It turns out a whole lot of parents think video game stores are good substitutes for daycare. Not cool, parents.
That's according to the stories we've been getting from all sorts of current and former employees in the world of video game retail, who have shared with us tales of terrible customers, heartwarming interactions, and even the occasional hagglin' cowboy. (Got a retail story you'd like to share? Email me.)
We're rounding up these retail stories every month or so. Here are some of the best ones we've gotten so far.
Stories have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Invisible Nunchuck Guy
I work in a gaming store in the UK. For the most part, it's pretty quiet. Turning down cocky kids when they try to buy age restricted stuff is satisfying — especially if they have spent the last two hours on the demo units playing FIFA, but other than that our store is quite mundane. The only things I'll tell my partner when I come home from a shift is when we've had a particularly odorous (that is, BO-dorous) customer. We do, however, have a couple of regular difficult clients. We're all pretty well-versed in how to handle each individual, and the team are great at placating people who seem to come in solely to harass us.
One guy, however, didn't like it when we took too long testing the gear he was trying to trade in. He got shifty about a phone he was trying to get cash for, suddenly demanding the member of staff (who was upstairs testing the device) return it to him. This behaviour usually means their means of acquiring said device may not entirely be on the level — that or there's a shady browser history that they have just remembered — so we called upstairs to get the phone sent down. This wasn't satisfactory, however, and the man began performing (incredibly mixed) martial arts on the staff on the shop floor. He wasn't particularly good and very few of his attacks actually connected, but his invisible nunchuck routine will stick with me 'til the day I die. We asked him not to return to the shop after giving his phone back. He apologised for his behaviour and left calmly. He came back the next day and threatened to murder our entire staff. That's when we got the police involved. As far as I'm aware, they didn't take the threats overly seriously, though he has been told to stay away from the shopping centre and hasn't been seen since.
Invisible Nunchuck Guy is kind of a legend now, his story told with irreverent aplomb to seasonal staff and new hires.
'So does she like steak?'
Years ago I used to be the assistant manager of a Gamestop. As a girl, I dealt with my fair share of shoppers who either asked to speak to the guys because they didn't think I knew what I was talking about, or would try to hit on me.
During one example of the latter, a customer just didn't get the hint. It started off as a simple conversation, nothing too alarming at first, just basic back and forth chatter about games. But it was a pretty hectic day and I was doing my best to not blow the guy off while still getting work done. Eventually it got to the point where I could tell he wasn't getting my subtle hints and I decided to take my lunch break and hide out in the back until he left.
Apparently after I left the sales floor the customer then started to grill the other employees about me. He asked if I was single, to which he was told I wasn't (which was the truth). Now you would think most guys would call it quits there. Instead, he asked if they knew if I liked steak, because he wanted to take me out to dinner at Outback, but just as friends since he now knew now about the boyfriend. The employees politely let the guy down for me, and I came out of hiding to find them all laughing hysterically about steak.
Don't wash your Wiimote
I work at a small used video game, board game, and comic book store. I was still getting a hang of how we handle some customer service situations when one day the phone rang and my manager answered. "Hello, how can we help you today? ... Sounds like you have to sync your Wii remotes. You'll have t- ... No sir, sync... Do NOT put your remotes in water. There are buttons on the back. No, do NOT put them in the sink!"
This continued for much longer than it should have. I was amazed my manager kept from laughing, because we lost it when he hung up.
Making some kid's day
I worked for GameStop for five years, and I was an assistant store manager for four of them. If you browse the Internet for gaming news, it doesn't take long to find one of the thousands of stories about how everyone seems to hate GameStop. (Our own district manager made sure to keep the job applications of promising people on hand to remind us we could be replaced at anytime.) I get why the hate was there. However, I made it my personal goal to ensure that MY GameStop would not end up like those hated ones.
Extra non-video game items sent to the store (t-shirts, figures, etc.) that didn't sell went through a process called "penny-out" where those items would be marked to $US0.01. We were supposed to remove them from the system and either throw them out or give them to other employees, but either way the company didn't want them in the store. My store manager tended to keep those items and give them away at midnight launches as prizes.
