Buying Games Used to be Convoluted, but Magical

Buying a game today is a non-event. You simply go to a store, pick up the game, walk to the checkout and pay for it. Some retailers, like Target or Walmart, keep them behind a display (CLASSY), which requires the extra step of asking a kind associate for assistance, that is if you can find one.

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GameStop keeps their games behind the checkout, so you need to ask for a copy, which in return they would ask if you pre-ordered it, which my response is was, NO I DIDN’T FUCKING PRE-ORDER IT, BUT YOU HAVE A STACK OF 100 OF THEM BACK THERE SO GIVE ME ONE GODDAMNIT! I have a love/hate relationship with GameStop. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t buy physical copies of games anymore and just download them, like a civilized person. I have also been told that I have a tendency of over reacting.

Back in the day however, there was a process that must be followed when purchasing a game. This was especially the case at Toys R Us, which was my retailer of choice to buy games when I was a kid.

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This unique process, employed by Toys R Us, has been embedded and buried into the depths of my mind. This memory was only uncovered recently after watching a documentary about Tony Robbins on Netflix late one evening.

During this documentary, Tony Robbins, motivational speaker, life coach, self-help guru, and cosmetic dentistry enthusiast, demonstrated an exercise that helps uncover long lost memories. These memories, often times deeply buried, are both positive and negative, but none-the-less, make you the person that you are today. These memories can be very powerful and one can harness them, helping to make you a stronger person.

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With that said, after trying this memory dredging exercise myself, I have no fucking idea why I remembered, and quite vividly I might add, the convoluted and confusing video game buying process employed by Toys R Us from when I was a child.  It’s apparent that my brain is broken. No memories of early vacations, or interactions with my grandparents, birthdays, holidays, or even traumatic events. Nope, I remembered how Toys R Us made the process of buying video games akin to a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

For those of you who are too young to remember, or may have forgotten, back in the 80’s and the early to mid-90’s, Toys R Us used a ticketing system for the majority of their large and or expensive products. One would walk down the aisle, find a display of the product they wanted to purchase, select a ticket, take it to the register, pay, and then someone would get you the product you purchased.  If you bought a bicycle, someone would bring you a box of an unassembled bicycle. If you bought swing set, someone would bring you a swing set, et cetera.

Many Toys R Us stores still employ this method, as it does make sense, and it is efficient for large bulky items. Toys R Us used this method for pricier things as well years ago, such as electronics and especially video games.

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As a child, I remember going down the video game aisle and seeing rows and rows of plastic flip cards for games.  The front had the box art and the back had some screen shots and a description. Essentially, it was a representation of the box.  And just below each game, there was a pouch with the fabled Toys R Us item ticket.

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I have vivid memories of going into Toys R Us with my mom or dad to pick up a particular game, only to encounter an empty ticket pouch stating that the game was out of stock and be an utterly devastated 8-year-old. Perhaps it was a mistake. Maybe some asshole took all the tickets and hid them somewhere in the store for some nefarious reason?  Maybe the store just got more in stock and didn’t replenish the tickets? A quick trip to customer service would always validate my fears. The game was indeed sold out.

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More often than not, the game that I wanted was in stock, and I would select my ticket and excitedly go to the front cash registers, like a demented Charlie Bucket, but instead of a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, I was buying what was most likely a forgettable and utterly average NES side scroller.

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After paying for the game at one of the cash registers, the cashier would staple your receipt to the ticket and that is where the magic begins. You then head off to what appeared to be as an excitable child, a plexiglass monolith of electronic and video game goodness. Sadly, all images of this structure no longer exists.  All my image searches came up empty. The image below is the closest representation I could find.

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Within the confines of this structure were stacks of every gaming console imaginable—NESs, Sega Master Systems, Gameboys, and random Atari garbage. Later on there would be the Genesis, SNES, TurboGrafx 16, and holy shit, was that a Neo Geo? Also housed in the clear monolith were games. Stacks upon stacks of games.

