Tales From Behind the Counter – The Walking Dead

I love zombies. I love zombies so much that I would be lying if I said there weren’t nights that I have gone to bed hoping to wake up the following morning in a full-blown zombacalypse. In many ways this column and my video game store are in a state of zombie purgatory, not quite dead but not completely living either. Let me explain:

About two or three weeks ago a series of events transpired that granted me the magical power of telepathy. In the subsequent moments of enlightenment, I learned that the people who own my video game store were running into some serious financial issues in terms of the stores and keeping them running. We are not talking a missed phone bill payment, we are discussing a shambling, fetid, corpse of over $10k debt. Mind you, this money is owed to only one of our vendors.

Since I began working at my store, I knew that the math was not adding up in a lot of areas and it was abundantly clear that the stores were no where near profitable. The blame for our financial woes can be squarely placed on the shoulders of the owners of the two stores. In short, they are well-meaning idiots with absolutely no clue of how to run a business. If they were characters in a zombie movie, they would be the crotchity, old lady who never shuts up and annoys everyone else, only to be devoured by flesh eating hoards about 35 minutes into the film. These people should have never started a video game store for one sole reason – none of them have any interest in video games whatsoever.

Unfortunately, they didn’t figure this out until they had one store open and were contemplating another. By the time they realized their folly, they were into the business so deep that the only thing they could do was hire someone who did know a thing or two about video games and place him in charge of daily operations. That guy is my boss, Jason. Jason is a good guy and a pretty decent manager who ran things the best he could for over a year. Then the owners decided they were going to open another store (the aforementioned second store). This was stupid for at least four reasons:

1) The new store is a seven minute car ride from the original store. Why not put it on the other side of town so the two stores wouldn’t compete with each other?

2) The new store has four other established video game stores so close that I can actually see one of them with my naked eye if I stand in the street in front of the building.

3) The location of the new store is awkward. It is in a place that has a very strange pair of entrances and the store itself is obscured by a Walgreen’s planted directly in front of it.

4) If you are the owner of a store in an industry that you know nothing about in the first place, should you really start a second store? If the answer is yes, you must hire more employees and that means some of your profits are now gobbled up by a crew of twenty-somethings that likes video games and knows something about them.

Once the new store opened up, profits started to dwindle. The new store (which as a sidenote, is where I work) quickly began to fail. I was hired with the sole mission to bring the branch back from the dead. I am a good salesman and can sell damned near anything to anyone but the key to being a salesman is that you have people to sell stuff to. The area lacks foot traffic and therefore, no one comes into the store. At the very moment I am typing this article, I have not had a potential customer for over an hour. I have doubts as to whether anyone will come in for the rest of the night. If you want to be a paid video game journalist, work at a failing game store and write articles in your downtime…which is pretty much all of the time.

As profits for the two stores dried up, the owners got scared. During the golden days of the original store, the owners made a sizable profit that could have easily buoyed the two stores through this rough patch had they not spent it on elaborate vacations and other things. Instead of reinvesting the profit into the business, they squandered damned near all of it. Idiots. As a result, they stopped buying new stock for the stores and without fresh titles we are left with what people trade in, which is usually crap. So I am sitting in a store filled with crap, with little hope of seeing any good titles traded in anytime soon. Oh yeah, people don’t like spending their money on shitty games so we have almost no cash coming in either.

That little history lesson pretty much brings us to where we are now – broke, in debt to pretty much everyone, behind on a lot of payments, including rent for one of the stores, and sitting on top of a pile of games you would have a hard time giving away on Craigslist. The future of the stores is pretty limited and like all good zombie shows, pretty bleak. Truthfully, the reason I haven’t written a column for a while is because I have been waiting for the stores to officially die. In fact, I have the obituary partially written.

Right now, it looks as if the owners are going to bail on the stores and sell them to another guy who, in my humble opinion, is an idiot because by buying these stores he is inheriting a whole new world of debt and difficulties. The route things could very possibly go is bankruptcy, an issue that has been discussed for a while now. The way I see it, there is one positive outcome for me regardless of the exit strategy of the owners. If the place gets sold to someone else, I get to keep writing this column and getting paid to do it. If the place goes bankrupt, I get a day or two more off a week than usual and that would be nice, seeing that I start school again in exactly one month.

So for now, Tales From Behind the Counter has clawed its way through the soft earth of a shallow grave to walk amongst the rest of the articles of videolamer. While the video game store fights for survival, I stand ready, oiling my shotgun and checking food rations while telling long time customers to spend their store credit ASAP. If this place goes under I will be left to fend for myself amongst the legions undead, exposed without my hiding place behind the counter.

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15 years ago

If they cut their losses and sold off the poorly placed second storefront, could anything be salvaged, Tyson? Or is it bad enough that about the only thing they can do is hope some kind hearted benefactor walks in to buy all the used copies of Gun before taking out a couple hundred preorders for the limited edition of Alan Wake? :) Regardless, this column will be appreciated for as long as the store keeps shambling (I’ll be interested in the post-post-mortem as well, should it come to that).

15 years ago

I’m also strangely attracted to the zombie apocalypse.

I know that right before I get my deadly bite i’m going to say “I knew it!”