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GameStop Selling Games Played By Employees As New 243

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-sufficiently-played-values-of-new dept.
Kotaku reports on a practice by GameStop which allows employees to "check out" new copies of video games, play them, then return them to be sold as new. Quoting: "When a shipment of video games initially arrives at a store, managers are told to 'gut' several copies of the game, removing the disc or cartridge from the packaging so it can be displayed on the shelf without concern of theft, according to our sources. The games are then placed in protective sleeves or cases under the counter. If a customer asks why the game is not sealed they are typically told the the game is a display copy. The game is still sold as new. When check-out games are returned, we were told, they are placed with the gutted display copies. If a customer asks about these, they are typically told they are display copies, not that they have been played before. Since the copies are often placed with display copies, even managers and employees typically don't know which of these games have been played and which haven't."
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GameStop Selling Games Played By Employees As New

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  • How about DRM? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcvos (645701) on Friday April 10, 2009 @03:11AM (#27528707)

    The site seems slasdotted, so I can't RTFA, but my first thought is: what about games with draconian DRM that allows you to install it only a limited number of times? Employees playing those games may destroy the usefulness of those games.

    • Re:How about DRM? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Friday April 10, 2009 @03:14AM (#27528721)

      Gamestop has pretty much abandoned PC gaming in favor of console games. Going by the local ~50 odd gamestops I doubt most of their employees even understand what they're selling beyond "Yo I so own at halo brah".

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tepples (727027)

        Gamestop has pretty much abandoned PC gaming in favor of console games.

        Even console games have install limits nowadays. One component of the Animal Crossing 3 bundle is a voucher for Wii Speak Channel that can be installed only on one Wii console.

        • Seriously? Wow, that's something I'd never expect from Nintendo. Besides, if the Wii Speak Channel is what I think it is (from what the name suggests), I'm assuming it's a rather pointless channel if you don't have the hardware (Wii Speak) to use it. You may install the channel on 3 Wiis (if they allowed you to, that is), but you can still only use it on the one Wii that you have Wii Speak hooked up to. Seems kind of pointless to be requiring online authorization for software that essentially already has a

          • by jonnythan (79727)

            The idea is that it forces you to buy a new one. You can't buy a used one, because you won't have the coupon.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sexconker (1179573)

          Incorrect!
          Then changed it right after launch.
          You can request a new code for free.

    • by Dutch Gun (899105)

      I suspect this is more of an issue with console games, which are more of a "pop in and play" sort of affair. A lot of PC games have their disks or activation codes in sealed envelops, so it would be harder to get away with that.

    • Re:How about DRM? (Score:5, Informative)

      by DrEldarion (114072) on Friday April 10, 2009 @03:16AM (#27528735)

      The only games they'd do this for are console games, which don't have DRM worries. PC games, AFAIK, are all sold sealed.

      • by Jaysyn (203771)

        I thought DRM was one of the major points of a console.

      • Re:How about DRM? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by drzhivago (310144) on Friday April 10, 2009 @09:40AM (#27530561)

        I worked at Babbages in the mid-90s. The policy of employees taking products home to become familiar with them was encouraged. And really, from a standpoint of being able to inform the customer better, it was a great idea. PC products were not excluded from this policy. Granted it was in '96 or so, and there was an equal amount of disk-based products as CD-based ones, the internet wasn't that big of a deal, and games/products were connected as most are today.

        As for the "guts", when I was there we generally only gutted one copy, and that was what got put on the shelf for display. If it was the last copy and we had to put the game back inside the box, we'd tell the customer we were doing that. I don't remember anything sneaky being done regarding that.

        • Really? (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I work at Gamestop NOW. I've never heard of this. At least not as a store policy. It's entirely possible a few stores do this, but those of us who follow the rules(which is most of us) just wait until a used copy is traded in and then we try it out. We have a rental policy with used crap, but new stuff we do not take out of the sleeve. We DO NOT take out PC games. They are only sold as new and thus we cannot use them.

