GameStop customers: your online voucher is in the trash

Many stores promote a new video game by offering something extra, such as exclusive downloadable content or some sort of promotional gift. At GameStop it turns out you don’t get something extra — you get something less.

The PC edition of the newly-released Deus Ex: Human Revolution contains a voucher that allows buyers to play the game free of charge through OnLive, an online gaming service. It’s a promotional tie-in designed to encourage players to give the service a tryout and potentially sign up to play other games.

Unfortunately if you buy at GameStop, you aren’t getting the voucher. That’s because management have issued a memo ordering staff to open every copy, take out the voucher and toss it in the trash.

Confronted with the memo, GameStop confirmed the policy and later explained ” We pulled the coupons because, like all retailers, we prefer not to promote our competitors and their competing offerings and services in our stores. Unfortunately, the coupon was packed without our prior knowledge.”

It’s reported GameStop is working on its own online gaming service, which explains its rationale for the move. But you do have to wonder how far that logic can go. If the voucher had been printed in the game manual, would GameStop have asked staff to tear it out?

And would such tactics be considered acceptable elsewhere? If a magazine contains a voucher for a free trial of an online subscription to a digital edition, would newsstand operators be justified in removing the voucher before putting the issue on the shelves?

While GameStop’s logic may make sense, I think it’s crossed a line here. It’s one thing for a company to refuse to actively go out of its way to promote something that may be seen as competition. But in this situation it wasn’t asked to make any additional effort, and instead has actively worsened the experience for its customers.

UPDATE 2011-08-26 21:04 EST: Since we wrote this story, Gamestop has announced users who bought the game only to find the voucher had been removed will receive compensation in the form of a $50 gift card and the option to buy two used games for the price of one. It’s also issued a statement to customers noting “We regret the events surrounding this title release and that our customers were put in the middle of this issue between GameStop and Square Enix, the publisher of this game. And for this, we are truly sorry.”

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22 Responses to GameStop customers: your online voucher is in the trash

  1. It's an easy fix for consumers… Don't shop there. When their numbers start falling off, they'll get the hint and back off. For some reason their crappy buy back programs, disregard for customers, and asinine stunts like this don't dissuade enough customers and they stay afloat, happily screwing more out of their money. I've been purchasing games off Steam (yes, I know they have some problems but I've had none thus far) and Amazon. Do you really need that game the day of the release so bad you're willing to give Gamestop a loan without interest just so it's there when you walk into the store?

    • 1: Not everyone can shop online. You realize that kids, teens, and even some adults don't have that option? For them, places like Gamestop are THE place to go.

      2: That "loan" thing is called a layaway system.(They use to be really popular in places like Kmart.) Using it is better than buying a game on a credit card. Some people aren't terribly good at saving for short-term smaller purchases. For the many many people like that, the Gamestop pre-order system allows them to buy new games on release day and get the pre-order goodies.

      3: Why is their buy back system crappy? It's no better or worse than other retail buy-backs that I've encountered. It clearly works too, because lots of people use it. (It's why they have the best used game selection in our town.)

      4: Local store management has a lot to do with the quality of Gamestop you "experience". Our Gamestop, for instance, is clean, organized, has helpful employees, and the best selection and prices for games in town. Cooperate may suck, but not necessarily all the stores do.

      • You've made some good point and I'd like to respond to them with my own opinions. Take it or leave it. I'm not bashing you in any way, I mean this in all respect:

        1: How is online off limits to some people? Just curious because all you need is a debit card or credit card and a local library. Walmart offers the checking account and illegal immigrants use them all the time without proper papers, why can't a teen do the same? Also Walmart, Target, and several independent retailers are all over the US. There are options to purchase games other than Gamestop.

        2: It's not a layaway system, it's a pre-order. Layaway means that they currently have a product that you want them to store for 30-90 days when you come back for it. Normally you put 10-25% down on the item for storage and then pay a small fee for the trouble. Their system you give them $15 now and pay the rest when the game comes in and you have to wait in a line and there is no guarantee you will receive the game if it is popular enough. As the article points out, sometimes Gamestop likes to pull those "goodies" from the packages.

        3: I buy a game for $49.99 and use it for 6 months. I bring it back with manuals, packaging and no marks and they buy it back for $10 and then turn around and sell it for $25.99. Crappy.

        4: You're right here. It has a lot to do with it, but if you look at the memo passed down from corporate, if you bothered to RTFA, you'll see that your experience goes far beyond what the local employees dole out.

        • Oh don't worry, I don't take anything personally online. That'd be crazy, I'd be troll fodder if I let what random strangers say online get to me. :D

          1: You have more faith in teenagers than I do. I don't think most have the inclination to go to all that trouble (you listed) or even the money to put into a checking account. Also, it's sometimes just easier and more convenient to buy a game from a B&M store than online. Parents, I notice, like taking their children to Gamestop and letting them browse for games.

          2: I will concede your point that it is not like layaway. My experience with Gamestop has been putting a minimum of $5 down on a pre-order and then paying towards the game when ever we want until it comes out. We've paid off entire games before the release date before. The longest I've stood in line for a popular game (mid-night release even) was less than 5 minutes. Never had a problem with them not having enough stock for pre-orders either.

          3: Gamestop isn't worse than other retailers in that sense though, so I'm not sure why you pointed it out as something rant worthy. I know online and B&M stores who do the exact same thing as Gamestop for used items. Yeah it sucks and I think it's a little dishonest, but I'm not gonna bash Gamestop for it like they've cornered the market on the "buy back" system. :-/

          4: I did say Corporate sucked didn't I? Gamestop Corporate puts me in the mind of Blockbuster. Except that apparently Gamestop Corporate is doing something right, otherwise they'd have died along with Blockbuster. I really think it must have something to do with there being enough well run stores to make up for their horrendous corporate policy. :-/

          I want to make it clear I have no particular loyalty to Gamestop. I buy where I get the best bang-for-buck, sometimes that's Gamestop, sometimes it Hastings, sometimes it's Walmart, sometimes it's Amazon.

