273: Confessions of a GameStop Employee - Part One

Lullabye

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Kermi said:
*major awesome snip*
That was a great read, thanks for posting it.

Well, the thing it makes you realize is that, even working in an industry you love, business is business.
The whole "not officially being terminated" thing happened to me to when I worked at a Safeway(It's a a grocery store)
I'll never forget the feeling of walking in and seeing the my week empty of shifts. That's just a dick move.
 

Tzatziki3301

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As someone who has almost ten years of retail experience in the games industry here in the UK, I must admit I had thought gutting to be the norm, and never realised the ferver (read: anal idiocy) of gamers in the US over not having a sealed copy of their game.

Which begs the question, what about that 10% of games that are actually shipped from the suppliers without shrink wrap? Do they annoy gamers as much, or do they simply not realise that every single copy of Blood Bowl came unwrapped in the first place?

Gutting is a necessary evil, in my own shop, which is a relatively low-risk store, we use wraparound magnetic tags to protect product between £20 and £30, but still gut a display quantity of top end games. Due to space in store, and the amount of actual stock we receive for a particular release, this may mean we have gutted anywhere between 30% and all of it. Done correctly, gutting doesn't actually magically make the game second hand, it just removes the 'joy' of tearing off the shrink wrap to get at your new purchase. Occasionally the box may get a little wear and tear, or the instruction book gets a little dog-eared, but if the storage of the insides is done correctly, there should be no damage at all to the game disk and the potential downsides to gutting (scratched discs, lost instruction books/download cards, unable to find disc in filing system) are massively outweighed by the very real upsides (games are high-ticket, and can be relatively low margin at times, so loss from theft is a big hit).

Of the 'big three' remaining games specialists/generalists in the UK, of which my company is one, we ALL gut. Its a common thing, because all other tagging systems, dummy boxes and the like ARE too expensive to implement all the time. When we can, we use what we have, but its up to the games companies themselves to send us dummy sleeves or display boxes... we sure as hell can't afford the hit on the bottom line to make our own.

Still... I'll admit more often than not I'll grab a copy before it gets gutted and put it buy to purchase later for myself, just because ;)
 

VondeVon

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"If you put an empty box on the shelf, there is no incentive whatsoever for a thief to steal it."

And yet, the retards still do. Heh heh. We faced a lot of shrinkage in that way.

I worked for EB Games too and some of their proceedures were just shocking. It is a fun place to work, no doubt, but you certainly feel dirty at the end of the day. I remember the push to sell GGs included assuring adults that even if the children themselves damage the disc, we would still exchange it (an easy promise, considering most never return it within the 7days with the docket) and always always trying to convince customers that they really should buy a used game which is ten dollars cheaper, despite having that same game returned four times because it doesn't work. (the idea is, sooner or later someone won't bring it back)

Selling gutted games was a fairly common mistake made during busy times at my store. Rather than fetch a sealed copy from out the back (our storage space was two whole phone booths big) it was quicker and easier to just jam the guts in, so if you don't want a gutted game, its always worth asking.

Preordering games is pretty good for that reason alone - even ordering games in, if the store doesn't have it - because they will put it aside for you the second it leaves the box, instead of gutting it.

All up, EB is NOT a bad place to shop. They have fantastic pre order deals and their Xmas and stocktake sales can make getting new copies of games very enjoyable. All you need to do is be a savvy shopper with the willpower to stand up against pushy salespeople. A manager came in to train us and gave us an example of how to sell stuff to a customer. She steamrolled him. The poor guy was so flustered that he bought a stack of crap he clearly didn't want and you can bet your ass we never saw him again.

I don't think they realise how bad their reputation is getting. If they didn't have exclusive collector editions and stacks of funky advertising, they would loose out to GAMER and GameTraders in a heartbeat.

Then again, they do! So they won't. I still shop there, and I KNOW they're evil. :D
 

VondeVon

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Kermi said:
I'd usually drop a resume in about once every six months... the store I kept applying to had a habit of only hiring friends, or people known to the current staff... I blitzed the group interview and quit my job at Kinko's for what I perceived to be greener pastures... I was given housekeeping duties to perform after closing. I was expected to spend at least an hour vacuuming, mopping dusting, facing up shelves, and tidying up the stockroom.
Woah, you just caused a shiver down my spine.