          My guess is they interviewed a few bad employees. Not "bad" as in liars or people wh

        • I worked at Babbages in the mid-90s. The policy of employees taking products home to become familiar with them was encouraged. And really, from a standpoint of being able to inform the customer better, it was a great idea.

          That's somewhat encouraged at gamestop as well, it's the reason for the employee checkout program. I think it's on paper only for used games, but obviously that's not going to stop hapless gamestop employees from playing it.

          That might change though, I suspect gamestop, which is your typical company run by complete idiots, is going to ban all checkouts (new and used) by employees. I guess it can't hurt gamestop much more, more than half the people who work there don't know much of anything about games anyw

    • The real problem is most console games these days are on optical media, and they get scratched and worn out by use. Not to mention, who wants a manual that's already been used? In practice it probably doesn't matter much, and as long as people keep buying them, it's not going to stop. Personally I never shop at Gamestop, and even smaller towns tend to have independent video game shops.
      • Re:How about DRM? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Hadlock (143607) on Friday April 10, 2009 @03:43AM (#27528841) Homepage Journal

        Optical media almost never gets scratched unless you're eight years old and still can't care for your toys. I lent my beloved copy of Parappa the Rapper to my 8 year old cousins and it came back unplayable, I'm still angry about that 8 years later. All of my optical media from high school is still in great shape, mostly sitting in old CD-R spindles (the best way to store media IMO)

        • Spindles seem to destroy my media. The disks stick together (after being stored at room temperature) after 2-3 years.

        • by revery (456516)

          Just in case anyone is wondering, I finally broke down and bought one of those CD/DVD buffing/repair kits (with the hand crank, haven't tried the automatic things) and it works great. I got a lot of games and DVD's that my kids had scratched working again with it.

    • by rekenner (849871)
      The site is working fine for me, so, RTFA. They can't install games with DRM.
    • Re:How about DRM? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Friday April 10, 2009 @05:02AM (#27529111) Journal

      "Employees playing those games may destroy the usefulness of those games."

      Most of the publishers already did that when they included DRM in the first place.

    • Re:How about DRM? (Score:5, Informative)

      by sshuber (1274006) on Friday April 10, 2009 @06:03AM (#27529319)
      I used to work at Gamestop and we could only check out console games for obvious reasons. Everything else is true though, except my manager pushed that we check out used games as much as possible and he inspected new games when we brought them back. If it was scratched at all, you got the pleasure of buying it. It was a pretty sweet perk to have though. Obviously Gamestop's thinking is that they want a staff who knows what they are selling.
      • Re:How about DRM? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Turken (139591) on Friday April 10, 2009 @09:05AM (#27530185)

        Yep. Had an acquaintance that worked at a gamestop for awhile, and they had the same policy. Still, I never buy from GS in general because I just don't care for my game packages to be pre-opened, even if they are "new" prior to my purchase. I guess it comes down to an issue of trust. If you can't trust the store to give you straight information about games (without trying to upsell you unnecessary crap), how can you trust them to be telling the truth about the condition of that pre-gutted game?

  • by the_nightwulf (1003306) * on Friday April 10, 2009 @03:20AM (#27528749)

    I cannot believe this is just now becoming a "scandal."

    I was a Gamestop assistant store manager in the early 2000's. This was policy way back then, and we abused the shit out of it. Yes, policy said you could only check out one thing at a time for a certain period of time (I remember it being six days, maybe things have changed ...) and you could only check out any given product once, and no products like OSes or consoles. In practice, we took whatever we wanted whenever we wanted for however long we wanted. All the managers covered for each other and the other employees when the district bigwigs came by. On inventory days everyone brought in a list of things to add to inventory. This was SOP for all the stores in my district, and pretty much every store nationwide if you believe the chit chat at the annual store manager meetings.

