Saturday, September 20, 2014

Getting a Job at Gamestop

Recently an issue of Game Informer arrived at my house, informing me that my subscription to the magazine was about to expire. To be honest, I'm a little surprised I've kept it going for so long. I work in the industry, so I kind of catch most gaming news I'm interested in long before Game Informer would publish it. Even if I didn't, though, game companies have done a great job of connecting directly to the fans through online presentations and streamed content from conferences and such. In short, why read the magazine at all?

Habit, I suppose. I'm a former Gamestop employee, and having a subscription to the magazine is a must. Or, specifically, having a Gamestop discount card is a must, and the magazine comes free with it. I'm not planning to renew my subscription, however, and as I prepare to let go of this relic of my past I can't help but remember my career at this least prestigious of connections to the gaming industry.

It was 2005, and I was jobless. After months of working as a computer technician, the bipolar boss finally insulted me one too many times, prompting me to resign. I don't recall exactly how long I was unemployed, but I'm pretty sure it was several months--the longest I've spent unemployed since first getting a job at the age of 16.

It was a low point in my life. I had just finished my first year of college, and things were looking grim. I'd gone into my first semester of college with 15 credits to my name, bypassing the need for early English classes, basic computer science, and completely bypassing any math classes I'd ever need to take. All before walking into my first classroom. I was a part of the honor society, and had no doubts I could be whatever I wanted to be, and the state would be paying for it.

By the end of that first year, though, reality had set in. Even though I was not a party person, I neglected my classwork in favor of my other hobbies. As a result, I failed a class and ended my first semester with a GPA around 1.5. I was stripped of my Honor Society status, and the state withheld funding for future semesters until I caught up. I paid for my second semester and summer classes out of my own pocket, and though I managed to lift my GPA enough to satisfy the state by the end of the summer, I was still broke, unemployed, and unsure of what I wanted to do with my life.

Desperate for work, I applied everywhere. Around October I finally got two calls: one from the Gamestop at my local mall, and another from the security guards at that same mall. They each interviewed me, hoping to expand their workforce to handle the coming holiday season. After the interviews I had only to wait for a call to see if I was hired. I believe Gamestop called just hours before mall security.

Working as holiday help at Gamestop is not guaranteed to be a long term job. It's a vetting ground, designed to give the permanent employees time to see how they feel about these newcomers and get to know them before deciding their fates. It also gives the holiday help a chance to prove their salesmanship with little risk to the company itself, since holiday helpers are generally not given time behind the register.

I don't remember my fellow holiday helpers very much. I was the first holiday helper they hired, though, so I got a bit of a head start. I was only working a few hours here and there at first, maybe one or two days each week. My duties included straightening the shelves, greeting customers as they come in and offering to help them find things, and vacuuming the store at night. It was easy,the pressure was low, and I had plenty of time to focus on my school work if I were so inclined. (I was not, but hey.)

I'm not sure what I did to impress the crew. Maybe it was the gusto with which I kept the store straightened. Perhaps it was that one time I got a customer to pre-order a game. Most likely it was simply that I wasn't a jerk and actually showed up for work. Regardless, by the end of the holidays I was being scheduled to work more hours there than any of the other holiday workers and, when the holidays were truly over, I was told that they would begin training me to run a register.

And so my slow climb out of the pits began.

There's a lot I can talk about from my six years or so as a Gamestop employee. As with any customer service job, it forced me to encounter some of the worst that humanity has to offer. I can talk forever about the company's culture, its practices, employee politics, and my own attempts to test the limits of what I could get away with there, in which I'm pretty sure my abilities as an employee saved me from getting fired more than once. If you guys are interested in hearing any of those types of stories, let me know and I'll start digging into my memories for a few more Gamestop-related blogs.