GameStop have announced they will be closing their stores across the US, utilizing curbside pick-up and digital services only, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Across our editorial series covering the work of GameStop whistleblower Camelot [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] he, alleged former, and alleged existing GameStop staff accused company of numerous illegal, fraudulent, and immoral offenses at both store and corporate level.
Based on information Camelot received, along with his own experiences, he felt GameStop would soon enter bankruptcy. He also proposed there was a “three stage plan” by corporate leaders.
This would involve doing whatever it took to increase the stock value of the company in the short-term (including closing stores and firing staff) before liquidating the company or filing for bankruptcy.
Camelot also recently posted claims by alleged staff that GameStop had lied about sending out hand sanitizer, and were attempting to abuse legal loopholes to remain open during the pandemic. This was via registering the company as an electrical company, making it “essential”.
An alleged corporate source also claimed that if GameStop closes “even for a week or two. They will have to file for Chapter 11 [bankruptcy]. So they are refusing.”
The claims were supported by a recently alleged leaked memo, which instructed store staff to hand a letter to police attempting to close stores, which in turn asked police to call GameStop’s corporate office. Alleged corporate GameStop staff claimed to Camelot that GameStop would sue anyone attempting to close them down.
GameStop also announced they would sell Doom Eternal one day early, in order to avoid spreading the virus, but keeping the release date of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Shortly after the alleged leaked memo, Camelot produced audio from an alleged conference call between executives of EB Games Canada (a subsidiary of GameStop) and store managers. Along with confirming they would keep stores open, they stated they would not pay employees if they chose to self-isolate, and that they were not liable if anyone got sick coming into their stores.
While they stated they would clean stores should an employee get sick, Camelot doubted this would occur, and that the store would remain open. A store manager also pointed out in the conference call that the company was being condemned on social media when they were announcing they would remain open.
Soon after, GameStop were revealed to be closing their stores in California– though not paying their staff during this time.
On March 19th, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that all but “life-sustaining” businesses would be closed. In addition, the updated Industry Operation Guidance on March 21st specifically listed “Electronics & Appliance Stores” as being unable to continue physical operations.
On the same day, the image of a Notice of Closure sign allegedly on a GameStop store appeared on Reddit. The notice states the operating permit of GameStop had been suspended. If true, it may have affected what happened next.
On March 22nd, GameStop announced they would be closing all stores across the US. Instead they would “process orders on a digital only basis, moving to curbside pick-up at stores and eCommerce delivery only.”
GameStop CEO George Sherman also issued the following statement.
“This is an unprecedented time and each day brings new information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Our priority has been and continues to be on the well-being of our employees, customers and business partners. We have been steadfast in our adherence to CDC-guided safety and local government orders for retailers in each of our communities. As millions of Americans look to GameStop to adjust to their new normal of increased time at home, for work, learning and play, we have implemented practices to help ensure the safety and health of our employees, customers and partners. We believe it is prudent to institute further safety protocols while meeting this increased demand through curbside pick-up. As such, stores that remain in operation will provide only pick-up at the door or delivery to home activities to further protect our employees and customers.”
Speaking to one of our writers, a GameStop employee stated the decision was seemingly made without prior preparation, as they had no protocols in place.
This includes the postponement and cancellation of GDC and E3 2020 respectively. At this time, Gamescom 2020 is still being prepared, with organizers monitoring local regulations and the virus’ spread.
The Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering are mapping the virus’ spread [1, 2]. As of this time of writing, there have been almost 336,000 confirmed cases worldwide, and over 14,000 deaths. Over 97,000 people have made a “total recovery.” On March 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak “can be categorized as a pandemic.”