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GameStop Employees Say “Circle of Life” Program Threatened Their Jobs as Controversy Continues

February 4, 2017 Written by Zarmena Khan

GameStop Employees Told Not to Sell New Items

GameStop saw itself thrust into the limelight this week with allegations of purposely misleading customers via its “Circle of Life” program. In case you missed the first two stories, click here and here for context. Now, more employees have come forward to speak out about their experiences with the program on condition of anonymity and, let’s just say, this doesn’t look good…at all.

Kotaku has been inundated with emails from former and current employees, explaining what they had to go through. Their identities have been protected for obvious reasons but their employment status with the retailer has been verified. The gist of it is this: employees didn’t want to intentionally mislead customers but they were pressured by the management, and claim that they were at risk of losing their jobs. Some were actually fired.

We’re not going to copy and paste all the accounts here so make sure to follow the source link provided at the bottom of this post. Below are snippets from the emails that stand out.

Current Assistant Manager:

None of us like to do it, but we are all scared for our jobs. I worked two jobs myself until I hit [Assistant Store Leader] just because I didn’t get paid enough to support my family, and then shortly after I received my promotion and quit my other job, they roll out COL, and effectively tell us we’re used car salesmen now (a term which leadership previously used as a negative to describe attempting to sell a guest something they don’t want or need).

Current employee:

I don’t partake in some of the more extreme measures represented but I do in fact think that we are incentivized to do so because of the truly awful way that we are treated as employees. It hasn’t been expressed in as many words but the threat of losing jobs over the “circle of life” is a very real thing that myself and my colleagues have discussed.

Former Assistant Manager:

[Referring to revamped COL goals that stores were given last October] These goals had to be met everyday or we would get a call from our District Manager (or District Leader, as GameStop would have you call him) to alert us about our low numbers and warn us.

Worth noting that some did come to GameStop’s defense as well, with one current employee stating (we’re adding the full email for a different perspective):

I have worked at GameStop for over 7 years now. The comments you’ve received, I can almost guarantee you are edge cases. GameStop has an open door policy with its leadership, and the discussion and instruction around new policies comes straight from Paul Raines all the way down to the lowest level.

COL is one of the more strict selling behaviors this company has enforced, but it’s not out of bounds. Trade and pre-owned are where we make our most profit, with PRO Cards and Reservation growing the ecosystem. While those are always our biggest focus, company policy is, and always has been, customer first. Always offer customers the best value.

In our training videos for COL, they specifically stated situations where new is a better value, and how the bottom line should be helping the guest. Any district leaders forcing inappropriate behaviors around COL are acting strictly out of line, and I have seen these behaviors get them fired.

As far as being fired for COL, as I said, it is strict, but not without reason. GameStop needs to stay focused on generating profit, and we do so best with COL. If someone is fired over their COL score, it’s over months of bad scores, with monitoring. District and Regional leaders are now required to spend enough time in stores coaching specific employees that have room to grow. If their behaviors don’t change, actions are taken, but it’s not done without time and effort. As I said earlier, District Leaders encouraging incorrect behaviors around COL are at risk of immediate termination.

And in regards to not selling new products just to push pre-owned, that’s an easy way to tank your store. Labor hours allocation is based strictly on trade and net sales, not pre-owned. We still make profit from new sales, otherwise why would we offer new product. Anyone pushing sales away is purely acting that way, because they’re already not performing well.

And it doubly doesn’t make sense with new releases. Pre-order numbers and percentages are some of the most largely emphasized and tracked stats in the company, but for every pre-order we get, we get negatively affected in the end by pick-up ratio. If you get a bunch of people to pre-order Tekken 7, but then 40% of those customers pick-up, your pre-orders mostly end up hurting you. The company puts a focus on quality reserves, not just getting pre-orders to have them.

I hope you can add some of this perspective to the narrative. I know it’s cool to hate on Gamestop, but they’re still a large part of the gaming industry, and there are still a lot of honest, hard workers here. I’m sure you’ve seen the stats on the amount of new games we sell through pre-orders, and how much we drive trade incentives towards pre-orders. Also, people forget that niche retail is extremely competitive with not-the-highest job security, either. It just comes with the territory.

That said, those coming to GameStop’s defense were easily outnumbered by those who either lost their jobs or felt threatened.

What a mess!

[Source: Kotaku]