I was promised the assistant manager position at eb and quit my better hourly rate job as a checkout chick without delay. Upon starting work, I was told that there wasn't going to be an assistant manager anymore - the store wasn't big enough for that. We were opening a brand new store. So a manager was flown in from another town. This manager was eighteen and had eight months experience working as a casual. He was also drinking buddies with the area manager.

The next day we had a new hire. One of the girls who failed the first round of interviews was a waitress at the local pub. The area manager and our new manager had recognized her when they went for a beer and, drunkenly, offered her a job.

A month later, myself and another girl had the best sale stats in the business, despite our manager generally hanging out behind the counter playing his psp and 'stealing' the results of our work by logging all trade-ins and bundle sales under his name. We knew what was going on with all the games. We knew all the top titles coming out soon and what their pre order offers were. We had stock levels and advertising under control. We assumed, foolishly, that our dedication would be rewarded.

Our manager hired his new friend to be assistant manager. This friend was also his housemate and received as many hours as he wanted so they could make rent.

Our store smashed two records for trade-Ins and preorders. Our store got a cheap paper certificate in red and yellow congratulating us. Our manager got two glass trophies, a free iPhone and a free copy of fallout 3.

Oh and the company also paid for him to attend trade shows, from which he returned with tales of how awesome it was, no actual information on new products and kept all the freebies to himself.

Disgusted, I put in for a transfer to one of the city stores for when I started uni. The other girl demanded a minimum amount of hours per week or she would leave - something she got as they couldn't afford to loose her.

I was assured of a place in one of three city stores or the new one opening since I had experience with opening and excellent stats. I got no calls. I followed up with the managers who were very friendly and welcoming and told me they had heard great things about me, but weren't sure how many hours they had until the next fortnight, etc etc.

And on and on and on.

By chance, almost half a year later, I met the douche area manager who was excited to see me and asked how my new store was going. When hearing it had fallen through, he promised to sort it out and said I should give him a call some time in the next month. Yeah, right.

Last I heard, my original manager was fired for failing to reach the same level of sales and orders he had under myself and my friend's efforts. The girl had a baby and moved to a new town with the promise of a job waiting for her, assistant manager with an eye to being manager within a year. Seven months later, they finally offered her one shift a week, with the chance of more in the busy periods.

One thing we both had was the 'key holder' position. All the responsibility of setting up, closing down, balancing the tills, tracking down people's mistakes AND cleaning, none of the pay. Those jobs were after 5. :p

It amazes me that it is actually legal to do that in Australia. :D
 

FunkyJ

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If you steal blank cases, is it really stealing?

And to the guys at EB Games Australia - you really should get onto the SDA about the way you are being treated.

http://www.sda.org.au/
 

HeySeansOnline

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This looks interesting, another suggestion for a similiar view is the short runned Zero Originality series. It's about ninety minutes of a view from a Gamestop's employees thoughts on the company in a ripoff ZP style that actually works.
 

Ascavilya

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Falseprophet said:
Wait a second...

When I walk into an EB or GameStop, a month or two before a new release comes out, they have displays of empty boxes with cover art that reads "Coming Soon--Preorder Today!" all over it. Where does this custom cover art come from, and why can't it be used for in-stock titles instead of gutting?
As an ex EB Games employee here in Oz, all of that marketing you see in the stores (the posters, the case inlays, the boxes that take up the same amount of space as 4 cases) are provided by the distributor of that product. The amount of marketing we used to receive in our daily deliveries was astronomical. And it got worse around sale and Christmas times.

As for this whole gutting thing - there seems to be a variance between stores. All console titles that had cases put on the shelves were gutted. New releases usually had a number gutted to be put out but the vast majority were left sealed in the back room - this was company policy and strictly enforced. PC games were a bit different, anything up to $50 I used to leave in the box, anything over was gutted. When I managed different stores (I managed 3 in total) I used to vary this dependent on the store and the clientele.
 