Anyway... This day we had the old set of Halo Spartan figures penny-out, about seven in total, to make room for the next set of Halo Spartan figures which probably wouldn't sell either. A mother and her two sons came in. The kids had to have been around 12 and eight. While the mother and the older child were browsing for games, the younger one went right for the Halo figures, grabbed one, and asked his mum very excitedly if she would buy it for him.
She said, "I just bought you a figure yesterday! No way!" and in the rarest moment of my life, I watched an eight-year-old child act more like an adult than any real adult I've ever seen come into my store. He simply said "Oh yeah! That's right, you did. Sorry, Mum," and put the figure right back. There was no way this was going unrewarded...
I excused myself to the back, grabbed two of the penny-out Spartans, and very carefully slipped them into the next bag ready at my register. When the family finally came and purchased their game I swiftly dropped it into the bag with the figures, and handed it to the mother. I watched as she walked out with her children, got into the car, then left the car and came back into the store. She said that somehow there were Halo figures placed into the bag and I said it was a gift for being such an awesome mum.
From then on, it became a game, where I would always try to slip those kids something extra without them noticing — hats, wallets, shirts, figures, etc. On my last day there, her children happened to stop by, gave me a teary-eyed hug goodbye, and the mother bought me lunch! It was customers like them that kept me coming back to that job.
The Hagglin' Cowboy
An older country-looking guy (Levis, cowboy boots, age 50+) brings a $US14.99 used copy of Mario Golf for Gamecube up to the counter.
"I'll give ya' $US12 for it."
I kindly explain that haggling is not appropriate in retail.
"Now look here. You're a salesman. Salesmen can drop the price to make the sale."
I kindly explain that is not how Game Crazy conducts business.
The man rolls his eyes. "You're cold-hearted. You're cold-hearted and I hate you."
'I am the manager!'
First off, you have no idea how many parents believe we are childcare. Our store was located right next to a grocery store and parents would leave their kids at our store then leave to go shopping. We had three demo machines at the time, and for the most part kids would just stay glued to them the whole time. For fun I used to put the Bible game that came out into the PS2 demo machine.
One time a mum came in with her two boys, who were around elementary age, and then she just left. After about half an hour, the kids left the store. I didn't think anything of it. Another hour goes by and I see mum strolling outside our windows with a huge heaping cart full of groceries. She opens the door, looks around and asks me where are her kids? I say I have no idea; they left about an hour ago. She freaks out and asks how I could allow children to leave the store. I ended up asking her the same thing. The mum left the store, never to return again. I'm assuming the children were found eventually.
Second story I'll share takes place on a Saturday, early in the morning. This ten-year-old came in wanting to buy a used Nintendo DS. He opens his backpack and I see a wallet full of cash. I'm not the police; I can't question and assume that this wallet was stolen. I sell him the used Nintendo DS and forget about the whole thing. That Monday night I'm working again and the ten-year-old comes in with his father. I come to find out that his son stole his wallet and they'd like to return the used Nintendo DS. Unfortunately GameStop's policy is no returns on used game systems other than exchanges for the same item. This only caused the father to become angry and upset with me. He started shouting and demanded to speak to a manager. I was young at the time and had been watching Chappelle's Show, so for some reason I thought it would be wise to say "one moment please," do a 360 spin, look at him in the eyes and say "I am the manager!"
This only caused the father to shout uncontrollably at me, refusing to leave while changing darker and darker shades of red. I said I would call the police if he didn't leave, and the man left the store. Next day I found out he called corporate, so we ended up giving him a full refund and a $US50 gift card for his inconvenience. It amazed me at the time what people got away with if they just screamed high enough on the corporate chain.
ONE CONSOLE PER HOUSEHOLD
We had a midnight release at Best Buy for the PS4. I was in charge of running everything since the manager had never run, organised, or even attended a midnight release before. I handed out tickets and instructed the employees working that night about attachments like accessories and extended warranties. We made it very clear to every customer in line that there was a limit of ONE CONSOLE PER HOUSEHOLD.
This wasn't a problem until we had a couple come in and try to walk out with four consoles. The manager stopped them and asked how that had happened. They had purchased all of them "legitimately." Apparently they'd stood in line for two — they stood in line separately — and each ordered one online to be picked up in our store.
