I’m a realist. I understand that most people working retail are not going to know everything about every product their store carries. This goes double for people working in mega-department stores like Wal-Mart or Target. However, the level of incompetence that some of these people display makes me want to slam my head into a wall repeatedly.
Full disclosure: I have worked retail. I worked as a cashier at a Wal-Mart in northern North Carolina for about a year. I know how much customers demand of the “associates” or “team members” working at a given store. I don’t make these statements without having some knowledge of how the other side feels.
Last Friday (Oct. 25, 2013), I was walking around one of my local Wal-Marts, just looking at the shelves while my wife was off looking at the magazines and books. Being a gamer and movie lover, I naturally stumbled my way into the home entertainment section of the store. While I was there, I heard one gentleman request the copy of Batman: Arkham Origins he had pre-ordered weeks prior. The department manager (not a cashier, but the guy that oversees the entire department) stared at him with a blank expression and goes “Uh… what?” Once again, the gentleman said he simply wanted to pick up his game. The home entertainment manager, showing his complete awareness of stock in his section, replies “Uh… is that the one that is coming out for the PS4?” I was flabbergasted. This was a major release being put on the shelves (I had actually seen people stocking the game as I entered the department) on a special day (since most games release on Tuesday), and the DEPARTMENT MANAGER didn’t even realize what systems he had in stock, let alone if they had the game that his subordinates just put on the shelves.
I know I sound kind of harsh. Maybe this guy was just having a bad day, or maybe he just wasn’t personally interested in the game so he didn’t keep track of the stock (although you think he would somewhat since he was in charge of the department). However, this isn’t an isolated incident at just one store. When Wal-Mart was making their last big push for pre-orders on the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, they re-opened pre-orders for one more weekend, guaranteeing everyone that came out to put down 10% on a new system would get one on launch day if it was fully paid off by then. I went to two different Wal-Marts looking to secure my PlayStation 4 pre-order. At both stores, I was met with employees that could only reply with blank stares and gaping jaws when I asked about the pre-orders. This was a major promotion that Wal-Mart sent press statements out about promising that all stores would be informed. Luckily, I finally found one person that actually knew what I was talking about and I was able to secure my pre-order. However, I still wonder how many potential holiday sales that both of these stores lost out on because of either (a) incompetence or (b) apathy.
If only this kind of idiocy was only found in the major department stores, but it is (unsurprisingly) also found in stores dedicated to the sale of nothing but video games. I imagine you know which retailer I speak of, but if you don’t, it is a place where you Stop to buy Games. Is it so much to ask that they actually hire employees that know something about the product they are selling? I get it somewhat. One of the stores I used to frequent hired the “hot nerdy girl” to try and draw in the stereotypical male nerds that couldn’t find a date. Of course, I didn’t buy into this because (a) I’m married to an actual nerdy girl that I can talk to about nerdy things and (b) I go to a store to buy something, not to try and find potential fantasies (unless they are of the Final kind). Fortunately, not many others did either, quickly realizing the girl knew nothing about the product, she was quickly given the boot out of the store. However, instead of hiring someone with actual knowledge this time, they again went with style over substance, only this time it was a “hot” guy to draw in the casual female gamer crowd.
So what is the point of all of this crying and moaning? I simply want stores to hire responsibly. I don’t expect Wal-Mart or Target to hire people who have a PhD in gaming and have a reference letter signed by Shigeru Miyamoto himself or anything. However, is it so difficult to actually hire people that will attempt to do their work with some amount of dignity and actually keep track of the things they should know? As to GameStop (and other stores of its ilk), since their stores supposedly cater to gamers, is it really that difficult to find actual gamers to hire? There have to be some gamers that are willing to work there that can actually discuss the newest game/system coming out without pulling inaccurate facts out of their rear.
From now on, I think I’ll just stick to Amazon. At least I can have an intelligent conversation about games with myself and the computer screen.