L3D

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Kyogissun said:
Never really objected to gutting to be honest, if you're the last person to pick up the copy of the game, you're either A: some unlucky shmuck who was late to the punch finding out about the game or B: some douchebag who forgot to pre-order a game you wanted,
I never understood this line of thinking. Is a good game any less good if you play it later than others?
Never seen a reason to pre-order my games either, but I understand the reasons for it, especially from the shops perspective.

If my local shop would offer a gutted game, I would ask if they had really ran out of the shrink wrapped new games. If it truly would be the last copy I would ask for a small discount, since the display cases to tend to suffer a bit of wear and tear. Or maybe I would just go shop somewhere else, if cared that much about the game.

Thanks for VondeVon and Kermi for sharing their stories.
 

rockyoumonkeys

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Kyogissun said:
I'm figuring you know what I mean. Those are the gamestops I've usually gone to and had good experiences with. There are policies though I wish they'd work on... Like, extending their pre-order holding policy. I wish they'd give a full week or two weeks instead of just 2-3 days.
I manage to avoid mall Gamestops, mostly because I avoid malls altogether. Not only because there's typically only ever 2 stores TOPS that interest me (a game store and a book store), but because with the flood of teenagers swarming around, I just end up feeling old and creepy. Yeah, they're fun to ogle, but really.

I have three "outdoor plaza" type Gamestops very near me; two where I live, and one where I work, so I still find myself in there a lot. Mostly the one where I work, since I'll usually walk by it simply going to the store to get lunch, and the people who work there are pretty cool, not to mention very hot in one case.

And since I'm there more than occasionally, they know me, so they know about my anti-display copy thing, and don't make a fuss. (On the other hand, the people at the stores I don't frequent, who don't know about my eccentricities, they're the ones who almost openly mock me when I turn down display copies). So if anything, it's the employees who keep me going back to the one near where I work. Also, I've had a peek into the back rooms of a couple of them, and they're not as tiny as has been made out to seem. No, they couldn't store 1000 games back there, but it's not a phone booth either, by any means.

But I was in a mall Gamestop last week, and it was a tiny, claustrophobic, miserable place. I knew the guy who worked there since he used to work at the one near where I work, so fortunately I didn't have a "bad experience" (though he was creepier than I remember). But the store itself sucked, and maybe being stuck there weighed on him, because he wasn't as relaxed as I remembered, either. In fact, I'm willing to make a logical leap and say that perhaps the reason service is worse in malls is simply because working in a mall is an awful, dispiriting experience.

Liemannen said:
Never seen a reason to pre-order my games either, but I understand the reasons for it, especially from the shops perspective.
For the most part, it's just convenience. I mean yeah, I'll have no problem at all finding the new Fallout game on release day, pre-order or not, and I don't give a toss about pre-order bonuses, but Gamestop has a nasty habit of only getting enough copies of some games to fill pre-orders. Obviously for the most popular games (Madden, Halo), they'll have more than enough, but for lesser games (including damn near every RPG), it's actually kind of tough to find a game on release day if you don't pre-order. Perfect example is Star Ocean: Last Thingy International, whatever the PS3 one was called. I didn't pre-order that, and NOBODY had it. Gamestop didn't even have display copies. They had like two pre-orders, got two copies, and that was that.

So now, if there's a game I want on release day, I'll just go ahead and pre-order it two days before it's out. It makes no difference to me that I put down five bucks now as opposed to two days from now, and it guarantees me a copy, which saves me a trip to Best Buy or Toys R Us after work. That's enough for me.
 

Kermi

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VondeVon said:
Woah, you just caused a shiver down my spine.

*snip*

It amazes me that it is actually legal to do that in Australia. :D
I was actually lured to EB by a friend who was the manager of a store. He also tended to hire friends, but he changed that policy: he gave one guy a shot who he maybe didn't know as well as he should have. I asked him one day "Hey, how's Paul?".
Side note: if you were part of the gaming/anime/nerd community in Sydney circa 2000-2004 you've probably heard of this guy, because everyone knows Medieval Recreation Paul.

I digress.

