OK, I'll admit. I only lasted a month behind the sales counter of a major gaming store. But what a month.
Let me paint a picture for you: We're a four-man operation, smack-dab between a high school, middle school and elementary school; we've been strategically placed to ensure we're on the walking routes of each institution. I normally worked from 2:00 p.m. until closing, which meant I got to babysit every child with a lazy parent in a three-mile radius for $6.50 per hour, in addition to trying to sell games to good people trying to mill through a maze of loitering adolescents. Pile on the accusatory looks from my manager, obsessed with "shrink" and its reduction, and his romantic liaisons with the underage co-worker, and it made for a very interesting 30 days.
But it wasn't all bad. It was one of those "learning experiences" everyone has to experience at the tender age of 18. I learned a lot about communicating with random strangers, and came to understand some people just don't want to be helped. Working as a low-level member of the gaming industry, in addition to being a retail goon, also lent me the realization that no, there's no such thing as a dream job where you play videogames all day, no matter what the guy who interviewed me told me.
And hey, I'll never look at a guy wearing a tucked-in collared shirt, standing behind a counter the same way again.
I got the chance to talk with a veteran of gaming retail, a veteran who lasted more than a month and endured Black Friday and Christmas and lived to tell the tale, and ask him for some insight into the rarely understood, hellish-yet-rewarding world of videogame retail. His name is Brian Rubin, and he worked at an Electronics Boutique in Los Angeles for a year.
Here follows some of our stories.
Like most forms of retail, videogame sales is a very thankless job. In most circumstances, a "good" day is one where you haven't been yelled at. However, after a few years have passed, some quiet introspection reveals a few incredibly positive experiences for us vets to share with one another.
"The most interesting customers I met were those that had a good sense of humor, and some of these were awesome," Brian tells me. "There was one guy who came in asking for an Xbox. I got him one and asked him if he wanted anything else, he smiled and said, 'What ya got?' I started piling on games, controllers, batteries, pens, you name it, and we just laughed and laughed. He did buy a bunch of games and accessories too and was very cool about the whole thing."
He goes on to say, "The best part [of the job] was the software discount as well as the customer interaction, which was fun most of the time." Funny he should mention that everyday customer interaction was normally fun. Looking back, I realize he's right. But I also have to wonder why it's so rare I think about "arguing" with a regular about why Final Fantasy wasn't all it's cracked up to be, or beating the guy who won our monthly Street Fighter tournament in a 15-second match. Maybe it's just human to remember the negative aspects of life when it comes to work.