GameStop employee closes store and never returns

One photo shows a handwritten sign about an employee quitting GameStop over a photograph of one of the company's stores.

Taylor Neubert did what then many GameStop employees have only dreamed of: quit on the spot. Tired of working 10-hour days all alone between piles of video games and stacks of Pokémon merchandise for less than $15 an hour, she closed her store in the middle of her shift, posted a sign on the door saying GameStop doesn’t care about its employees, and walked away from work forever.

“I thought I’m not getting paid right now, you know,” she shared Kotaku in an interview shortly after it happened. “So for me to work these long days and they took away our bonuses, they took away incentives and things like that, I got mad at that, because I thought I’m working all this for a paycheck that barely pays my bills right now and I miss hanging out with my friends and experiencing life. GameStop has really taken a lot of that away from me.”

Formerly a manager, Neubert voluntarily demoted himself late last year to an assistant role after becoming burned out running two stores at once for just $1.25 an hour more the the $20.50 she previously earned. “I was already at the end, I was so stressed,” she said. “I couldn’t make the staff feel valued because I couldn’t see them all that often because we were single coverage. So morale was low. They stopped.”

How to quit your job at GameStop

She decided to put in two weeks’ notice earlier this month, but was already dreading the remaining shifts. Things came to a head on February 4th, another Saturday she was supposed to work alone from 10am to 9pm as her manager was on holiday and no one else was available to fill in.

When Neubert resigned as store manager, her pay dropped from $21.75 an hour to just $14.25, but the long hours remained. “I’m exhausted all the time,” she said. “I don’t go out because I’m just too tired to go and do anything. Because I work 11-hour days, even eight-hour days by myself, like my social battery is dead by the end of the shift.”

Neubert called a former GameStop manager to vent. Instead of quitting, he’d been fired a month earlier after two men stole $5,000 worth of PS5s from his store, an incident he wasn’t even on shift for and had nothing to do with, and which Kotaku reported at the time. Neubert said reading that story during her shift that Saturday pushed her over the edge.

“I got so mad and I just thought about all the crap GameStop put us through, especially during the holidays, it was terrible,” she said. Neubert said she tried calling five other GameStops to get someone to cover the rest of her shift, as well as some nearby store managers, including her own, but no one picked up. “It pissed me off that no one picked up the phone.”

Her fast, on the other hand, responded and was apparently ecstatic. “I had texted all my customers and I said, ‘Guys, today is my last day, I’m going to try to make it’ until the end of my shift, but I don’t even think I’m going to make it,” she said. “And they all said, ‘That’s amazing!’ Like, ‘We knew how miserable you were.’ They were all very proud of me.”

An image shows the price of GameStop stock at the height of the meme frenzy.

GameStop store managers are currently trying to sell newly earned stock bonuses before the price goes down.
Photo: SOPA pictures (Getty Images)

One of her regular customers at the store at the time even helped usher a few remaining stragglers out so she could unlock. Shortly after 2 p.m., not even halfway through her shift, she put the sign on the door explaining the closure, which a friend then took a picture of and uploaded to redditwhere it quickly rippled through the GameStop community to cheers and applause.

“I didn’t do this because, for other reasons, I don’t like the direction GameStop as a company is going,” Neubert said Kotaku. “Like GameStop, they just need to figure their shit out and stop putting so much on their employees that they don’t pay well.”

Managers at GameStop get multi-million dollar golden parachutes and meme stock investors harvest large windfalls. Store employees, tasked with holding together GameStop’s crumbling video game retail empire as digital sales cannibalize the underlying business, face insultingly low raises or direct salary cuts. Retaining aggressive sales targets for PS5 bundles and new game guarantees while at the mercy of stock system nafus, incomprehensible warehouse shipments, and cut hours, it seems like things are always as bad as they can get. Then they get worse with no end in sight.

A meme corporation with no strategy

Although ultimately a spontaneous move, Neubert’s decision to leave so abruptly grew out of a series of increasingly frustrating moments. During the holidays, for example, she said her store was suddenly told it had to schedule a bunch of extra hours despite having reduced staffing. “It was almost impossible for me to put in all those hours, but you know, they were like, you have to figure it out, so I figured it out,” she said. “And then, before the week was over, they called us individually and said, ‘Hey, they reduced hours, you have to cut 30 hours from your schedules.’ And I thought, ‘are you kidding me?’ And they said, ‘Effective immediately, figure it out.’

GameStop also recently cut overtime pay for store managers, a consistent way for them to earn an extra few hundred dollars a month to do work they have to get done every week anyway. New sales initiatives rolled out at the beginning of the year have also increased the pressure. A new metric measures every customer who leaves the store without making a purchase. And in a particularly cruel twist of fate, stores are expected to upsell customers on at least three extra games and checks every time they buy a new console, even if it’s an all-digital one that can’t read discs.

Other frustrations abound, many of them detailed The GameStop subredditand confirmed by many employees Kotaku have spoken to over the last few months. Many pre-orders are still missing. Shops often do not have enough copies in stock the day of major releases such as NBA 2K23 and Dead Space remake. And managing customer expectations amid the messy console transition has been particularly draining as PS4 and Xbox versions of popular games such as Hogwarts’ legacy am late. This all the time secret shopper calls grilling lonely employees at sales points in the middle of juggling online orders and trade-ins in store.

Walkouts under these circumstances are becoming less uncommon, but they don’t seem to get through to GameStop management. They may even be part of the plan. After all, anyone who quits on their own loses out on bonuses, including the initial stack of company meme shares that only earned this week. Many current and former employees tell Kotaku that store closures are necessary, and would be a way to theoretically consolidate the teams and offer them more pay and resources. Instead, GameStop continues to spread them thinner and thinner. Whatever the strategy, or lack thereofit is no longer Neubert’s problem.

“It’s so nice to just, you know, I’m not worried about anything like I’m just living life,” she said. “I want to travel, I want to go and do things and like I’m really excited about my future for the first time in a long time.”

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