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Employees at GameStop seek reform due to the company's robbery issue.

2023-02-18  Sophia Zackary

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The beginning of February saw at least 12 GameStop locations in the southern California area become the target of armed robberies. The perpetrators were after pricey gaming systems that had been in short supply in previous years, notably the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. In the same week, three GameStop locations in Memphis, Tennessee – an area that was targeted during the holiday season as well — were either broken into or robbed.

According to allegations in the media, in just over the past three months, thieves targeted around thirty GameStop locations across the United States. Although it only accounts for a small portion of GameStop's nearly 3,000 locations in the United States, some employees at GameStop believe that it is the beginning of a trend that requires the company to take action.

Following the thefts that occurred in California, the head of loss prevention at GameStop, Alan Fagergren, stated to a local Fox affiliate in Los Angeles that the firm is providing a prize of $5,000 for information regarding the robberies that occurred in California. But, employees claim that one thing GameStop can do to protect its workforce is to avoid staffing its stores with a single security guard, particularly at night.

In the course of gathering information for this study, we had conversations with five GameStop workers located in different parts of the country. (Present and former GameStop employees who talked to Polygon have been given anonymity to protect their identities because they were not permitted to speak to the press.) Several GameStop employees voiced their worries on a subreddit dedicated to the retailer. According to these employees, the robberies have the staff at GameStop on edge, and some of the employees blame measures like the corporate cost-cutting tactic of having a single person cover an entire shop for heightened anxiety. (According to the employees that Polygon spoke to, many stores only have one person working at a time, although this is not the case in all of them.)

In recent years, GameStop has seen a decline in both its sales and profits, and the retailer recently recorded a net loss of $361.3 million for the first three quarters of the current fiscal year. As a result of dwindling sales, GameStop was forced to lay off a significant number of employees, close more than 1,000 locations, and close an e-commerce facility in Texas that was 630,000 square feet in size. According to a report by Kotaku and sources provided by Polygon, GameStop is decreasing the number of hours that its employees are required to work, reassigning managers to positions that require them to supervise several locations and terminating the positions of assistant managers. As a result of having fewer people on staff, some establishments only have one person working at any given time. According to some employees, this creates a dangerous environment because it makes the store an obvious target for theft.

Many employees at GameStop have hypothesised that the end of the so-called console shortage is the other primary reason why these robberies are happening at this time. The newest PlayStation and Xbox systems are available for purchase in stores.

"It's gotten to the point where I'm at least a little concerned anytime a customer [or] caller asks if we have PS5s in stock,'" a current employee of GameStop told Polygon. "It's gotten to the point where it's gotten to the point where I'm at least a little concerned."

Consoles are frequently the target of thieves since it is so simple to resale them for a profit and in particular Sony's PlayStation 5, which was in particularly short supply until very recently.

According to a former employee of GameStop who spoke with Polygon, members of employee forums and others routinely discuss their desire to leave the company. "Their life is not worth more than GameStop's revenues," the employee claimed. She went on to say that the employees at GameStop who hold the keys to the store, meaning they are the only ones who can open and shut it, go through special training designed with the prevention of robberies in mind. For example, they are told to constantly change the times at which they go to the bank. It is easy to identify when a single person is covering the entire store, and this renders any training that could prevent violent robberies useless as a result. However, she did say that this can only go so far.

Several demands for comment from the public have gone unanswered by GameStop.

Several employees have expressed their desire for greater staffing levels and enhanced safety measures in retail establishments. A former employee of GameStop told me that their location was looted many years ago and that as a result, they had to install cameras and hire a security guard for a few weeks. They said that the cost of it was deducted from the profit and loss numbers of their store, which are the numbers that are submitted to corporate to determine how well a store is doing. In a separate incident, a GameStop manager is said to have been held accountable and terminated after a shop in Easton, Pennsylvania, experienced a theft of $5,000 in the previous month. The fact that one of their own was punished for something that was beyond their control made the workers' unhappiness even worse. Kotaku stated that some staff are rumoured to have left the company in protest.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor provides guidelines for retail worker safety for high-risk establishments that are open at night. These risk factors include having a solo worker and isolated locations, as well as the "exchange of money" and other valuable items. These guidelines are intended to protect employees who work in retail stores. It suggests several different things that can be done to reduce the risk to workers, such as increasing staffing levels, particularly around opening and closing times, installing alarms, and making sure that everyone is taught in advance. When Polygon spoke with OSHA about the risks associated with working alone, an OSHA agent directed the company's attention to these guidelines.

On top of the general frustration that GameStop retail employees feel towards the company for a variety of reasons, including the low pay and minimal raises that were promised during the meme stock boom, restricted overtime, and reduced staff, the recent robberies have added layer of anxiety for the employees. According to a currently employed person, workers are just exhausted as a result of the decision-making processes of corporations.

A previous version of this article misidentified GameStop's gross profits as the company's net profits, which led readers to incorrectly infer that the retailer had been profitable in recent periods. In its most recent quarterly financial report, GameStop revealed a net loss. This article has been revised to provide financial information that is more up-to-date and accurate.


2023-02-18  Sophia Zackary