    "Gutting" has been policy for at least that long too. Per policy, you'd "gut" one copy of a game and when it came time to sell, you'd repackage and re-shrink wrap it. We were supposed to shrink wrap the shit out of everything (Dreamcast software for example: pull the entire CD tray out of the jewel case, shrink the case and put it on the sales floor, shrink the CD tray and secure it behind the counter), but in practice that was too much work once there were 500+ PSX titles, 200+ DC titles, etc. I made sure there wasn't anything obvious left over (stickers with SKU numbers on CDs, for example), but many people didn't. We were also instructed when selling the gutted copy to just walk it to the back and shrink wrap it without offering any explanation. The old pre-EB POS system (which was written in QuickBASIC Professional, and I swear I am not making that up) used to say "Gut checks save lives!" as a part of the screen saver.

    This is been going on for well over 10 years. CD-based software borrowed out and scratched. Cartridge-based software borrowed and sold as "new" with saved data on it. Ask any Gamestop employee if they pay for magazines or tax software. Ever wonder why every Gamestop has a shrink wrapper in back? Do you not know how to tell the difference between factory shrink wrap and re-wrap? Factory wrap is "crinklier" ... and there's always a seam somewhere where a small machine with a glorified hair dryer can't produce one (usually down the middle of the back of the package).

    Oh, and my apologies to whoever ended up buying that one copy of XP Home we had. I didn't realize at the time that the product key couldn't be reused.

    • I cannot believe this is just now becoming a "scandal."

      It's popped up on the internet a few times before [digg.com], and I know I've seen discussions about this on sites like CheapAssGamer before that Digg article was posted.

      Unfortunately, though, nothing's been done about it (at least that I know of). Until the policy is changed or, better yet, eliminated entirely, this is going to keep popping up as "news."

    • by fahrvergnugen (228539) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .vrhaf.> on Friday April 10, 2009 @04:06AM (#27528911) Homepage

      This policy has been around longer than that. I was an employee exercising the checkout policy back in the floppy / cartridge days, at several of the stores which would eventualy merge to become Gamestop (c. 1993-1997) This is old news, the lawsuits about it have come and gone. The policy has been disbanded, then re-instated several times. There's no use getting your panties twisted about it now.

      Look: If you're reading this article, it's safe to assume you've been in a Gamestop (or EB, or Babbage's, or Software Etc., or Funcoland, or whatever your local store was before being devoured by ConGlomCo). So it is because of your undoubted nightmare customer experience in such places that when I tell you the following, you will know that it is true: working there was a fucking horrorshow. The hours were terrible, the customers obnoxious, the colleagues irritating, the stink from the shrinkwrap machine quite literally poisonous, and management incompetent, malicious, or both. Mind you, I'm talking about how bad it was 15 years ago when the stores were competing with each other. I can only imagine that it's gotten worse for employees since the industry consolidated completely, and you can no longer just walk up to the other side of the mall and get a job with the competition.

      These stores pay minimum wage, offer employees almost no discount on the products they sell (and indeed often restrict employees' access to hot items like new-release consoles), and employees are forbidden to hang out mucking about with the in-store demo kiosks during downtime or off-duty hours. Yet at the same time, the customers and management demand that the employees somehow be knowledgable about all the product in the store. These products have consistently sold for $50 - $80 apiece for years. As an employee, you're supposed to have played everything, yet as an employee, you're subject to the same "you broke the shrink, you own it" return policy on $140 a week for the average part-timer. It's an impossible situation for a 19-year-old trying to make rent, groceries, and tuition, much less a sad-sack 30-something manager with kids, pulling in $25k a year on a 70-hour work week if they're lucky.

      Gamestop didn't post record profits by paying their line employees well. Everyone's a disposable cog, and they'd just as soon fire you as look at you. Don't think as an employee you aren't constantly reminded by management about the eager stream of salivating 16-year-olds who think working in a game store would be SO COOL, dreaming of replacing you.

      Given all this, do you think anyone in their right mind would work at that store if they didn't offer employees what amounts to a free lending library of the newest titles? What other incentive could there possibly be to irritate people with membership clubs, pushy pre-orders and used game pitches, and the soul-crushing pain of listening to the loop of that piped in tv network all day?

      If it really bothers you, shop elsewhere. I certainly do, those fucking vultures won't ever get my money again. If you do decide to shop there, use some common sense and check your disks for scratches before you leave the store. It's not that hard.