Eventually, a sales associate would be called down to get the game that you payed for. A lethargic and disinterested looking teenager would unlock the door, take your ticket, and then attempt to locate your purchased game among the stacks of other games. I say attempt, because they would inevitably pass over your game a half dozen times before zeroing in on it.

IT’S RIGHT OVER THERE MOTHERFUCKER!

…I totally would have said that—if my father wasn’t standing there and would have totally beaten the shit out of me, right there in the store. Remember, this was the 1980’s, parents got away with doing that, and if he got tired slapping me around in public, another parent would have come over and beat me while my father caught his breath.  It takes a village to raise children properly, you know.

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Eventually, the teenager would locate your game and hand it over.  I would stare at the box the entire car ride home.  Sometimes, I could not help myself and I would open it up to flip through the instruction manual. Those were the good old days, when games had instruction manuals. The best games had meaty manuals, that contained some back story and a list of enemies.

On a slightly darker side, I also clearly remembered how my friends and I used to scheme during lunch on an Ocean’s 11 caliber plan to infiltrate that plexiglass fortress and make off with all the goodies inside. It was our casino bank vault, ripe for the picking, that is of course if you had a good plan, the right people, and the guts to pull it off such an amazing heist.

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I bet you thought the Clooney version, right? Nope, I’m talking about the infinitely cooler Rat Pack Ocean’s 11.

There were even legends of kids who had found a way in and made off with a handful of carts (or even consoles, depending on who you asked).  These kids then conveniently moved away to other towns, cities and even states, so it could never be confirmed or denied if the story was true or even learn how they pulled it off. Sometimes the tales were cautionary and the kid got caught, sent to juvey and became a hardened criminal. These stories were all legends, who knew if there was any shred of truth to them. (DEFINITELY NOT)

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Risks of juvenile detention aside, my friends and I would speak in hushed tones and plan our caper. Danny would buy a cheap game so that someone would need to unlock the booth. Brucie would wait by the booth and fake a heart attack when the sales associate unlocks the door, causing a commotion and a distraction. Johnny would then go into the booth with a garbage bag and take as much as he can. He’ll then hand the haul off to Jimmy, who’s waiting outside on his bike. It was so crazy; it just might work!  SHHHHHHHH. A teacher’s aid was walking by, she’s onto us. CHANGE THE SUBJECT!

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Also, in the 80’s all of my friend’s names had to end in “-y” or ”-ie” for some reason.

We never did follow through with our plan. It was too risky, and too stupid. Deep down inside, we knew it would never work. We would have been caught in an instant, and our parents would have been called. They would then take turns beating the shit out of us in public.

It was the 80’s, after all. That’s how things were. It takes a village to raise children properly, you know.

​Thanks for Ruining my Birthday, GameStop

Getting old sucks. I’m sorry if that sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. Everyone reaches a point in their lives when they realize that having yet another birthday is not as quaint as it used to be, and that the anniversary of your birth is just a grim reminder that you are one year closer to dying.

When you’re a child birthdays are great for the obvious reasons—you get a party and gifts. As you get older, you then get milestone birthdays. Turning 10 years old is a big deal as you have managed to stay alive for a decade. At thirteen, you’re officially a teenager and get to look forward to awkwardness and raging hormones.

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If you’re a girl, and from Latin America, you get a Quinceañera when you turn fifteen and I have no fucking clue what this is nor do I care. American girls meanwhile celebrate a sweet sixteen, probably for the same reason that Latin girls celebrate Quinceañeras. European girls? I have no clue and don’t care.

In most places in America, turning seventeen means you can legally drive, which is a big deal. Also in the states, when one turns eighteen, you’re officially an adult. You can vote and join the military, BUT DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT DRINKING A BEER KIDDO, for that you have to wait until your twenty-one.

Unless of course you’re European, in which case the legal drinking age is five years old, or so I’ve heard.

Unless of course you’re European, in which case the legal drinking age is five years old, or so I’ve heard.