Our manager, an admittedly hard-headed man who knew there wasn't a legitimate way to keep them from leaving with all four consoles, called the police. The police came, and the manager said that they "stole" the consoles, not meaning it literally. The police chased them down, found out they actually bought the consoles legitimately, and came back to yell at the manager. Meanwhile myself and all the other employees just sort of shook our head out of all the ridiculousness.
Be careful what your kids convince you to buy
So I've only been working at GAME for several months now and over the Christmas period, a family comes in looking to buy an Xbox One with Grand Theft Auto V. Their son is around 13-14 and his parents are both with him. I explained to the mother that the game was a [PEGI] 18+ but if she was ok then it was fine. She then said to me that she was concerned about purchasing it but she felt uptight not getting him the game as all of his friends were playing it. The dad seemed ok with the situation.
I went into the back to get their bundle sorted but I was worried that she wasn't really comfortable and that her son and husband were forcing her hand. I asked my boss if it was ok to show them a video on my phone from the game so she knew what she was getting the kid. He said it was fine and I went back out. It may well have been one of the most awkward moments to date for me, but I explained that the game has prostitutes and with the new added 'first-person' mode it'd be a more immersive experience.
I gave her my phone and hit play... their reaction was complete shock. The dad turned to his son and the kid just instantly burst into tears. They began arguing in the middle of the store. Suffice to say I made a quick exit, saying to come to the [counter] when they'd decided what they wanted to buy. At the counter, the kid then tried to push Far Cry 4, at which point another colleague explained to the parents that the game contained nudity and violence. So that didn't work out well for the kid either... He ended up with FIFA 15. I still think he's going to kill me at some point.
A PS2 powered by static
When I worked at GameStop, parents dropping their kids off at the store for free babysitting while they shopped other stores in the mall was a common occurrence. One time I had a mother come up to me and point out her little boy in the store. She said to me "Will you please watch him and make sure that he doesn't leave the store? I'm going to Old Navy for a while and I'll be back to pick him up soon." Never before had I been asked to watch a child; usually the parents just dropped them off and let them fend for themselves. I replied, "I'm sorry ma'am, but I can't be responsible for your son." She scoffed at me and became very upset. "Why not?" she demanded. I wasn't in the mood for her attitude and responded "Because this isn't a daycare center." She cursed at me and then left the store, leaving her son there anyway.
Often times kids would come in the store to play our display units. Most of the time they would play for five or ten minutes, and then leave. Every now and then, you'd get the kids that would play longer, sometimes for hours. Eventually, we figured out that the PS2 display unit had a remote control used for the TV display. When kids would play for too long, we would hit the power button the TV and turn it off. Kids would look at the system and push all the buttons trying to get it to work again. If they couldn't get it working, they would leave the store. Sometimes my manager would mess with them, and turn it back on as soon as they started to walk away, or whenever they pushed a certain button on the controller. One time he even told a little boy that it was powered by static electricity and had to rub his feet on the carpet while he played or it would stop working. And that little boy stood there for about 20 minutes playing while running his feet back and forth across the carpet until his mum came and got him.
The Wonderful, Mysterious Neck Boob
Sorry, this isn't game-related, but I can't not tell you this story.
I used to work as a cashier at a craft store in a kind of crappy area. There was a Saturday when I had a pretty decent line at my register and I was trying to get people out as quickly as possible, when an overweight woman in a wheelchair and what I assumed was her son put their items on the counter. They had a bunch of those little scrapbooking notion things to decorate pictures. Little graduation caps, tiny pennants, that kind of thing. Like 50 of them.
Now, this lady wasn't that heavy, but she had the longest, fattest neck I have ever seen. It was basically a saggy boob attached to the bottom of her face. I was really trying not to look, but she was in front of me for a pretty long time while I scanned and bagged all her stuff and something caught my eye. It was shiny. And it was poking out of her neck flap. At one point she raised her head up a little to talk to her son and something fell out. Of her neck. I looked down and there was one of those scrapbooking things on her lap. I looked back up and I could see more in her neck.
I guess she figured she was made at this point, but I was so simultaneously baffled and grossed out that she was halfway to the door before I thought to call my manager.
I rang out the rest of the people in my line and my manager comes over to me like "I didn't believe you when you said there was stuff in her neck, but when I spoke to her she apologised and gave me these back." He then put the handful of tiny flat balloons, baseball bats, and soccer balls on my counter. She had them all in her neck.
Illustration: Jim Cooke