Tales from The Trenches Archive

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A Preorder by Any Other Name

I worked for a large video-rental business for six years as a store manager and was there when they decided to aggressively jump into the video game presale model.

Apparently, deciding DVD rentals weren’t going to vault the company back into the massive profits they used to enjoy, someone in corporate happened to stroll into a GameStop one day, decided they were printing money, and wanted to jump in while the water was warm.

We didn’t slowly transition from DVD rentals to game presales. We jumped in mid-race, declared ourselves the prime competitor to GameStop, and decided not only would we presale the crap out of God of War 3, but we’d beat every other company in total units ordered. The mandate came down to get that sweet presale money or find another job. They didn’t care how you did it, they didn’t care how many customers you alienated, they just wanted the preorder.

Our district manager was operating three conference calls a week, all focusing on God of War presales. All you had to do was get the customer to put down $5 and reserve the game. We were instructed to get that money by any means necessary, including promising to refund it later if they changed their minds. If we didn’t reach the astronomical number the company was shooting for we were told to start sending out resumes.

Of course, this resulted in harassing the poor customer who just wanted to rent Two if By Sea into ordering a game they didn’t even have a system to play. When the big release day came every store ended up with a massive number of units that they couldn’t deliver because the customers all wanted to cancel their preorder and get their money back.

A company wide investigation was done to determine why we had to eat these games like week old pizza, and the district managers were told to either find a good explanation or find another company to work for.

No surprise, the top four presale stores were called and the store managers fired for “presale fraud.” Up until this point I had been proud of being the top store in the district for sales. That pride had to keep my warm on the unemployment line.