Staff at GameStop stores are reported to be deliberately misleading customers about the availability of new games and hardware in order to comply with new sales quotas set by headquarters, avoiding the sale of new stock rather than face potential punitive measures.
The report comes from Kotaku, which has spoken to a number of anonymous employees and scoured the GameStop Reddit. According to those sources, GameStop HQ has issued an edict under the name of 'Circle of Life' (CoL) which insists that both stores and individuals secure the right mix of new and second hand game sales, loyalty card subscriptions, pre-orders and trade-ins or face disciplinary consequences.
Each member of staff, and each outlet as a whole, is expected to match these areas to total activity, with each being assigned a percentage of the total. Used sales and trade-in are based on transaction value, loyalty card sign ups and pre-orders by number of transactions. So, every customer who only buys new games or hardware without contributing to these other quotas damages the store or employee's ratio, making them more likely to face repercussions.
To avoid this, staff have reported that they will lie about stock availability to avoid the total transaction cost or number rising and thus having to meet increased quotas elsewhere.
"We are telling people we don't have new systems in stock so we won't take a $300 or $400 dollar hit on our pre-owned numbers," an anonymous employee told Kotaku. "This is company wide and in discussions with my peers it is a common practice. We also tell customers we don't have copies of new games in stock when they are on sale-for example, Watch Dogs 2 is currently $29.99 new and $54.99 pre-owned. We just tell them we don't have the new one in stock and shuffle them out the door."
GameSpot has issued a fairly evasive statement in response.
"All of GameStop's internal programs are designed to provide our customers the best value in all their video game purchases, including new and pre-owned merchandise. With any program, opportunities arise for improvement and we will continue to refine it to equip our knowledgeable store associates to provide a great store experience."
Update: GameStop CEO Tony Bartel has issued a memo in response to the company's employees, addressing and, for the most part, disregarding reports of misleading sales tactics related to used games.
In the memo, which was obtained by Kotaku, Bartel acknowledged the accusations that performance metrics attached to GameStop's “Circle of Life” program had, “placed pressure on store associates to mislead customers on the value of certain products.” More to the point, he broadly rejected the accusations, stating that, “nothing could be further from the truth.”
“We want every customer to get the product and deal that is right for them - whether that be a new or pre-owned video game product, digital game or collectible. The Circle of Life generates great value for the customer. Consider these facts: GameStop issued approximately $1 billion of trade credits to our customers last year. 70% of the time, those trade dollars were immediately spent on new gaming products.”
However, Bartel did admit that the “behaviors” described in Kotaku's initial report were “disappointing,” but, “they don't represent the vast majority of our associates and how they treat our customers.”
Kotaku has also heard from “dozens” more GameStop employees since that report was published, “almost all” of which confirmed that Circle of Life quotas had resulted in more pressure on individual employees and stores.