My friend gave him a shot at his store and his response was a sad headshake.
"That fuckin' guy..." he said.
Paul sat on the floor crosslegged talking to his girlfriend on the phone while stocking shelves at a rate of one case per minute, loudly begging her to not be mad at him, trying to explain he had to work instead of seeing her. He begged to be allowed to borrow games after his third shift even though he wouldn't be in the next morning to return it. The first shift my friend wasn't there he slipped a game in his bag (despite the mandatory bag checks after every shift) then claimed he was allowed to borrow it. A quick call verified he was a grade-A bullshit artist.
My friend's policy on hiring friends changed that day.

However when he was sent to trade shows he distributed the loot evenly. He'd give people other chances to go to them. He was a good teacher.

The manager at "my" store went to trade shows and gave the swag to his friends who didn't work in the store. What he didn't give to buddies he put into the store inventory to improve his sales figures.

My friend's end came when he pulled an all-nighter: literally he stayed in the store overnight to set up for a huge sale starting the next day. He couldn't get any volunteers to stay back so he did the setup himself, working until 3am. He crashed out in the back room until opening time the next morning. His District Manager came in to inspect it, and said it wasn't satisfactory. He explained the circumstances and was chewed out for not getting it done in the regular hours. Seriously.

He quit, although colleagues I worked with later who'd known him or worked with him claimed he was terminated. Either way, his time was over.

The district managers forget what it was like to be store managers. They think everything is marked off at 5pm and everyone goes home. They pretend that no one stays back late, sometimes to 11pm to get everything done - that everything goes like clockwork and completely revamping the store should only require a small application of effort.

The thing is they can't require you to work past five. There is nothing stopping you walking out at 5 except your pride and dedication to the job, so long as you didn't want to be given any shifts or anything next week.
 

bmart008

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I always ask for a fresh copy, ususally because I use games as carrots to get work done, so I need them to look beautiful on my shelf staring back at me. Also because I like my game library to look decent.
 

RowdyRodimus

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I worked at Software Etc. (which are all now Gamestops IIRC) back during the Dreamcast launch (had that day off though since I was the stores SEGA fan and had mine ASAP), so I remember all that stuff.

A few years ago I was taking some classes at the local college and I had a two hour break between classes and Gamestop was nearby, so I would go and hang out with my friend that works there. When it got busy (since he was usually the only one there during the morning) I'd end up helping people on the floor. He used to joke to the DM that I had the best sales numbers of anyone in the store, even for the Game Informer/Discount Card thing. Now everytime I go in he asks if I'm ready to go to work as I have a job there waiting for me anytime I want it. If the doctors would release me to work even part time, I'd do it in a heartbeat.
 

Starke

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Samurai Goomba said:
Based on my experiences with Gamestop, I tend to favor as harsh a stance on them as possible, especially considering how they basically drove Gamecrazy out of business. Well, that and the fact that nobody rents movies from a store anymore, which probably hurt Gamecrazy's partner company, which I believe was Hollywood Video.
It didn't help that Gamecrazy stores tended to be in wierd ass places. Out away from major commercial districts (with the exception of one store I saw in Palo Alto.)

Samurai Goomba said:
Not to say Gamestop isn't terrible, 'cause it is. It's just... They hire from the bottom of the barrel and treat their employees like crap, which I think negatively affects the behavior of their employees.
Honestly? That's most corporations. FedEx does exactly the same thing. But because it's not retail, you never have to see or put up with their incompetence or hear about how the company shits on them.
 

Kramerica13

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This statement that most GS managers have little to no interest in gaming, based on the writer's extremely limited sample size, is ludicrous. As someone who worked as an SGA for just over a year, I can easily tell a tale that is the exact opposite based on my experiences. So I shall...

As a twenty-something in the Philly area who had just returned to college, my job options were limited and so was my availability. Just like the writer, I needed something that was mostly brainless that would provide a few bucks a week to spend on bills, games, food, beer and such. At this point in my life, I had always been a huge gamer but had never had actual gamer friends. That was all about to change.