      But seriously, quit the whining about the "used sold as new" crap. The checkout policy is the price you pay for having specialty knowledge behind the register at minimum wage prices.

      • But seriously, quit the whining about the "fraud" crap. The checkout policy is the price you pay for having pre-order-pushing wankers behind the register at minimum wage prices.

        FTFY.

      • by Niet3sche (534663)
        I used to happily pay the extra $5-$10 premium that Gamestop charges on their games for one and only one reason: Their no-questions-asked return policy. If I was unsure (for instance, multiplayer options) and the store employee didn't know, I *used* to have the peace of mind knowing that I could pick up the software, check out the item in question, and then return it and let the employee know what had happened. I did this twice, and Gamestop made an extra $hundreds off of me during this period. Then a fe
      • > The checkout policy is the price you pay for having specialty knowledge behind the register at minimum wage prices.

        I rather expect the local GameStop employees to have played as many store copies as possible. I like my local shop-- there's the guy that knows RPGs, the girl that is up on DS titles, and the fat guy everyone ignores. It's like having 3 free reviewers who remember what kind of stuff I like. They've saved me from crap games (i.e. impulse buys I later find got lousy reviews) many a time.

      • The checkout policy is the price you pay for having specialty knowledge behind the register at minimum wage prices.

        A friend of mine works at Gamestop and they have a policy of "staff loans". While he does take advantage of this to play the latest and greatest titles, taking games home to play is basically a (unpaid) part of his job. He takes home titles, assesses them, and is able to give an honest opinion to anyone who comes up to the counter. The other employees do so as well, and the end result is, as yo

      • As a former employee more recent than the ones in the above chain, I wanted to say that this policy has been in place even to this day. It was there when I was an employee 3 years ago, and when I go in and chat with the new guys, they say its the only reason they still work there. Our store manager had restricted it to used games only since he wasa bitch, but it was still something to keep us going. The "glow" of working around video games dies pretty quickly when you have do deal with:

        • People who trade
    • I worked as an Assistant Manager for Software ETC back in the early 1990's and "Employee Checkout" was policy back then. The article just reads like some disgruntled employee trying to create scandal.

  • by _hAZE_ (20054) on Friday April 10, 2009 @03:34AM (#27528797) Homepage

    I'm quite surprised that the rest of the world is just now being made aware of this practice. I worked for two competing shopping-mall chain video game stores in the mid-to-late 90's, and both of them had policies almost identical to this. The shrink-wrap machine in the back room made the fact that an item was "checked out" very simple to conceal from the customers.

    To be completely honest, I really don't care, as long as:

    - The materials are sold to me in a "new" condition
    - If it requires any sort of registration key, I better not ever find out it's already been registered

    Without this policy in place, I'm fairly certain a lot of video game stores would simply stop having employees; it's one of the best perks of working at one. Discounts are nice, but playing for free? That's even better.

    • by cjfs (1253208)

      To be completely honest, I really don't care, as long as: - The materials are sold to me in a "new" condition - If it requires any sort of registration key, I better not ever find out it's already been registered

      And that's what it comes down to. Since these are console games the registration key shouldn't apply. If someone is that concerned about the condition, just take a look at the disc before buying. It's really a non-issue.

  • Many years ago I worked at the Harvey Norman computer chain in Australia and the games guys often took games home at the weekend to check out. The reasoning was simple - if you've played a game and a customer wants advice on which game to buy you're in a position where you actually know what you're talking about rather than just staring at them blankly.

    This was before the days of the internet being widely available, but I think the policy still holds true. If you're buying a game at a marked up price from y

    • by williamhb (758070) on Friday April 10, 2009 @05:34AM (#27529243) Journal

      Many years ago I worked at the Harvey Norman computer chain in Australia and the games guys often took games home at the weekend to check out. The reasoning was simple - if you've played a game and a customer wants advice on which game to buy you're in a position where you actually know what you're talking about rather than just staring at them blankly. This was before the days of the internet being widely available, but I think the policy still holds true. If you're buying a game at a marked up price from your local software mart then the staff there better know what they're selling - otherwise how can you justify the retail space and the markup? So far from being a scandal, I call this sensible business practice.