I’m sorry to say, but after one’s twenty-first birthday, birthdays begin to lose their luster and when you hit thirty, they become downright depressing.

Take my latest birthday for example. Last Monday, I turned thirty-six. I have nothing witty or cute to say about that. This was the first birthday where I thought to myself, “Man, I’m feeling old.”

As if feeling old and depressed was enough, everything was exasperated by the fact that leading up to my actual birthday, I had to attend two separate funerals and my daughter came down with strep throat. Thank you god for making this week so special.

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No worries Spieler Dad!

Suffice it to say, traveling back and forth to two funerals in two states while caring for a sick child sucks. And just when I think it cannot get possibly worse, I get reminded that yes, it can indeed get worse.

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Is it possible that GameStop is offering me a good deal on something? There are games coming out that indeed I want to buy. For a brief moment, I was legitimately excited and started to come out of my funk. That is until I read further and realized this sweet deal was on used games only.

Happy BD GS 01I know that some of you care a great deal about used games, but I personally could care less. I also don’t care in helping GameStop’s bottom line by perpetuating their stranglehold on the used game market.

I especially don’t care in giving GameStop gift cards to other stores, in which they will pay me a fraction of what they are actually worth, because yes, they do that too apparently.

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In hindsight, I’m actually amazed. The past week I had to deal with death(s), illness, and the fact that I am indeed becoming an old man, and out of all of these things, the worst thing that happened to me is getting this e-mail from GameStop.

Congratulations GameStop. You never cease to amaze me.

Do Not Spend Your Tax Refund at GameStop 

It’s pretty obvious that GameStop’s marketing and communications department has an editorial calendar. It seems that every holiday or event throughout the year, GameStop deploys an e-mail saying that it’s a perfect reason to go to one of their horrible stores.

Sometimes, these communications make sense. Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other major holidays work, because retailers have turned these days into major shopping events, replete with sales. Sometimes these are a stretch, as I detailed in a post two weeks ago where GameStop wanted people to spend Valentine’s Day at their stores, using GameStop’s predatory credit card.

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Now, I’m starting to get bombarded by e-mails from GameStop regarding Tax Day, which in the US is on April 15. It’s a joyous time of year, where you get to stress out over tax forms, bureaucracy, and possible audits and fines. If you’re organized and prepared, maybe sent your tax forms in already and if have a good accountant who COOKS THE BOOKS, you could be in store for a nice refund check. GameStop, more than anything, wants you to blow this refund check at one of their shitty stores.

I received four variations of this e-mail.

I received four variations of this e-mail.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not know how tax season works outside of the United States, because deep down inside, I’m an ignorant American. Do Canadians have a tax season? Do they get refunds in cash, or are they paid with maple syrup and gift cards to Tim Hortons? Both options are DELICIOUS!

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I can’t say that I know much on how taxes works elsewhere either. I’m assuming in Europe, the government just takes away your entire paycheck so that they can subsidize everything. In Australia, I can see a large chunk of your pay being taken out in order to pay for protection from Mother Nature, as the entire continent is inhabited with animals that are actively trying to kill you.

I’m going to put on my old man hat and say that wherever you are, if you get a refund on your taxes, spend it wisely. Pay off some or all of your debt or invest. And when I say invest, it doesn’t needs to be in stocks, but it certainly could be. You can invest it in yourself, by taking some classes, joining a gym, and simply getting in some self-development. Or, god forbid, you can sock the money away and save it for the inevitable rainy day.

By all means, if you get a windfall of cash, go ahead and treat yourself to something, but spend it wisely, and as your dear old granny used to say, don’t blow it all in one place.

Okay, with the serious stuff out of the way, let’s get back to the silliness. I always try to include a list in my posts and this is no exception. So without further delay, here is my top 10 holidays that GameStop is probably considering doing a tie-in promotion along with inappropriate headline.

 Jan 04 World Braille Day – Can’t you SEE that GameStop has the best deals around?

