Mondays are usually slow for news as people start to stir for the coming week. Therefore, every Monday, we will address one topic to start the week and get discussion flowing. It stimulates the week like a cup of coffee, hence the title.
Every now and then, gamers must contact customer services through either a retailer or a phone call about a gaming-related issue; e.g. the console’s having problems reading the disc, the disc itself has a scratch on it, maybe you’re not sure how to restore your save data after reinstalling a game, et cetera. Sometimes, these meetings go smoothly; other times, not so much. Though it’s hard to say which is the norm for most people, just about everyone has had some kind of interaction with customer service.
That brings us to this week’s question:
What’s your general experience with gaming-related customer service? Any particular stories stick out to you?
Mohamed Al Saadoon: As a person who has lived much his life in Saudi Arabia, I buy most of my stuff off the Grey Market. Therefore, I’m not eligible to receive customer support from any major company.
In New Zealand, though, I’ve been able to see for myself how legendary GameStop’s customer service is through its subsidiary, EB Games. I must say, they’re not bad at all! I don’t know if the New Zealand subsidiary is run differently from the American one, but I’ve been to three separate EB Games and every one of them has had delightful people who know their games. One of them even recognized the strange symbol on my T-shirt as the mark of the Chantry Seekers from Dragon Age.
So over all, I guess my limited interactions with the faceless corporate world of video gaming turned out to be… all right?
Nathan Wood: I’ve heard some absolutely horrible experiences from many friends and relatives living across the pond who have had to deal with GameStop or another retailer. Here in Australia, however, I’ve never experienced any issues worth creating a fuss about. Both at EB Games and JB Hi-Fi, the two retailers I’ve had the most experience with, they have always been quick to lend a helping hand in finding a hidden-from-the-shelves title in a friendly manner, and they were more than pleased to let me know if there was a cheaper pre-owned version that I could consider without coming off as pushy or aggressive.
It seems every day, more and more of the employees at these stores appear to be honest to goodness gamers who have an actual knowledge of gaming outside of the big titles that come around each year, like Call of Duty. There are some exceptions, of course, but then again, I can’t expect every employee of retailers like EB Games and JB Hi-Fi to be familiar with the gaming industry as much as I am. In fact, over the years, I’ve formed a bit of a rapport with some of the more long-term employees, and it’s always interesting to talk to a group of people who deal with the retail side of the business.
I guess I should just consider myself lucky that I haven’t had to experience any of the types of issues that GameStop customers have had to endure.
Connor Horn: In general, I don’t deal with customer support. I play PC games primarily, where technical issues are more easily solved with Google than with an e-mail most of the time and where transactions are remarkably straightforward. As such, I can’t really relate when people bemoan that some horrible convict at a game store sacrificed their firstborn to a golden statue of Ashur.
That said, I have been frustrated several times by how easy it is for an online customer service rep to not even read what you wrote. Although it doesn’t pertain to video games, here’s the last e-mail I wrote to a customer service agency to give you an idea of what I mean:
Me: Hello, I am considering a subscription [at some random sports streaming site] and am just curious to know if the Premier League games offered by this service have commentary or not. Thanks and have a good day.
Them: Hi Connor, Thank you for your [e-mail]. I can confirm Premier League matches will be covered on our site. Please feel free to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.
See what I mean? They skim your e-mail, see a keyword, then type that keyword a bunch of times until they feel like they’ve solved the problem and e-mail you back. I’ve run into this same song and dance with the support for League of Legends and Steam before, and it’s the Internet equivalent of a technical support hotline representative asking you to restart your computer and then update your drivers. It can be frustrating to feel like you’re talking to a wall. Honestly, I can’t imagine how GameStop could be much worse, unless they hire voodoo priests who cast hexes on you every time you buy a game.
Christopher Bowen: It’s easy to pick on GameStop for their numerous, well-documented issues. It’s gotten to the point where I can barely walk into one without leaving angry. On more than one occasion, I’ve become exasperated to the point of yelling, “Will you just ring up my goddamned game please?” which is fun because it jams their circuits before they either continue to read their script awkwardly or try to be “cool” with me. “Aw, come on, you sure you don’t want a preorder?” That just causes me to walk out.
However, I’ve also developed some very good friendships at various stores across the state of Connecticut. For all of the nitwit teenagers and token eye candy that GameStop hires, they do hire a few gamers that actually care about the medium and don’t disrespect you because their district managers tell them to for the sake of numbers. I’ve made quite a few friends who have lasted beyond GameStop, and I get a lot of information relevant to the industry at the ground level once I learn to talk to the right people. On the other hand, those “right” people don’t shove things down my throat. They don’t ask me every time I come in if I want to preorder a game, and they certainly don’t try to debate the topic when they do ask. Of course, there’s usually not much to debate because the only times I’ve ever preordered anything at GameStop has been with people I know, like, and trust.
I won’t just preorder anything, not even a so-called exclusive game like Xenoblade Chronicles, because I abhor that part of their business. But I reserved NHL ’12 last year specifically on a friend’s account in Derby because I liked and trusted that person. If GameStop is going to tie these things to people on pain of termination, then during the few times I deal with GameStop out of necessity, I’m going to ensure that the numbers go to the people who treat me with respect. The store at the Milford Post Mall in Milford, CT, store #4070, has kicked ass consistently over the years. The store in Shelton, on the other hand, has been crappy. Guess which one I avoid.
GameStop is a crapshoot due to the high turnover, and the fact that you never really know if you’re getting a person who knows what he’s talking about or someone who doesn’t have a clue and shoves their card down your throat. But for all the bad, there’s enough good if you’re lucky. They’re going to have to get good consistently in the near future or else digital distribution is going to eat their lunch.