Tales From Behind the Counter

While we had intended to go see either the “ceremonial start” of the Iditarod in Anchorage, or the “restart” in Willow this weekend, between Katrina preparing for her electrician classes (which start today), and my two part-time jobs squabbling for my hours, we didn’t get around to it. Ah, well. There’s always next year. Actually, the whole thing is kind of a circus, the Anchorage start in particular, between the media, advertisers, tourists, and fans getting pretty much their only look at the racers until its over.

We did find some time to eat out for lunch yesterday before grocery shopping, and, while we waited for our food, Katrina was approached by a young woman who handed her contact information for the local roller derby league. Then, she appeared to scan the other tables for candidates, and simply left. I have no idea if she was eating there as well, and spotted what looked like a kindred spirit, or if she was just going down the block to every public place looking for girls with stocky, athletic builds. Katrina admired the chutzpah and randomness, and is now considering signing up to stay in shape during the inevitable lulls in electrician work. I’m not sure if this turn of events would earn me more Guy Points, or make me lose some.

In the meantime, hours have picked up at GameStop, as one of our managers is taking a well-earned vacation, and corporate has to spread the hours among fewer employees. We’re also seeing a minor spike in Big Titles this month, with new entries in the BioShock, Gears of War (for XBox fans), God of War (for PlayStation fans; yes, it’s obnoxiously confusing), and Tomb Raider series. This is rather uncommon for March; usually there will be one popular title for the month, but they tend not to clump up like this. I suspect it has something to do with the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft that are promised by year’s end, and developers want to get their games out for this generation before we ignore them entirely in favor of the next.

There’s still a lot of apprehension about this so-called “next generation” of video game consoles, as rumors are still flying that they may “lock” games to specific machines, which means you can’t resell a game, or buy one used; bad business for GameStop, which relies on such trades for most of its profit. Other rumors say the consoles won’t use physical discs at all, and all games will be downloaded through online stores, which would be even worse news. But as a great (fictional) leader once said, “Until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on.”

We see all types at the store, from lost-looking grandparents trying to find something for their grandchildren, to 20-something hipster/nerds who assume they know everything. We also occasionally get thugs and idiots, which can be all kinds of interesting, too. This week, I had a guy ask me what our Black Friday sale prices are. To his credit, it was a Friday, but I had to break it to him that Black Friday only comes once a year.

For another example, the other day, I had a guy, slightly younger than me, come in with his PlayStation 3 in a backpack, looking to sell. GameStop has a reasonably strict quality policy when it comes to taking in used consoles, and a damaged or scuffed-up console will see a much smaller return than a pristine one. This guy seemed to know it, and started off taking the offensive.

“I’ve taken good care of this, so I expect a high price,” he said as he slammed the machine roughly on the counter, in a tone that I suppose was meant to be menacing. There is an unfortunate stigma (not entirely unjustified) that GameStop does its best to screw customers out of cash for trade-ins. The truth is we have to be picky about what we take in, because nobody wants to buy a pre-owned system from us only to get home and find it looking like it was shot out of a cannon. And what looks like a tiny scratch to a seller is a gaping furrow to a buyer.

“Awesome,” I said, trying to be jovial, despite the lack of introductions and the rude demeanor. Expecting to see him pull power cables or other accessories out of the bag, I waited. He did nothing. “Er… Do you have a controller for it?” I asked.

“NO.” He answered, a little too impatiently. I proceeded to explain that while the system itself looked nice, we couldn’t take in just the box; he needed power cables, A/V cables, and a controller, since we need those things in order to resell it.

“OH.” he said loudly, and abruptly shoved the poor PlayStation back in his backpack and left without another word.

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