      We do the same thing with Chup-A-Chup lollies. Give each flavour a bit of a lick, so the shop assistant can give knowledgeable advice about them, then wrap the lollies back up and sell them as new. After all, it'd be a waste of cash to actually set aside ones for the employees and not sell them. That'd just not be sensible business practice.

  • ... that pre-played was the way to go. Now there's no difference at all!
  • "Like New" when something has been used like that. Am I correct?

    • "Like"? Why, are some bits on the CD a wee bit worn out or what? Are some of the heros you could play a bit worn out and tired?

      Digital media are either good or bad. There is no wear and tear to the data itself. Either it works or it does not.

      I can see wear and tear at the medium level, where discs can get scratched, but the data itself is still in the same condition it was when the store person took it from the shelf and played it before you got it.

      • by N1AK (864906)

        Digital media are either good or bad.

        And something is either new or it isn't. Selling used goods as new regardless of condition is dishonest. There is absolutely no difference between them doing this, and them buying games back from customers and re-selling them as new (both have been used after all).

        What are you seriously suggesting, that Gamestop stop branding games as new or used, and instead analyse all disks for damage and all cases for wear and instead split there shop into "faultless" and "faulty

      • Digital media are either good or bad. There is no wear and tear to the data itself. Either it works or it does not.

        Watch your tense: works != will work. Imagine this situation: Disc A has no wear. Disc B has some wear, but not enough to affect readability after error correction. Disc B will probably become unreadable first.

  • by DrXym (126579) on Friday April 10, 2009 @05:14AM (#27529151)
    Not saying I necessarily agree with the following suggestions but they seem like fairly clear ways for the games industry to fight back against Gamestop.
    • Shrinkwrap games and slap a holgraphic sticker on the wrap or on the case that must be broken. It would stop Gamestop or anybody else palming off a used game as new. Lots of games already have a holo sticker on the insert, so why not one on the whole box. Also insert a page in the manual telling owners to report stores if the seal was broken.
    • Send each store plenty of dummy case inserts for display to relieve stores of the bullshit excuse that the game was the "display model".
    • Use scratch cards. They work once and it's obvious if someone has already scratched the code off.
    • Use scratch cards even on multiplayer console games. The user can use it to unlock the base map pack or on first play. Employees can't borrow any game without using the code. Additionally Gamestop is screwed because second hand users don't get their map pack essentially crippling the game. GS would be forced to buy refresh codes, or the user would have to buy the pack online. Either way, the game company gets money from a second hand sale they wouldn't have otherwise.
    • Throw in a couple of "Free, Test Copies" per shipment to allow Gamestop to hand out to their employees and I bet everyone would be happy.
  • In the UK... (Score:5, Informative)

    by djsmiley (752149) <djsmiley2k@gmail.com> on Friday April 10, 2009 @05:25AM (#27529201) Homepage Journal

    In game they dont have any kind of check out procedure which I ever had the power to use - sometimes we got promo copies of games which would be handed out as prizes to staff and then the staff would share them, but they were mostly shit games and no one gave a crap (I got sega superstars tennis hahaha).

    From my friends, gamestation (which game now owns) DOES allow employees to check out disks, paying for them if they break it etc. But now all GAME and gamestation stores have a disk cleaning machine which will remove like 75% of scratches leaving the disk looking "as new".

    Both stores "gut" games and put real boxes onto the shop floor, along with inserts sent from H/O. Some inserts are crap/unreadable/wrong and so you sometimes need the real box for the customer to be able to see what they are really buying.

    However, even if we didn't gut games, i'd still say that about 5% are scratched IN the box, due to them falling loose during shipping etc. Luckly we can just disk clean them for free in that case and the customer is happy 99% of the time. If they kick off we might swap the disk for them for a brand new copy, but note it and if they return that too then we will refuse to return it again generally - all this is at managers disgression.

