The PlayStation 5.

Phew Do I Remember Working Them Video Game Launches

Please be kind to retail workers for always
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This week everyone shall remain calm, cool, and collected as the next generation of video gaming hits the shelves courtesy of the PlayStation 5 (today) and the Xbox Series X/S (2 days ago).

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Yeah no, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face.

Pre-order mess aside (and yes, it was a mess, Sony apologized for it), every time a big new video game thingamabob is launched I’m mentally transported back to my retail days circa the mid-2000s. I worked many console and game launches, and while they weren’t all cause for summoning a prayer circle for myself and my coworkers, I know the kind of tea y’all want me to spill.

Before I do, shout out to the customers who would reassure me that I, in fact, did not ruin Christmas because I couldn’t control how fast something sold out or how a company chose to launch their console.

Halo 3

So you’d think it’d be less stressful to work a video game launch versus a console, right? Stores don’t get nearly as many consoles as they do video games, so there was no way we wouldn’t have enough copies, especially since we’d been preordering the game for so long.

Right???

Honestly, we did have extra copies. During the midnight launch. Our backroom was nothing but boxes of Halo 3, and we had plenty for our reserved customers and anyone who wandered up with big, watery eyes in the hopes of snagging one without a reservation.

Then? Morning came.

All the extras had been sold during the previous night which, now that I’m well off the retail clock, shouldn’t have surprised anyone. This wasn’t like a “surprise, stores are doing preorders for a new console and have a limited number” thing. It was a game where we could reserve as many copies as we wanted, and had been, for nearly a year.

Still, we had that one customer, you know the one, the cocky, condescending, “I knooooow you have some in the back” guy. We told him we didn’t and the Mountain Dew fueled ranting began. But he wasn’t just condemning us to hell, no, he then began harassing the other customers who were there to pick up the game. “What about you,” he’d ask, on repeat. “Did you reserve the game?”

There comes a time in your retail days where you witness a customer who says the thing you’re thinking, but you gotta be nice while you’re on the clock so you zone out into your “just smile he’ll be gone soon” happy place. This was one of those times because, “Yeah, I reserved it, they’ve been reserving it for months,” followed by, I kid you not, EVERYONE IN LINE saying the same thing.

I was relieved … until I wasn’t.

Because throughout the day we’d get customers who came to the midnight launch coming back with scratched discs. Turns out the packaging of the limited edition had a defect where the discs came loose. Turning away entitled “I shouldn’t have to reserve the most anticipated game of the year” customers was one thing, but trying to find a way to fix damaged discs? Microsoft would offer a solution later, but that didn’t help us in the moment.

Wii Fit

I say this with the utmost sincerity in my heart: there is nothing scarier than a soccer mom. Soccer moms will look at all your store’s rules and regulations and recite them to you, word for word, to try and get what they want. Such was the case with the Wii Fit launch.

Technically, it was the balance board that people were after, and for a week that thing became the bane of my existence.

The bundle (board + game) wasn’t released in peak gaming/shopping months so we didn’t expect it to get so intense. However, it was launched a couple days before Memorial Day, and my manager told us to hold reserves for a longer period of time because of the holiday. See, up here in the tundra I call Minnesota, folks like to drive up to the lake for the weekend when the weather finally stops punishing us with Winter, Winter: The Sequel, and Winter: The Unexpected Trilogy.

My manager knew this, so he told us to hold our copies past the 48 hour reservation period, especially since the Wii Fit was a) a hot ticket item that was hard to find (and, of course, being sold online for much higher than its retail price), and b) the last reserves we had were fully paid off and it was rare for someone to not come and get something they’d paid for in full.

Soccer moms didn’t like that.

Neither did other stores in the area who’d sold through the reserves that customers hadn’t picked up yet.

Soccer moms knew this because those stores did a search and saw that we had some and sent them our way. Insert a weekend of “I seek an audience with thy manager.” My manager stood tall, though, facing the soccer mom wrath head-on.

Our last reserves showed up, as predicted, after the holiday weekend. As bad as soccer moms were, it would’ve been much more awkward dealing with a customer who’d completely paid something off only to not have the item for them.

Anytime Harvest Moon had plush preorder bonuses

This cow right here?

I hate you and everything you stand for you adorable pre-order menace.

Yeah, DUCK this cow. DUCK it into outer space!

Thanks autocorrect for censoring me.

If you think stores don’t get enough games and consoles, you should see how many pre-order bonuses they get when they aren’t some kind of DLC code. Now granted, this is me speaking about personal experiences from many years ago, but I will never forget having enough copies of the game but NOT enough plushies.

People are very passionate about collectables, especially if they’re exclusive to a particular store. Having your district manager pull you aside to discuss a strongly worded customer complaint about a cow really puts things into perspective. I’m not saying they didn’t deserve the pre-order bonus, of course, and I certainly have my fair share of pre-order bonuses on display in my house, I’m just saying I couldn’t help being shorted the amount we needed.

The Nintendo Wii (Black Friday remix)

Y’all, just … please be nice to retail workers on Black Friday, especially when there’s a hot new console that you know damn well companies aren’t sending enough inventory to because it’s Black Friday.

Huh? What’s that? There’s two hot consoles out this year in time for Black Friday?

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So our store had a limited number of Nintendo Wii’s available (in other news, water is wet). Black Friday, unlike a regular game launch, has holiday shoppers to contend with. Remember soccer moms? That gets, like, turned up a notch, because holiday shoppers are armed with ads and come up with a gameplan of what stores to hit for what item. Holiday shoppers make a game of it, finishing a Thanksgiving meal and just … heading out to the store equipped with lawn chairs and tents to just … camp out.

So we counted the number of people in line, gave them numbers, and called it there. The last person in line was a child, their grandmother in front of them as the second to last person. The man behind the kid went OFF and accused them of working together to get 2 Wiis instead of one. Was he right? Doesn’t really matter, there’s no way to prove it, especially when the sweet old lady proceeds to talk about how her precious grandson saved up money to buy his own Wii and she’s getting one for someone else.

Didn’t stop the man in line from yelling out his feelings like a banshee. All this before we’d even opened the store.

Final Thoughts

If you’re gonna go out shopping for must-have items, please keep in mind that I went through this without a side of global pandemic, so trust me when I say that retail workers are having a rough go of it and have been for months now. The same goes for (insert store that you’re getting your console shipped from and the postal service in general).

Just … be nice. Please?

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Author
Image of Briana Lawrence
Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)