The Gamestop scandal is unlikely to have escaped the attention of attentive readers. The new, in-house game stop program called Circle of Life is intended to force employees to lie to customers. This means that the games industry, or rather the game retailer, has its first tangible scandal of 2017. According to the latest reports on the US website Kotaku, employees are encouraged to give customers wrong advice in order to meet specified sales quotas. Every industry needs its scandals, also because individual companies are even noticed with them. In times of increasing online trading, bad PR is better than no PR at all.


Allegations against Gamestop

Who the retail chain Gamestop knows, he also knows their exchange programs. In return for listed used games, customers receive certain new releases. When you visit a shop, you can see at first glance that this is used comparatively often. Countless used titles are available to customers on the shelves. That Gamestop So would like to sell used goods, is not surprising - and also unproblematic. If you go into detail, the following cycle becomes apparent, which benefits the games retailer's sales: if customers exchange their played titles for credit or money, it is also particularly useful from the seller's point of view if these customers also spend their budget on used goods again. Since autumn 2016, individual employees or branches of Gamestop now assessed using a points system. This controversial principle is gradually spilling over from the United States to Germany and is mainly used by companies with US roots. Years ago, the discussion about the in-house guideline “Statement of Ethics” by the retail chain Walmart proved that such corporate philosophies are not always well received in this country. Now also tries Gamestop in Germany with a points system that creates pressure on the salespeople - who, in the worst case, pass on their mood to the customers.      

How Kotaku reported that individual employees have made serious allegations against Gamestop and the “Circle-of-Life” program. Customers are supposed to be encouraged to pre-order additional titles when purchasing a new release or to buy a used game as well. According to the information provided by the anonymous employees, poor scores would even have an impact on the employment relationship. This is especially critical in periods when many new blockbuster titles appear. If there are no sales of used games because customers only bought new goods, the employees would have to top up their points account again in the following period: by increasing the sale of used games.   

In the end, the question remains how trustworthy these anonymous allegations are and how Gamestop deals with the scandal. the Gamestop managing director Tony Bartel has turned into an internal Rundschreiben, which Kotaku also has, said: "I know that these isolated cases do not represent the overwhelming majority of our colleagues and how they treat their customers."

So is it all just hot air or an attempt to downplay the influence of the company's internal program?

How widespread the “Circle of Life” program is also used in the German branches is currently not known. Gamestop Germany has so far not been tempted to comment. the Gamestar published however Information, according to which the points system is also used in this country - but to a lesser extent than in the USA. Other employees even point out that no pressure is being exerted on them. In the end, the customers decide anyway.

Responsible customers: The thing with information

The fact that customers are deliberately wrongly advised in sales discussions often affects those who have little or no knowledge of the games industry. Responsible customers are less likely to be tempted to buy by the praises of the retail trade. In times of optimized sales processes, sales training and efficient inventory management, blindly relying on the promises of the salesperson in shops is not a good decision. The retail trade has gambled away its vital role of trust. It should come as no surprise that customers end up completely foregoing advice in order to take advantage of the advantages of online trading. Disrupting the trend towards online shopping depends on how retailers treat their customers. 

Individual advice and good information allow customers to pay higher prices with satisfaction. In times of easy access to information, it almost seems as if retailers are consciously turning a blind eye to the fact that customers are well-informed when visiting stores. Responsible customers go into business with clearly defined buying interests. Even with the knowledge that the prices can be higher than in well-known internet shops. Customers are ready to support local stores. Retailers have to accept this willingness - also by focusing on trusting relationships with their customers.     

UPDATE on February 26, 2017: Due to the negative press, the company Gamestop is changing details of the criticized “Circle of Life” program in order to reduce the pressure on employees. In theory, the changes to the details of the “scores” sound particularly useful. At the same time, however, they also show how drastic the CoL program must have been. You can read details in the report of Gamestar.  

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