has yet to officially comment on the above report, an internal memo obtained by Kotaku has captured GameStop Chief Operating Officer Tony Bartel’s thoughts on the matter. In the email, Bartel says claims that the Circle of Life program encouraged employees to mislead customers couldn't be further from the truth.
“...at GameStop it is absolutely our mission to help our customers get the best advice and price on any product we sell through buying, trading, pre-ordering and earning points," said Bartel. "We want every customer to get the product and deal that is right for them - whether that be a new or pre-owned video game product, digital game or collectible. The Circle of Life generates great value for the customer."
"While the behaviors described in the news article are disappointing, I know they don’t represent the vast majority of our associates and how they treat our customers.”
The full text of the email can be found on Kotaku.