I can still remember the days when it was possible to drive from the suburbs where I lived up into the outlying areas of the Twin Cities and stumble across a whole slew of electronics boutiques. Here in Minnesota, the place I grew up, there was quite the selection to be found. Sure you had the stores that would eventually turn into the now infamous chain such as EB Games and of course Gamestop itself. Add to that however stores like Funcoland, Hi-Score, Toys R' Us (Yes believe it or not for awhile they actually had a fairly large area dedicated just to gaming itself) and a whole host of others.
Don't misunderstand, I'm not one of those people whose nostalgia tinted glasses saps them entirely of their ability to be unbiased and realistic. While yes, on the one hand it was great to have such a large variety of sources to shop at on the other they still all engaged in the same exact practices then that Gamestop is loathed for now. One of the better examples of this that I can personally recall was a trip to Funcoland that took place around the time I was 11 years old.
I had been becoming more and more of a fan of the Megaman series as I grew older. I played it nearly everyday for extended periods of time and my devotion to the franchise boarded on a near religious fanaticism. Nowadays we call it fanboyism but back then we simply called it being a dork. At the time I owned a handful of the titles for both the NES as well as the SNES and I loved each and every one of them equally. However I always wondered what it would be like to play the first in the series; the game that started it all.
For weeks I pestered my parents driving them to the verge of nearly putting me up for adoption but eventually they relented and we began calling around to see who might have a copy in stock. Finally after much trying we stumbled across a Funcoland in Maplewoood, a suburb farther South than where we lived, that happened to have one on hand. My mother drove me down to the store and to this day I can still recall the look on her face when the man behind the counter told her, "That'll be 79.99 please."
What can I say I was a spoiled kid. With copy in hand I went home and played the game until my little thumbs bled. Now you'd figure after all the money spent and the love which claimed to hold for the series that my copy of the game would still be sitting on a mantle located somewhere within my home. Perhaps amidst a blue bomber shrine located below a life sized painting of Rock himself. But kids will be kids and after a year or so some other game came along that ended up catching my interest.
Of course by this point in time I was no longer the cute and cuddly little preteen that could melt my mothers heart. Those cherub like days were well behind me and now I was an angsty little shit who was old enough to "get off his ass" and "go mow some lawns or something". My cute factor had expired, thrown out alongside last weeks leftover milk and that thing in the corner of the refrigerator that had turned a molded green.
And so I did what any rational teen would: the stupidest thing possible.
I believe this is what Darwin and Spencer meant by natural selection and survival of the fittest.
With game in hand I returned to that very same Funcoland which I had visted a year or so earlier. As I entered I was already counting the money in my head that I would be getting back. Imagine my shock when the man behind the counter mistakenly handed me one ten dollar bill instead of eight of them.
"Excuse me, there seems to have been a mix up
." I said, "Did you mean to give me a hundred dollar bill and accidentally handed me a ten by mistake
"It's worth ten bucks kid
. Take it or leave it
Oh I took it alright but not before leaving that fine gentleman a tip for his troubles. I still don't know if his bank ever accepted all those "fuck you's" I left him or if he still has them stashed under his mattress at home.
Either way the point I'm making is that game stores have always tried to minimize cost and maximize profit. Yes Gamestop is terrible and yes I'm sure Satan himself personally shits inside every single case right before a sale but if you honestly think about it most electronics stores were just as bad. That Toys R' Us giraffe was about as kid friendly as a crack dealer.
Fast forward to more modern times and that little 11 year old boy is suddenly standing once more in the same exact position. Now instead of a Capcom game in hand and a tear in his eye at the financial injustice he's enduring he has a mathematics textbook and a look which more closely resembles constipation than capitulation.
"What do you mean only 35 dollars
"I'm sorry sir but that's all we're buying them back for at this time
Of course the lady behind the counter isn't trying to be cruel, she's just doing her job. But than again so were the nazis.
"But I just bought this 4 months ago and it cost me 145 dollars. How the hell did it drop in price that much
"Like I said I'm really sorry but that's the best I can do. Did you want to sell it back to us or would you rather just keep it
Touche you fucking bitch. Touche. Of course I don't want to keep it. What the hell would I possibly do with it? Use it as a makeshift table, the worlds largest fly swatter perhaps, or possibly study chapter 8 long enough to calculate the amount of rope I'd need to hang myself with after being forced to keep the damn thing. The worst part is that she knows and damn it, I know that she knows. They've got me by the balls.
. I'll take the 35 dollars
"Alright then that brings your total cash back to 76.50
Maybe it was the start of a fast acting aneurism or maybe I had somehow walked into the twilight zone by mistake, perhaps my campus was really a part of Rod Serling's University all along and I just never knew it. At that moment though all I could feel was the rage building inside me and it was almost enough to make me completely oblivious to the line of 80 or so other students directly behind me all equally as annoyed but at me rather than her. Of course I understood, they just wanted this over with as much as I did. They want me to just shut the fuck up, take my money, and fuck off on out of there so they can get robbed themselves. I get, really I do.
It was just hard to do that is all. At the start of that particular semester I had spent more than 600 dollars on my textbooks, now at the end of it I was looking at less than a hundred for the whole lot. That's damn near six times depreciation in value. How does that even happen?
The value of your books
The answers made even less sense:
"We just aren't buying those ones back this year
Really? Did evaporation and condensation suddenly decided to switch shit up for the fun of it so some authors had to go and rewrite basic earth science?
"There's a new edition of that one out so this one just isn't worth as much
Oh I see, that makes sense. History is always changing after all. I mean I remember back in Junior High School when we all still believed that Washington was a founding father and the first President of the United States. So it's nice that they went in and fixed that all so that we now know he also enjoyed long walks on the beach and that his favorite Backstreet Boy was A.J. McLean. Totally worth the extra 200 dollars.
"How about just fuck you
? How about that
Finally some honesty.
Of course I took the money though, just like I did when I was 11 because what the hell else am I going to do? I sunk my head, loosed my shoulders, extended my hand, and made sure to return my balls the next day to the nature store because, well, after an experience like that I really wouldn't be needing my manhood back any time soon.
Fast forward to the next semester and what do suppose I see greeting me when I walk into our campuses bookstore? Why the same thing I saw years later in that very same Funcoland. There on the shelf amongst all the other books was what I had sold back to them, not at the meager amount they paid me nor for even a moderate mark up but at damn near 80 percent of its original value.
Well that's at least what I'd have liked to have screamed but what with the whole Virginia Tech and Columbine thing I'd probably have been tackled and tazed for so much as even coughing in the wrong direction at an educational facility.
It still amazes me to this day just how similar college bookstores really are to the used video game business. They handle merchandise in nearly the same manner. A consumer who goes in and pays money for a game which is brand new will more than likely receive a pittance when it comes time to sell it back. This is the exact same way in which college bookstores operate. If you buy it for one hundred dollars you'll get thirty back when you resell it and they'll turn around and mark it up for eighty.
They know, just as much as any Gamestop does, that the reason you walked in with shit to sell is because you have nowhere else to sell it and you want to get something with the money that you'll get for it. And boy do they love to work that angle against you. I suppose what surprises me most is that when you compare the two and see the similarities that no one then turns around and says:
"What a minute. I fucking hate college bookstores. And if college bookstores are practically the same thing as Gamestop than why the fuck do I like Gamestop
Some food for thought.