By Nick Schifani
Last week, a little bit of news came out regarding GameStop. The company is now requiring stores to be open on Thanksgiving Day. I normally don't write about topics like this, but for someone reason, this one spoke to me.
When the news was shot across the internet, people all over Twitter, Facebook, and social media sites lost their minds. Why!? Why would GameStop make their employees work on Thanksgiving Day!? What type of evil company would do such a thing?
Okay, calm down everyone. Let's not act like GameStop is the only retail company open on Thanksgiving Day! GameStop has thousands of stores around the country, employing hundreds and hundreds of people trying to make a buck. On top of that, numbers don't lie. Ever since big-box stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart started to open their doors on the holiday, GameStop's sales dropped 37% around biggest shopping time of the year. Thanks to stores like this, and online shopping GameStop has closed more than 100 stores yearly since 2013. That includes 53 stores closing shop in 2017 alone. We're more than half way through the year, and already 53 stores have closed. That's huge!
Since 2012, Wal-Mart figured it could get as many sales on Thanksgiving Day as it could on Black Friday. Stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy saw their numbers taking serious hits on Black Friday due to online shopping. What better way to defend your turf than open a day earlier? And, that's exactly what Wal-Mart did. Though, to my knowledge, I didn’t see serious outrage over this. From my view, I saw mothers, fathers, and family members all-around rejoice. Now they could knock out turkey time and gift shopping all in the same day! Yet, GameStop makes the same announcement this week and they're the evilest company around.
I felt the best way to get a better understanding of all the shouting was to get a hold of an actual GameStop employee. I was able to speak to a local GameStop employee. He is a store leader. Meaning he is in charge of his store, from scheduling, hiring, and running the store. He asked to remain anonymous, so of course, I will honor his request. I asked him how he felt about the possibility of working on the holiday. The following is my interview with him.
Nerd901: How do you feel about the announcement of GameStop being open on Thanksgiving Day?
Employee: I was actually on a conference call when I found out they had released the details about it. I think it depends on the person. Some people are closer to their families than others. Though, at my store, I'm not forcing anyone to work. You can work if you want to, and we're being compensated. We're getting time and half if we choose to work. Matter of fact, we got to take a vote on it. We got to vote on three different shifts. We had the choice of an all-day shift, a noon to 5 p.m. shift, or a 8 p.m. to midnight shift. So, it's not like GameStop didn't take some feedback from their employees.
Nerd901: Do you think this backlash has something to do with GameStop's "Protect the Family" motto?
Employee: Yeah, maybe so. At first glance, it seems like GameStop isn't protecting the family because we are open on a day we're supposed to be with our family. But last year we got destroyed by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart in those four days around Thanksgiving sold more new consoles than GameStop did in the entire month of November. We lost a ton of market share, in order for us to secure our market share we have to be more competitive. Unfortunately, that requires some sacrifices, sacrifices we knew about. And again, not every GameStop is making people work, it's more on a volunteer basis. Plus, it's shortened hours. It's not the whole day.
Nerd901: Let's touch on your point about getting beat out by the big-box stores. Some of these stores have been open on Thanksgiving for years. No one seemed to care then, why do you think the internet got angry with GameStop?
Employee: Yeah, we already have a reputation on the internet, and I know that… and it's dumb. A lot of it is stupid internet memes. It's people having zero clue of what's really going on inside the company. Most people don't realize how GameStop does take care of their employees. Every year they have the GameStop Managers Expo. This year it's in Las Vegas. GameStop flies us out to play new games, see exclusive trailers, and do a lot of cool team-building events. It's a cool "pat on the back" from the higher ups.
Nerd901: Going back to the "Protect the Family" motto. Does it feel like this move is to protect the family? If GameStop isn't competitive then stores could shut down and people lose jobs. Do you feel this is something being overlooked by the people hating on the internet?
Employee: 100%. If my store closes I lose my job, my friends lose their jobs, and we can't provide for our families. I know GameStop isn't going to be around forever. The digital age is here, and it's slowly hurting all brick and mortar stores. But in order for us to secure our place, we have to make everything matter. So, if that takes being open a few hours on Thanksgiving just to stay competitive with online retailers, then we have to do it. Anything we can do to slow our decline is better for our business, which of course is better for everyone who works there.
Nerd901: When the news came out people were too busy bashing GameStop to stop and think what people who work for the company were thinking. What's the mindset in your store?
Employee: At my store, people are excited to work Thanksgiving Day. Everyone in my store volunteered. Sure, we have to go into work for a few hours, but we get to make more money and continue to help secure our jobs. Plus, it puts more money in our pockets to buy things for a family closer to Christmas.
Nerd901: Okay, last thing. I strongly believe the overreaction from people stems from people jumping on a bandwagon. It's another company to hate, even though most people don't see the good it can have. How do you feel about that?
Employee: At the end of the day, it is a national chain. You can't expect much from the corporate level. Where it really starts to matter is when it's broken down store by store. We can't control trade-ins. But most stores try to create a culture, where people go in to see certain employees. It's the people who run the stores that make the stores count. It sucks to be in the sights of internet haters, but once you dive into the statistics and why we're open, it makes sense. It's really not as big as a story as people make it out to be.
I truly believe the overreactions are from the hate of GameStop. I won't lie and say I've never had a bad experience at a GameStop. Of course, I have, but I've had bad experiences at other places I shop at as well. It's employees like the one I spoke with, who make my experiences better. People expect too much from GameStop. If you go into a store trying to trade in an annual sports game and expect big bucks maybe they should try other trade-ins services, i.e. eBay or Craig's List.
Personally, I use GameStop to my advantage. If there is a game I want immediately I'm sure they have it in stock. I use GameStop to manage purchases. If there is a game I want in a few months, I pre-order it and slowly add money to my pre-order. This keeps me from dumping $65 in one trip. I can manage my money and payments better this way. As the store leader pointed out in the interview, the people working at GameStop are trying to make a buck and provide for their family too. They aren't in love with all the rules, but they know where they stand. If a customer goes in with a bad attitude to start with, of course, their time in the store will suck. Most GameStop employees want to make your experience a good one. Believe me, I know. I once worked for GameStop. GS employees are aware of their perception on the internet. Let's try to help them build a better culture… while there's still one to build.