Only one person was on shift at the GameStop in Easton, PA when two men tried to rob it last month. Outnumbered and told to put his hands up, the employee backed off as the thieves unloaded $5,000 worth of PlayStation 5s from the back room. A week later, GameStop allegedly fired the 13-year veteran store manager over the theft, leading several other employees to reportedly quit in protest. For some of them, it encapsulates just how screwed up GameStop has become as it scrambles to survive in the age of digital gaming.
According to the Colonial Regional Police Department and apparent store surveillance footage uploaded to Imgur, two men entered the store posing as customers and asked about buying a PS5. The GameStop employee on shift at the time then went and opened the door into the backroom where the pricey and highly sought-after PS5 consoles were kept. With the door unlocked, the two men then followed him in and threatened him.
While neither produced a visible gun, Det. Michael Munch told Kotaku that the employee was told to put his hands up and that he wouldn’t get hurt if he didn’t move. One of the men then carried stacks of PS5s out of the store while the second stayed behind to watch the employee. Eventually, they shut the employee in the storage room and left the store with a total of 10 PS5s valued at roughly $5,000.
The manager in charge of the store, who wasn’t present for the incident, was fired a week and a half later. “The man was the most tenured and the top performer in the district,” one former colleague said in a phone interview. “The dude bent over backwards for this company,” said one current employee. While Kotaku was unable to get in contact with the fired manager directly, three current and former GameStop employees from the area said he had told them that the robbery was the reason the company gave him when he was fired. As a result, they said all but two employees at the store put in their two weeks’ notice or quit on the spot.
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GameStop did not respond to a request for comment.
In a Reddit post about the incident, some current and former employees speculated that the manager may have technically been fired over a breach of store procedures during the robbery. Standard procedure is to first ring up expensive consoles at the register and record their serial numbers in a notebook to ensure that payment is received before the hardware’s retrieved from the storage room, though it’s not clear what that might have done to deter two potentially armed robbers. Regardless, many considered it outrageous that the store manager would be fired over the incident. One former employee recalled two clerks who were killed at a FuncoLand on the other side of the state border with New Jersey back in 2002.
Despite its logic-defying meme stock, GameStop has continued to lay off employees amid routinely disappointing quarterly sales reports and stalled efforts to pivot to a new business model. Reddit investors talk prophetically about a big squeeze coming for the company’s short sellers, but the real squeeze is on GameStop’s employees. Staff are increasingly asked to do more with less, even as company-wide system malfunctions make fulfilling basic things like video game pre-orders a complete mess.
One byproduct of the chaos and cuts is that many managers now have to run two stores for an insulting raise of only $1.25. Assistant managers, meanwhile, are being phased out at many locations, while brand-new entry-level staff quickly find themselves responsible for running the store all alone for entire shifts while making substantially less than they might at rivals like Best Buy and Target.
All of these problems were on display at the recently robbed Easton store, some current and former employees say, and the store manager’s reward for sticking it out was getting canned just a couple weeks before his first meme stock bonus would have vested. “It’s just setting people up for failure,” one former employee told Kotaku. “$100 million spent on NFTs instead of investing in the people doing the work for you.”
More recently, a fresh revolt is taking place within GameStop’s ranks over a controversial new decision to cut store managers’ overtime pay. Normally allocated an additional four hours a week that are worth time-and-a-half, two current managers who are both in charge of multiple stores tell Kotaku that perk has been cut. For someone making $20 an hour, that’s almost $500 less pay a month. It wipes out the entire $1.25 raise managers received last year for taking on a second store in the first place. Even the $400 meme-stock payout scheduled for February 15 won’t make up for it.
And the overtime, paid or not, will likely happen regardless in order to keep up with the extra workloads. “We are making less with more responsibility,” one current employee told Kotaku. “A few managers talked about doing a walkout but so many are scared.”