GameStop workers say the company is failing to address the coronavirus

As the novel coronavirus pandemic unfolds and non-essential stores begin to close, some employees feel GameStop is taking a business-as-usual approach that is causing anger and grave concern.

Multiple store managers and sales staff have contacted Polygon — requesting anonymity for fear of retaliation — to describe the company’s response to the spread of COVID-19. A Reddit thread is also collecting anecdotes about how GameStop senior management has failed to support its employees during the crisis.

Multiple employees say the company is insistent on staying open, even in areas where non-essential stores are being mandated to shut. This morning, Polygon called stores in six San Francisco Bay Area counties, where non-essential stores are ordered to shut. The stores were trading as usual.

One store manager, located on the east coast, wrote to Polygon: “We just got off a conference call about an hour ago saying that we will be staying open our normal business hours no matter what the states are mandating. We asked what happens if an employee does get the coronavirus and came to work with it and we were told that they would have the whole staff of that store on quarantine, the store would be closed to clean it but then they would have other staff come in to ensure the store stays open.”

Another manager said that company leaders are happy that video games and console sales are enjoying a sales bump, as people look to relieve boredom at home.

“I had a region call and a district call today. Both showed very little care for the employees,” said a GameStop manager. “The focus is on sales.”

One manager says they were told by a regional leader to press on with the company’s intense focus on trading tech items, such as cellphones and tablets. “We’re in the middle of this health crisis, and we get a task from a regional director telling us to throw a tech trade event,” they said. Another manager said that the company has told staff “not to turn away trades for any reason” and to “take advantage of increased traffic.”

“They are demanding standard trades and tech trades so we are handling a lot of unknown goods,” said one worker. “They said we can use gloves but [the company] cannot provide them so it’s up to us to find them.”

GameStop was planning to go ahead with launch events for this week’s arrival of Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. But a memo sent out today, and obtained by Polygon, canceled those events.

“Until further notice, late night launch events, and any other store events, are suspended,” the memo reads. “It is best that we avoid situations where large numbers of guests (10 or more) are gathered indoors or standing in a line.”

Workers have been told to clean their hands every 30 minutes, and to regularly clean in-store surfaces. But the company’s promise to deliver hand sanitizer and other cleaning materials has not materialized. Five employees told Polygon that they have not received cleaning supplies. The company memo said its cleaning supplies order will not be available “for several weeks.” Workers are being told to buy their own cleaning supplies, and claim the cost back on expenses.

“Stores have been so busy lately and they will not give us extra payroll to have more than one person working … I have no time to clean,” a store manager said.

“We’re currently making the most of what we can with two bottles of hand sanitizer, one that was borrowed from [a business] next door,” said another manager.

“It’s impossible for us to clean every surface, so every GameStop open right now is a high risk area,” said a store worker.

Polygon asked GameStop about its decision to keep stores open in affected areas. The company released a statement, as follows:

GameStop is working diligently during this unprecedented time to provide our customers and associates with the safest environment possible. Like many businesses, we are taking action to institute multiple social distancing practices in our stores, such as only allowing 10 customers in our stores at any given time, cancelling all gaming events and midnight launch activities until further notice, disabling temporarily all interactive gaming stations in our stores, introducing in-store line management practices that creates a 1-meter parameter between customers in checkout lines, and encouraging customers to leverage our online ecommerce capabilities and direct deliveries to their homes from our warehouses or stores.

Additionally, we have implemented heightened cleaning practices on all high-touchpoint surfaces within our stores. And like other retailers, we are taking aggressive actions, in an admittedly difficult environment, to quickly obtain the necessary cleaning supplies needed.We are all in this together. Like many businesses, we are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic closely, while satisfying our gamers demand for the product they want in a manner that protects both our customers and our associates.

GameStop’s response comes in the wake of a general decline in the retail company’s fortunes, including store closures, redundancies and increased pressure on workers to buttonhole customers with used item trade offers.

Coronavirus/COVID-19: What you need to know

The spread of coronavirus/COVID-19 has unfortunately been burdened with an abundance of misinformation about the virus and xenophobia pertaining to its origins. To help educate our readership, we’ve compiled helpful explanations from our sibling sites The Verge and You can find answers to the most common questions in the links below:

Everything you need to know about the coronavirus

Coronavirus: News and updates on new cases and its spread

11 questions about the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, answered

If you work in the game industry and have been affected by coronavirus, please get in touch with Polygon, to tell your story. Your anonymity will be respected.

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