    I no longer work for game, but this is how it was up until about 2 months ago.

  • Happens all the time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UnrefinedLayman (185512) on Friday April 10, 2009 @05:29AM (#27529219)
    The same thing happened to me when Assassin's Creed was released for 360. On release day I did not pre-order and called ahead to make sure they had copies in the store. They assured me they did.

    When I got there and asked for it they said they didn't have it. I said I had just called and been told there were copies. The guy behind the counter turned to the guy next to him and said "Hey [co-worker], were you, uhhh..." and trailed off. He replied Lumberg-style with a "Yeeeahhhh, I was going to take it home... Naw, that's ok, sell it."

    I was all like what the fuck man, and asked them if it was an open box copy that had been taken home by employees and played. He said yeah. I asked if I would be charged full price. The guy said of course and looked at me like he was the confused one. The three other employees nearby were similarly non-plussed. "If there's anything wrong with it you can return it." ...just like I can with a new copy?

    I took the cash in my hand and put it away, said no thanks. There was another Gamestop on the way home that had it, nevermind the two Best Buys with obscene pallets of copies.

    It was a braindead move on the employees' parts and I'd hate to think the manager would approve of that going down in front of a customer. But that's what happens when you have a bunch of kids running the front of house, unsupervised and with a shrink wrapper, and it's no surprise it's happening everywhere.

    I treat the Gamestop sales counter like a casino chip-exchange. I watch every hand at every time, especially when they ask a co-worker to pull out a game. The kids back there do stupid, careless shit with your credit card/license/games/money, and they spend most of their free time dreaming up scams to get more money and more games. That's the business!

    No offense to any upstanding Slashdotters working at Gamestop. I'm clearly talking about your slovenly coworkers.
  • Seal that breaks ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gullevek (174152) on Friday April 10, 2009 @05:34AM (#27529239) Homepage Journal

    Every xbox 360 game I bought has a special sticker on top that is broken once it is opened. I doubt you could easily replace that. I have seen this on US versions, Asian (HK) Versions and Japanese Versions.

    So how can you fake that?

  • Fraud! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by shentino (1139071)

    I think any game store who pulls this crap is committing FRAUD.

    For starters they are LYING.

    Anyone who knowingly sells a game that has been played is complicit and should be jailed.

    Sounds extreme? It is, and it should be. Trust is not something that should be taken lightly. It's a much smaller scale version of Enron. Dishonesty is so rampant everywhere, and when it rises to fraud, it must be punished.

    Oh, that's right. What about OEM limited warranty on quality? By selling it new, aren't you holding the

  • I was a manager of several Babbage's stores way back in the distant past. Babbage's was the company (along with Software etc after a merger) that Gamestop came from. All the way back then we were allowed to "check out" software. The rule at least then was that you could only do so if the software didn't require registration or keys to use. So pretty much no Microsoft software, but most other software and video games of the time were fair game.

  • It's not like people didn't already know (or guess) this. But I am curious what laws or FTC rules might apply to this. I frequently see modest "open box" price reductions for electronic items like TVs and such, and honestly. I'm not sure it's unreasonable to expect the same of software that is no longer in original, manufacturer-sealed state.

  • I wasn't aware of this, it's good info to know, but really no big deal. As long as the game is sold in a new condition, it's fine with me. Really, they have to do this so that employees can be knowledgeable on the products they sell.

    Anyway, from my experience, I've bought many games from Gamestop, both new and used. They've all be in fine condition, with most of the used games indistinguishable from a new copy.

  • They are only allowed to check out used games over night now. Though yes, it was corporate policy to allow employees to check out display copies of the new gamea overnight.

    In addition to that, they NEED to put open empty boxes on the shelves because if they didn't, games would sprout legs and walk. When I worked there and PC games were still put on the floor with games in boxes, theft shrinkage on PC games was staggeringly high (somewhere in the ballpark of 20%).

    You people are getting all uppity, but I ha

  • EB did this since the late 80's / early 90's. If it's only been noticed right now, then is it really a problem?

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