Video produced and edited by Jordan Zakarin and Ian McKenna
Elizabeth Folsom: Probably my advice would be to anybody that’s looking to work at GameStop would be, like, just be careful. It’s not what you’re thinking it’s going to be.
[Narrator]: GameStop has been in the news a lot lately.
[News clip]: Surging 51% today.
[News clip]: Up 133%.
[News clip]: It actually touched $500 a share.
[News clip]: Gamestonks.
[Narrator]: The 2021 meme stock craze generated massive windfalls for GameStop.
[News clip]: …raising $1.1 billion in its latest share offering.
[Narrator]: But workers say the financial “success” on Wall Street isn’t doing anything for them.
Elizabeth: Yeah, we really don’t see much of it. The pay that I was earning was very poor. Every other workplace I went to inquiring a job told me, “You are getting scammed. You are getting cheated of.”
Kyle Notaro: The upper management made it the worst job I’ve ever had.
[Narrator]: GameStop’s CEO makes 1355x as much as the average GameStop employee— 61% of GameStop workers make less than $15 an hour.
Kyle: So when I first started I was a guest advisor, which makes $9 an hour.
Elizabeth: Doing the math my rateage—honestly, I couldn’t give you a solid answer what it initially is, it fluctuates somewhere between $10 to $11 [an hour], to even lower than that.
[Narrator]: Outgoing CEO George Sherman walked away in 2021 with more than $171 million, mostly in stock options. All told, GameStop paid out $362 million to its outgoing CEO, CFO, CCO, CMO, and COO. That means GameStop spent more on golden parachutes for five executives than it did on wages for over 12,000 part-time employees that year.
[Interviewer]: Working at a place like GameStop, you know, their executives made millions and millions of dollars. Do you think they value their workers at GameStop?
Elizabeth: I don’t think so. I think we’re just seen as expendable.
[Narrator]: Employees in retail stores are speaking out about their experiences working at GameStops across the country. Elizabeth was employed at a GameStop in Massachusetts, Kyle at a story in Nebraska. They say they’ve witnessed the same pattern of abuse from managers and unrealistic sales goals as other workers.
Kyle: Since it was just the three of us, there was one of us working 9 to 6, one of us working 10 to 7, and one of us working 6 to close every single day. None of us had days off and it had gone like a month that way. I wasn’t even able to get the weekend of my grandfather’s funeral off.
Elizabeth: Before I left, we had 11 ceiling lights ready to come out of the ceiling and fall, and we were just holding them up with measly pieces of duct tape.
Kyle: The goals were with how many warranties we sold with respect to like the consoles and the controllers that we sold, as well as how many people purchased our PowerUp Rewards memberships.
Elizabeth: It’s become the bread and butter of the store. It’s like, I’ve been told so many times, “I don’t care what you sell in the store, if you’re not selling a warranty or a pro membership by the end of the day, then that not only reflects on you, but it reflects on us.” Our supervisor said, “Let’s do anything by means to ensure that these people get their warranties and such.”
So we would have to ‘white lie’ or stretch the truth about warranties, either saying they are different price. Like, say, game warranty is $3.99, we’d either say it’s free or $2. And I would say, “Guys I don’t feel good lying to these guys because basically we’re taking their money for something they didn’t even ask for.” But any means necessary—we had to make a sale.
Kyle: [Our manager] could call us or text us at literally any moment. I got calls from him at 3:00 in the morning. He would only call us to yell at us.
Elizabeth: It honestly was a mixture between, like, emotionally degrading and like you’re a kid getting your hand caught in a cookie jar.
Kyle: He would say things like, “Oh, well, we’re going to hire someone who’s 18 to take your place because they’ll actually work for us.”
[Narrator]: Conditions at Kyle’s store in Lincoln, Nebraska were so severe that the entire store quit.
Kyle: One day he called me and told me our numbers were not any better and that I needed to fire the only two employees I had by Friday. And I asked him how he expected me to work with just myself at that location. And he said, “Well, you’ll figure it out.” I told that to my worker, Same, when he came in, like, “Hey, I do have to fire you by the end of the week.” And Sam’s like, “Okay, well, then I’m going to hand you my keys right now.” I’m like, “That’s fine. I’m handing in my keys right now, too.” And we contacted the third person. They dropped their keys off at the store, and we were done. Sam’s wife had jokingly sent him a text of like, “Hey, you should write this down on the sign.” And then he posted it on the door and we left.
[Sign reads]: Dear valued GameStop Patrons: We regret to inform you that we all quit. Our District Manager does not respect us and believes we are replaceable with “freshly graduated high schoolers for half the cost!” Please visit (or don’t) our Gateway location for all your GameStop needs. Thank you, GameStop staff.
Kyle: As soon as we had locked the doors and stepped out of the door, we were just completely relieved.
[Narrator]: Similar frustrations caused workers at another Lincoln, Nebraska GameStop just eight miles away to walk off the job, too.
Kyle: I contact the person that I’d left as their store leader, and they were like, “Yeah, we took it out of your guys’s book. We put a sign up and we left.” And that’s all he had to say about it, because at that point, it’s pretty understandable that it obviously became too much.
[Narrator]: GameStop’s newest CEO, Matt Furlong, says his mission is to…
[GameStop CEO]: …transform a decaying brick-and-mortar retailer into a technology-led organization.
[Narrator]: With that technology-oriented vision in mind, GameStop has prioritized something that, at least right now, has absolutely nothing to do with gaming.
[GameStop CEO]: …with last month’s launch of the GameStop wallet, a digital asset wallet that allows gamers and others to store, send, receive, and use cryptocurrencies and NFTs across decentralized apps.
[Narrator]: GameStop has been struggling for years, seeing $381.3 million in net losses in 2021 and closing 3,000 stores since 2016. Now they’re betting on prioritizing blockchain to save them, even as excitement fizzles.
[News clip]: It’s unveiling its NFT marketplace later this year as it transforms its business. But the collapse of the crypto and NFT marketplace amid decades-high inflation could spell slow growth in the coming months.
[Narrator]: As one Forbes contributor put it, GameStop is less of a company that sells video games now and more a rallying cry for meme stock enthusiasts and now, web3 devotees.
Videography by Zac Staffiere