GameStop is an inessential retailer, so much so that it has actually never been less essential — we’ve known this and, thankfully, it’s official now.
As of today, March 22, GameStop storefronts around the nation are temporarily closed to combat the ongoing COV-19 pandemic. The company made the announcement yesterday, which reads:
“Effective Sunday, March 22, 2020, for all locations not already closed in accordance with state and local orders, GameStop will temporarily stop customer access to storefronts, processing orders on a digital-only basis, moving to curbside pick-up at stores and eCommerce delivery only. This will allow the Company to continue to serve customers who have purchased online at GameStop.com and the GameStop app and have requested a product pick-up at their local store.”
“Our priority has been and continues to be on the well-being of our employees, customers and business partners,” adds George Sherman, the CEO of GameStop. “We have been steadfast in our adherence to CDC-guided safety and local government orders for retailers in each of our communities.”
This is deeply ironic, given the last few days of controversy for the company.
On Thursday, March 19, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that all businesses deemed not “life-sustaining” be closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that do not close will be subject to fines, the revokement of business licenses, the ability to apply for disaster aid, and even jail. He released a full list of essential businesses, which was most recently updated yesterday — and which GameStop is certainly not a part of.
The order was initially resisted by GameStop, which insisted it is an essential retailer. It proceeded to release a ridiculous memo to all employees on that same day containing instructions on how to defy orders deeming GameStop as an inessential retailer. “Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time,” the memo read.
Evidently, this didn’t last long — even if it lasted long enough for GameStop to carry out its first-day sales of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal.
Additionally, DualShockers has reported Pennsylvania’s state officials have forcibly suspended GameStop business licenses due to the company’s response. Above is a picture posted on Reddit, serving as evidence of the measures the state is taking against businesses that are not complying. The statement says that, as of March 20, GameStop’s Operating Permit has been suspended until further notice.
The announcement of GameStop’s temporary closure states that, “all U.S. GameStop employees have been ensured that they do not have to work if they are not comfortable and should stay home if they feel sick.” U.S. employees whose hours have been eliminated will be paid an additional two weeks at their regular pay rate based on the average hours worked in the last 10 weeks. Benefit-eligible U.S. employees will receive one month of the employee portion of benefit expenses.
GameStop’s abysmal response to the pandemic seems to be final, but as we go forward — especially with the chaos that will only worsen as the nation figures out how to flatten the curve — it’s important to remember how the company first handled its response. It did not do so by prioritizing, “the well-being of our employees, customers and business partners”; if anything, it only prioritized the last of those three groups of people.
The labor of customer service representatives, grocery store clerks, and fast-food workers are always deemed as inessential by society, but in the midst of a global virus, people are depending on them more than ever. They are the ones who are essential, not companies like GameStop that are more than eager to sacrifice the lives of their employees for the sake of profit. It should not be forgotten that, in the face of COVID-19, GameStop thought of the tiniest bit of profit that might barely keep them from going down under rather than the overworked, under-appreciated, and underpaid employees who have sustained the company in spite of mass layoffs and an increasingly desperate and toxic work structure. Doing the decent thing should not have taken GameStop this long.
GameStop’s statement notes that it will provide more detail about its operations when it reports the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2019 results on March 26.