Virtually every single person I met at GS was as big of, or even bigger, of a gamer than I was. A few even work in development for an indie game studio and one composes music for a (very) small mainstream publisher. Going into the job, my XBL friends list was filled with random strangers I had met in games or in online gaming boards. Now? All of those people have been deleted and there are thirty some real-life gamer friends on it. Where did I meet these individuals? Game Stop employees (mostly management too) every last one of them.

Sure, a handful of managers and associates were just random people who needed a job, but the VAST majority of people I met at the five or six stores I rotated between during my employment there were gamers. Some were GAs, some were SGAs, some were ASMs and yes (shocker!?!?) some were even SMs. Hell I even met my girlfriend of three years now there (she's an Assistant Manager at GS and yes, she plays "real" games as in FPSs, RPGs, MMOs and just about anything else).

GS may be a pretty crappy company to work for, but most of the people working on the front lines (managers and game advisors) are indeed gamers. They even have a section on the back of the application in which you are asked to write in what game systems you own and what games you are interested in. I don't know how the writer and his bozo manager missed that one. A major part of the job is to constantly answer questions about what games are good and what games are appropriate for whom. These questions come from the majority of the customers - people who are not games and need to have everything about gaming and particular games explained to them in detail. The hard core gamer customer, who already knows what he wants when he walks through the door, is the exception.

The guys and girls I met at GS became my closest group of friends and we regularly play games together online, go drinking, to the movies, hang out at each others' houses, go to midnight launches and whatever else it is friends do. I enjoy gaming so much more now that online gaming is always done in a private party full of friends rather than with a bunch of random douche bags.

As for gutting, yes it sucks and no core gamer wants a gutted game.
 

Starke

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pneuma08 said:
RvLeshrac said:
A 1c photocopy for each new release is hardly going to break the bank.
Perhaps, but it's still a non-trivial investment, and to accomplish what? Why would anyone spend a significant amount of extra time and money when 99% of people just don't care?
Yeah... A 1c photocopy won't move product either. It's been a few years, but last time I checked a 144dpi color copy on glossy is going to be closer to $0.35. And there IS a copyright issue. If one of the game devs doesn't like the idea of you photocopying their game cover and selling using that, they could tag the chain for infringement.

You see it seems big name developer Vargas Box decided that their latest game Iguana Escape has to be printed with metallic ink on the cover of the box, so when Gamestop photocopies it, and posts that, Vargas Box and their publisher Escaped Mental Patients can turn around and sue Gamestop for misrepresenting their product. Why? Because no one fucking bought it, and its a piece of shit, but here's a chance to assign that blame elsewhere and recoup.

So, no, you really can't make a 1c photocopy and call it good. Sorry.
 

Lyinar

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I'm not exactly sure why people have the vehement opposition to preordering things, specifically the argument of "you're paying in full for a game you won't even be able to play yet!!!!!!!1111111"

Personally, I preorder games from Gamestop so that I can pay for the game over the course of a month or two. The Collector's Editions of various games I have? Would NEVER have gotten them if I couldn't preorder and put money down on it over time. $80-$100 coming out in one chunk is a lot more painful than paying for it over a few months at $20 per paycheck. The preorder bonus, if any, and the guarantee of a copy being available for me at release are just extras.

Of course, there are exceptions, such as Assassin's Creed Brotherhood scaring me out of preording it with their particular preorder bonus... That guy gives me the jibblies. *shudder*
 

VondeVon

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Kramerica13 said:
.

GS may be a pretty crappy company to work for, but most of the people working on the front lines (managers and game advisors) are indeed gamers. They even have a section on the back of the application in which you are asked to write in what game systems you own and what games you are interested in. I don't know how the writer and his bozo manager missed that one. A major part of the job is to constantly answer questions about what games are good and what games are appropriate for whom. These questions come from the majority of the customers - people who are not games and need to have everything about gaming and particular games explained to them in detail. The hard core gamer customer, who already knows what he wants when he walks through the door, is the exception.
See, that makes sense!

In the Australian subsection, the first words out of my DM's mouth were "We don't care if you play games. That has absolutely no bearing on this job. The only thing that matters is if you can sell them. And a good salesperson can sell ANYTHING."

