‘We regret to inform you that we all quit’: Two GameStop stores have had four mass resignations in the past year
Customers looking to buy a video game or console at GameStop’s Gateway Mall store in Lincoln, Neb., one day earlier this month found a locked door and a sign from the location’s frustrated former employees.
The four workers had quit suddenly after what they described as three months of being mistreated and berated, said Frank Maurer, the sign’s writer and former store leader.
“We regret to inform you that we all quit. Our District Manager has no respect for us as employees or as human beings,” the sign posted on June 5 read. The statement was followed by a list of other retail gaming competitors in the region. “Spend your money at an establishment that respects it’s [sic] employees.”
A history of worker mistreatment
Former employees at the city’s only two GameStop stores, at Gateway Mall and SouthPointe Pavilions, claim the video game retailer has a history of overworking staff and setting unachievable performance targets.
June’s walkout followed at least three previous mass resignations across the two stores in recent months. After each mass resignation, employees said, GameStop replaced the staff with new hires or brought in recently hired workers from other locations.
The first mass resignation was at Gateway Mall last summer when the entire staff filed their two weeks’ notice around the same time.
In February, four GameStop workers at SouthPointe Pavilions also put in their two weeks’ notice and left shortly after, one of the employees who resigned told Fortune. The former employee, who worked at GameStop for four years, cited poor management, low pay, and “push-down from the top” among the reasons for the employees’ coordinated resignations.
“It all stems down from the top. The top keeps barking down the ladder, and the ladder is crumbling,” said the employee, who would only speak anonymously owing to fears of hurting future job prospects.
Then in March, the SouthPointe Pavilions store was hit again when three employees walked out publicly, posting a sign on the storefront that read: “We regret to inform you that we have all quit. Our District Manager does not respect us and believes we are replaceable with ‘freshly graduated high schoolers for half the cost.’” The sign referred patrons to the other GameStop location at Gateway Mall that would see its workers quit mid-shift only three months later.
GameStop’s district manager for the Lincoln stores did not respond to Fortune’s two requests for comment on the criticisms from former employees. A spokesperson for GameStop declined to comment.
Problems with performance targets
The former GameStop employee from the SouthPointe Pavilions store told Fortune he had noticed a shift in atmosphere at the company after the retailer pivoted toward a digital focus several years ago. The company started asking its staff to push its video game and hardware warranties on customers and $15 to $20 annual memberships for its PowerUp Rewards loyalty program rather than helping shoppers with in-store purchases and recommending games, said the former employee.
“It became a ‘We’re gonna take advantage of the fact that you love video games and you want to work in this industry, and we’re going to just make you pump out numbers,’” the employee said, describing the company’s change in focus. “If you don’t get those numbers, you are replaceable by the next teenager who wants to work in the games industry.”
Kyle Notaro, a former GameStop store manager, walked off the job at the SouthPointe Pavilions location in March. He attributed his departure to the workplace’s toxic environment and lofty performance goals that included selling warranties to “over 50% of the people who walked in.” When those targets weren’t met, the district manager would go ballistic.
“The district manager would just show up one day and come take a look at the store and then come yell at me and tell me that I was doing a terrible job, or yell at my employees in front of me,” Notaro said.
Sam Buckner, a former senior game adviser at the SouthPointe Pavilions store who also walked out in March, said only three to four customers typically came in daily during his 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. shift. But the district manager sent emails multiple times a day questioning why sales were slow.
A few days before Buckner, Notaro, and another SouthPointe staff member walked out, the district manager said he could replace them with “18-year-olds who could do the job better and be paid less,” according to Notaro—a phrase they had heard many times before and referenced in the note left on the store’s door. On the morning of the walkout, Notaro recalled that the district manager had given him an ultimatum to fire both of his employees by the end of the week. By that evening, Buckner had written the walkout note.
“I was not about to run a one-man show,” Notaro said. “A large portion of the reason why we decided to just walk out and put up the note was so that people could actually understand rather than it just being like, ‘Oh, the entire staff has changed again.’ Instead, it was like, ‘Hey, we’re changing for a reason.’”
Employees felt bogged down for other reasons as well. Staff made minimum wage—$9 per hour in Nebraska, or barely above it—and up to $13 an hour for an assistant manager, according to Notaro.
Walkout at Gateway Mall
Maurer, the author of the sign at the Gateway Mall store, worked at GameStop for about nine months before quitting. He was promoted to store leader after the employees at SouthPointe resigned and Notaro left to manage that store along with all but one of Gateway’s employees, requiring Maurer to train a new crew.
“I was having to train four people with pretty much no training of my own,” Maurer said.
He added that the district manager denied his multiple requests for additional staffing and training. As a result, he worked two and a half weeks without a day off to try to train everybody as a “one-man army,” Maurer said.
Despite the efforts, Maurer said the district manager visited in April and yelled at the staff for not “putting in the work,” leaving his assistant manager in tears.
Eventually, Maurer said to himself, “I can’t do it anymore because the stress level was literally killing me.”
The decision to quit without telling the district manager and to leave a note came down to a unanimous group vote of store employees, according to Maurer. In drafting the note, he said he wanted it to reflect his “moral issue” with the retailer and differentiate itself from the SouthPointe note, which referred customers to the other GameStop location at Gateway Mall. Instead, Maurer listed some local competitors, thinking that “a big reason why people go to GameStop is that they don’t really know of any other game stores in town.”
After walking out, the employees locked the store’s doors and made sure everything was secure before tossing the keys inside. Later that day, Maurer received his only contact with the company: The loss prevention manager wanted to know where the keys were.
An employee at Gateway Mall’s GameStop location confirmed over the phone to Fortune that the location reopened within a day of the walkout.
‘A complete disconnect from the store level’
Though GameStop’s walkouts have been concentrated in Lincoln, Maurer said “a lot of the problems that we’re having come from a fundamental company issue.” Rather than focusing on frontline workers, corporate executives have prioritized raising profits and making shareholders happy. “You start to get the feeling when working in the stores that the corporate entity is at a complete disconnect from the store level,” Maurer said.
Following news of the Gateway Mall walkout, former employees across the country have used social media to complain about similar conditions at the retailer.
“I haven’t heard of ONE good GameStop employee experience. And if they exist, they’re overshadowed by thrice as many bad ones,” one user wrote on Twitter.
“This is 100% the case @GameStop…me and my co workers recently walked out because of how poor we were treated and the gross abuse of power from our regional director,” another tweeted.
Before the pandemic and during it, GameStop’s business was under intense pressure because of the increasing shift by gamers to shop online rather than in person. The company responded by closing more than 1,000 stores since the pandemic began. GameStop had not turned a profit since 2017 and went through five CEOs in the span of 15 months.
That “meme stock” craze, Buckner said, seemed to go to management’s heads. But it did not really translate into increased sales at the store level.
Still, since the start of the meme stock craze, Maurer said he noticed that “corporate seems less concerned about any of the complaints or concerns of its workers.”
Maurer added: “I would think as an investor, as a partial owner of the company in effect, if you hear these horror stories for lack of a better term, that it’s something I would be concerned with. I personally would not want to hold stock in any company that treated their employees like that.”