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Jan 22 Roe vs. Wade Day – You’re not going to want to ABORT these awesome deals from GameStop

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Jun 19 Emancipation Day – Feel LIBERATED by shopping at GameStop.

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Aug 06-09 Hiroshima & Nagasaki Day – This GameStop sale is the BOMB!

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Aug 24 Vesuvius Day – GameStop is having an ERUPTION of savings!

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Sep 2 National Beheading Day– You’ll lose your head when you see these savings.

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Sep 18 National Attention Deficit Disorder Awareness Day – FOCUS in on GameStop for huge savings

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Oct 12 Native American Day – GameStop is now taking RESERVATIONS on the hottest holiday games.

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Oct 22 International Stuttering Awareness Day – These D-D-D-DEALS are A-A-A-A-AWESOME!

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Dec 02 Special Education Day – Hop on the short bus to savings

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Why Retailers Damage and Throw Away Good Product

Early this week, a YouTube video posted in February of an intrepid dumpster diver went viral, and started making the rounds at various gaming and tech related websites.  This individual braved possible attack from rabid raccoons, crack foxes, Oscar the Grouch, and ornery hobos to point out, in his own words, that GameStop is “greedy and cheap.”


I hate to say this, but I can tell you that GameStop is greedy and cheap without diving into a dumpster and risk coming down with consumption by breathing in bad humors or other old timey ailments.

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Welp, my job is done here.

However, GameStop is not alone in destroying perfectly good items and tossing them in the garbage. The sad truth is that retailers do this all the time and the reason they do is simple, it’s about their bottom line.

Many retailers have arrangements with their suppliers to return any unsold or outdated product to their suppliers for credit. Retailers take a risk when they purchase goods from suppliers. Sometimes new product does not resonate with consumers and it sells poorly. To mitigate this risk, suppliers will agree to take back unsold goods.

This happens a lot with clothing, electronics, and even food products. If the stuff does not sell, stores just pack that shit up and send it back.

However, packaging and shipping stuff can be expensive. When the shipping of goods becomes cost prohibitive, suppliers just ask the stores how much product they have left over, so that they can credit them, and then the stores destroy it and simply throw it away.

In a previous job, I had the opportunity to actually see the back rooms of various Walmart stores. It’s what you would expect and really nothing special. There were plenty of shelves and pallets holding various goods. There was machinery for recycling, crushing cardboard, etc… A portal to hell where sinners and under-performing sales associates were cast into.

Uhh, I'm just look for a pallet of Rice Crispies.

Uhh, I’m just looking for a pallet of Rice Crispies.

Sometimes I saw dedicated machines that destroyed clothing that was not worth sending back to the supplier. I would imagine that every Walmart has this equipment.

When I worked at a clothing retailer back in my college days, one of the tasks of the people in the back room was to destroy clothing that has been marked down multiple times and still did not sell.

Doing some research online, I also found that this is the case as well at other retailers like Best Buy and Staples. If electronics did not sell, power cords and USB cables were cut and the goods would simply be tossed into the trash.

All in all, GameStop is in good company here. All retailers are horrible and would rather destroy and toss perfectly good product than donate it.

The reason retailers do this is very complex. Yes, profit and their bottom line is a big component, but if you want to learn more, I would recommend checking out this article.

What I find interesting is that GameStop also deals in the second hand market. Why destroy used product since you cannot send it back to the original supplier?

I believe, and I may be wrong (almost definitely), that again, it’s simply cheaper to destroy the goods than to give it away or send it to a GameStop warehouse to be refurbished.

This sounds horrible, but these corporations are in business to make a profit and not for making charitable donations. Yes, many give some stuff away to charity and they get a tax write-off and more importantly, free publicity.

I can’t really blame them. In a perfect world, of course they should donate everything that does not sell. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a complex and often flawed world, where right and wrong is easily blurred. One can make the argument for both sides and it would be impossible to say which was right and which was wrong.