Kind of started us off knowing what sort of company we were signing on for. :D It didn't make sense at the time - surely a salesperson who knows their product is best?

Well, yes and no. Apparently, a good liar is best. Someone who can enthuse about any piece of crap and swear blind a hundred satisfied customers bought it just yesterday.

A knowledgable salesperson is more likely to be honest, it turns out, which can be bad for sales. Or so the DM confided in me during the welcome party, chain-smoking in one of his new employee's homes with a baby not five feet away. (That sounds like a comical exaggeration, but it's not.)

Reading through the responses here, I find myself wondering if the actual article's "revelations" will hold a candle to those shared in the comments. :S :D
 

jthm

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So what? I worked for gamestop for close to two years before they laid off our entire store. It's a pretty cushy job compared to most retail jobs, but it is just another job. Having fun or not is based (like every other job) on if your coworkers and manager are cool people or not. I worked for a gamer with other gamers. It was pretty cool, but it paid shit and the crap you put up with from customers and corporate was enough to drive you mad. Just like any other retail job.

What is there to confess? That you sold gutted games and sometimes a used one got sold as new by mistake? That you hated and looked down on certain customers (grandmothers, ghetto kids, fellow gamers who wouldn't leave you alone)? That you might have taken every copy of Madden 06 that came into your store out of the cases, tea bagged them and then sold them as guts? Then did the same thing with GTA San Andreas? Why does this warrant a 4 part installment?
 

Robyrt

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I don't see what the problem is with gutted games. It's not like the shrink wrap is a Seal of Flavor Quality - as long as your disc is clean, it will play exactly as well as a brand-new one. We are long past the days of 45rpm records, people.
 

fozzy360

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To the point of the article syaing that none of the mangerial jobs at Gamestop are filled with non-gamers, I have to say that is slighty exaggerating. I have and do frequent at least four Gamestops in my area, and all of them have employees that are gamers themselves. They enjoy, they talk to you about it if you allow yourself a nice, small conversation, and they don't look down on those that might be ignorant of gaming in general. Now, I'm not saying that the article is compltely wrong. Of course, there are going to be those that just do this because they have nothing else, but not everyone is like that. There are those that want to be surrounded by what they love, which is understandable.

A few years back, I worked for EB Games right aorund the time they were bought out by Gamestop. The assistant manager was a really cool guy who, unfortunately, was trying to support his wife and two kids. Working at a place like this isn't really meant to get a healthy salary. Working there was actually evenly split between awful and alright. For being the cold, cynical bastard that I am, I actually enjoyed helping people when it came to games. I guess that's just a symptom of helping those who don't know much about what you like. I enjoyed the interactions and helping customers pick and choose games. However, there were some things that left a bad taste in regards to how business was done. The one thing that bothered was the selling of the those Edge cards or whatever they were called at EB (forgive the memory lapse). I was told that I had to sell at least two to three of these cards a day. These cards were $15, which the same price as the Edge cards at Gamestop. I had to sell them. There was no other way around it. The company kept track of how many I sold on a daily basis. Now, I'm not sure of some of you will find that be good or not, but to me, I didn't like the fact my performance was based on how well I sold these cards. There was no incentive to it either, other than to just look good at the end of the day.

Another thing I remember was the docking of pay. I was being trained on the register on how to process a transaction. My cool assistant manager had placed the register on a training mode, where the computer would go through a practice transaction. At that time a customer came in and bought a DS game. Unfortunately, he didn't take the register off of the training mode, which meant the transaction never took place and the customer, who payed with a card, walked away with a free game. The assistant mamger was then docked the amount of the game. I felt bad because he was kicking himself about it for a couple days after that.

The thing that pissed me off, though, was me getting laid off. When I was hired, they negelected to tell me that the fucking store was closing in two weeks, so imagine my surprise when I was told at the end of second week that the store was no longer going to be in operation. That was same day when I had to take down all the games in the PS2 section and re-organize them in alphabetical order. Thanks for not telling me when I got hired less than two weeks ago!

Again, some might see some of this stuff as small time complaints, but they bothered me.