In May, a GameStop in Lincoln, Nebraska went viral after it became the second in its zipcode to see its entire staff resign in protest.
“We regret to inform you that we all quit,” read the note its employees left behind. “Spend your money at an establishment that respects its employees.”
This summer has seen “a ruthless sea change” at GameStop as it “pursues profitability,” and while they aren’t the only company making mass cuts they are unique in that, not so long ago, they occupied a very different place in the public imagination.
Back in 2021 GameStop was an everyman-underdog hit hard by the pandemic and kept alive by rebel investors. At 1Huddle, we love a David-vs-Goliath story, and there was a lot to like about a scrappy coalition of nerds and day traders that cooked up a scheme to help a company the odds were stacked against, drive up its stock, and squeeze the big hedge funds trying to short it.
But that was 2021.
Recently the company has slashed their workforce from the top and bottom, all to funnel millions into the launch of a new NFT marketplace whose debut earned an estimated $44,500 – “less than the price of a new truck.”
Building on analysis by Ars Technica, Ethan Gauch, writing for Kotaku, an outlet that covers topics important to gamers, reaches this scathing conclusion:
GameStop had 4,816 stores worldwide at the start of 2021. Dividing the daily net sales by that number means roughly $3,426 in business at each store each day. Opening the NFT marketplace was effectively like opening a dozen more GameStop stores, though with the bonus of not having to actually hire any poorly paid hourly workers.
It’s a sad day when that’s a bonus. Especially when you consider GameStop was barely bothering to train those workers once they hired them, something that comes up again and again throughout the GameStop subreddit, a digital water cooler for employees, past and present.
In post after post, workers describe being overworked, underpaid, and critically under-trained.
“The thing that irks the hell out of me at the end of the day was the lack of training,” wrote one GameStop employee, who had watched poor training sabotage a friend’s store. “So many of these store managers, including her, were only trained to do the bare minimum aka whatever the hell you learned on LevelUP which for the record corporate – if you’re reading this – isn’t proper training [sic].”
“If talent development and retention was anywhere on the company’s radar they would actually have a training regimen,” observed another in an open letter addressed to fellow employees. “16 training hours, here new keyholder here’s two days of training and $200,000 of merchandise to steward, good luck.”
They went on to say that, while the current training system was “funny,” their new coworker’s “inability to remember how closing works” suggests it may be inadequate.
According to Frank Maurer, the ex-gamestop employee who led the staff-wide walkout in May at GameStop Gateway mall, the company had never provided him with proper support or training “on any of the new responsibilities he was given as manager,” nor was he given the resources to train others at the store. In an interview, Mauer said that his requests for support were “met with silence.”
Now, GameStop, like Amazon, Google, and Tesla before it, has split their stock in an “attempt to gin up buying among a growing bloc of retail investors” – a move which, according to Quartz, was “only a matter of time,” given the retailer’s laser-focus on its investor base.
Whatever their hopes, things don’t seem to have played out in GameStop’s favor, with shares of the video game retailer down 7.3% by noon on Friday.
Because all the four-for-one split did was give investors who already owned stock more shares. It did nothing to change the fundamentals.
And those fundamentals – from where we stand – are not good.
Most of the people who work in their stores are themselves gamers. They play the games they sell, and love talking about those games with the customers they sell them to.
“I think my regular guests are the thing I will miss most about the job,” wrote one employee who resigned after 20 years. “I like solving guests’ issues. Bring in all the clueless parents and grandparents. I’ll educate you on the things little Timmy wants!”
GameStop’s stock split was just cosmetic: it merely breaks each share into smaller pieces without affecting its fundamental value.
By the end of 2021, the once struggling retailer had $2 billion cash-on-hand. Precious little of that has been re-invested in the people who are the heart and soul of GameStop’s brick-and-mortar stores. Now, like so many other workers, GameStop’s employees are quitting in droves for better-paying jobs and better circumstances.
We don’t know anything about running a GameStop, but when there’s a whole subreddit dedicated to documenting the way that you’ve failed your employees? We know that’s a problem.
GameStop’s motto is “Power to the Player,” but they seem to have forgotten to value their most important asset– the players they employ.
Those are the fundamentals that should matter.
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