  2. Holy crap. I'd demand they sell it as an opened item / returned game. No way in hell I'm paying full price for an opened product that I would have pre-ordered. So glad I don't buy games through GameStop.

  3. The moment they opened it and pulled the coupon out I would ask for 30% off or I will take my business elsewhere that is completely rediculous. Plus what if someone pre-ordered it for that reason. Now you have not only opened a new game which makes it not new any more you have removed the contents which, in my mind, is stealing especially if someone paid full price for it. After reading this I will no longer shop at Game Stop….

  4. Gosh darn it Gamestop Corporate, stop sucking so much! *facepalm* I know why they did it, but that was sneaky and sleazy of them.

    So they're working on their own online system… that they have no confidence in, apparently? Because if they thought their system was better, then there'd be no reason for this kind of underhanded behavior. They could just slap free codes for THEIR system instead of this other one into the games.

    But, oh wait, IT'S NOT EVEN AVAILABLE YET! So what are they so afraid of? They don't even have a service to compete with!

    Gah! Stupid stupid move. >:(

  5. This isn't the whole story – GameStop recently extended both a $50 gift card and buy 2 get 1 free on used games coupon to all affected customers. I still don't like that they open up ANY packaging, but they have at least extended something to folks who care about it.

  6. That's nice and all but you can't make the decision to take out a part of someone's special edition package because you don't want competing stuff in it. If you don't like it don't sell it. Once you open it the game is not new anymore. If someone pre ordered the game and that was a big thing for them and it only came in pre orders they have now lost out on that forever. What if it was a map or a statue that came with it and they took that away. If someone pre orders and pay for the game they get what they pay for and anything else is bad business and unethical.

  7. What I don't get, is how can they sell it as a "NEW" game, if they've opened it? If I buy a new game, crack it open & then hand it back to the guy at the counter, he won't buy it back as new. He'll buy it back as USED, 'cause I opened it. Same rules should apply for them!

  8. I believe Square's statement about the situation goes a long way towards establishing the fact the Gamestop was not in the wrong for doing this:

    "As part of Deus Ex: Human Revolution's boxed offering on PC, Square Enix included a third party coupon," wrote Square Enix in a statement. "GameStop was not made aware of this inclusion and Square Enix respects the right of GameStop to have final say over the contents of products it sells and to adjust them where they see fit in accordance with their policies."

    • That's not the consumer's problem. They paid for a new, unopened game. Not whatever GS saw fit to include. If GS doesn't like it, they can take it up with SE.

  9. I stopped dealing with them when they sold my little bro a game and said it was amazing, and later on, talking shit about the same game? EB games used to have class, gamestop has brought down the entire industry with the biggest rip offs.

  10. SquareEnix probably made mention of not having informed Gamestop because they might have had some issues with Gamestop behind closed doors… but it also, ironically, furthers Gamestop’s bad PR.

    They’ve owned up to not having informed. All Gamestop would have had to do to avoid the firestorm in the first place was to merely send their copies back, and ask that new copies be shipped that didn’t have the coupon included.

    Instead, Gamestop yanked the coupons themselves, and then had to deal with the PR fiasco when it got out.

    And no, I don’t think the 2 for 1 games and $50 gift card is enough. Someone’s head should have rolled for deciding upon the course of action that they did.

    I have several game stores in town (other chains, and some actual independents) that I use instead of Gamestop, have for a while, this just cements it.

  11. Last month I went on a quest to buy a PSP. Since a friend's dad made a mistake and got me a GameStop gift card instead of a PSN one, I went to GS to get Dissidia Duodecim with the card and also get the PSP. I picked up both boxes, only to arrive at the register and find out they had no PSPs in stock… when I asked the guy the obvious question (why do you have PSP boxes over there if you know you don't have them in stock?) he gave me the nastiest look any customer service rep has ever given me and said he had no idea. Then he asked if I still wanted the game, or if I was going to complain about that, too. I was so tired I just sighed and told him to give me the game. That's when I noticed the game's box had been opened to take out the UMD disc. I thought nothing of it until I got home and opened the box (ironically, they place that annoying circle-tag thing on the box so it CAN'T be opened) to find the usual Square-Enix coupon thingy with the online code was missing.

    Now, about six months ago, that would've been a problem. Now, though, since I live in Mexico, I can't use those codes, so it doesn't matter much. Still, I do wonder what the hell is their problem, since no other retailer I know does that.

    Needless to say, I'm not shopping there anymore, online or otherwise.

  12. No, GameStop's logic doesn't make sense, it just reeks of corporate selfishness that doesn't give a rat's ass about their customers, their choice, and the fact that they could've just as easily purchased the game at Wal-Mart or any other big box store. It's sad, actually, seeing how money-hungry their tactics are.

  13. This is the sneaky, underhanded stuff that Gamestop does. Gamestop does not care about it's customers. The reason they are still around is because they got rid of the competition. Gamestop does tons of stuff like this and gets away with it. I'm glad they got caught this time. I wish that another company would give them a run for their money.

    • No, we really don’t want another company to give them a run, because they might well become just as bad, if not worse.

      What we really want is for small independents to start chipping away at their market share, until they no longer have the power to abuse the market. We want small businesses that won’t rely upon a national name to provide them insulation from the market vote. We want independents that happily furnish a customer service experience because that is what they’re supposed to do.

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