Friday, October 3, 2014

Gamestop's Incentives

I spent several blogs going over Gamestop's Circle of Life, the cycle that drives business for the company. As a part of that I explored two of the most notorious things expected of Gamestop employees: convincing customers to pre-order upcoming games and subscribe to their discount card.

I did not, however, make any mention of the incentives the company gives its employees to make such sales. That, I figured, was worth an entire blog on its own.

The benefits offered to Gamestop employees changed over the course of my time there, so I assume they've probably changed a bit since I left. For instance, I have no idea how health care has changed in the company since the new system came into effect, but health care was already being offered in the company if you signed up within a certain window. I don't know how good the health care was, though, since I never signed up for it.

There were two benefits that were lost over the course of my time there which stand out to me.

First, when I was originally hired E3 was still an event limited to people in the industry or the press and, hey, employment at Gamestop was considered to be a part of the industry. I wanted to attend that first year I worked there, in 2006, but I didn't bug my manager enough for him to remember to sign me up, so I missed out. Then, in 2007 E3 changed its policy and I was no longer eligible to attend. However, this was a problem with E3, not Gamestop. I just find it funny that E3 recognized Gamestop employees as part of the games industry for a while there.

The second benefit to be lost was also not strictly Gamestop's fault, but rather the fault of their parent company: Barnes & Noble. As a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble, Gamestop employees were granted a 30% discount on purchases at Barnes & Noble stores. Although there were no B&N stores in my hometown of Houma, LA, I would sometimes coordinate with other employees to take a trip to the one in New Orleans. However, I don't think employees get that benefit anymore, and I'm not sure why it was taken away.

That 30% discount was great, especially compared to our employee discount at Gamestop stores, which was only 15%. That 15% wasn't nothing, and it stacked with some other discounts such as the discount card (which pretty much all Gamestop employees subscribe to on their own dime). However, realistically the discount barely covered sales tax, and it did little to help its employes stay on top of new games so they could talk them up effectively.

To that end, the employee check-out system was far more effective. All Gamestop employees have the ability to "check-out" any game in the store, making the store effectively a library. An employee only has to make the request of a manager and write the information down in the store's monthly guide book. Then, they can enjoy the game for three days, then return it in good condition. It was generally requested that the employee check out a used copy of the game if available, but it wasn't uncommon for them to check out new games.

So, yeah, sometimes that "new" game you bought at Gamestop was actually used by someone before you. Still, as I mentioned before, the main reason to buy new games is to make sure the developer is getting a cut. So, really, it doesn't matter much.

I abused the check-out system in more ways than one. For instance, when I was working two jobs as both a Gamestop employee and a security guard, Gamestop was still selling used DVDs. Since the check-out system didn't say the item being checked out had to be a game, I would often check out movies to watch on my security guard shifts.

I think I only actually checked out games 2-3 times, and each time I ended up keeping the game way longer than I was supposed to. So, I generally abstained from that perk.

Anyway... I think those were the only real benefits to being a Gamestop employee. You got a 15% discount on games, got to check out games for a few days, and had the satisfaction that, in some small way, you were technically part of the gaming industry. Sure, managers and assistant managers got a few other perks, but for the rank and file grunts of the Gamestop army, that was it. There were no commissions for good sales, no company picnics, only the shame of disappointing the company is you failed to meet sales goals.

Not that shame was the only weapon in Gamestop's arsenal to get its employees working hard, but... well, we'll get to that some other time.

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