GameStop has informed employees that if local authorities attempt to shut down their store in states with orders to close establishments deemed “non-essential,” they are to inform law enforcement that the company believes they should be “classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time.” The instructions came with a flyer to hand over to law enforcement, and includes the phone number for GameStop’s corporate office.
Five employees with access to the instructions and accompanying flyer showed copies to VICE Games today. GameStop did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Update: GameStop issued the following statement in response to our story, defending their decision to stay open:
While GameStop is best known as a provider of gaming and home entertainment systems, we also offer a wide array of products and devices that are important to facilitate remote work, distance learning, and virtual connectivity. As millions of Americans face unprecedented challenges adapting to virtual learning, working and interaction, there is significant need for technology solutions and we are one of many providers of these products that are remaining open at this time. Schools, businesses and families are now suddenly dependent on being able to connect through technology. While there are many businesses and organizations far more critical than ours, we believe we can have a positive impact during this very challenging time. The health and safety of our employees and customers is of utmost importance and we have and will continue to take extensive precautions consistent with CDC guidelines. We are complying with all state, county, city and local ordinances and we will continue to adjust to any future developments.
“Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home,” reads the memo, “we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time. We have received reports of local authorities visiting stores in an attempt to enforce closure despite our classification. Store managers are approved to provide the document linked below to law enforcement as needed.”
The note does not appear to be instructed at one particular region of the country; the employees VICE Games spoke with were from all over, including the midwest and east coast.
“They've essentially said to disobey law enforcement in any state that shuts down non essential retail,” said one employee, who asked to remain anonymous, “as they believe we are providing an essential service to people that shop at a video game store.”
The flyer itself comes with a short note:
“Thank you for what you are doing to keep us all safe. If you have questions about our store’s hours, operations or policies could I ask you to please call our corporate office:
GameStop Corporate Office
Thank you for understanding.”
It’s unclear if any store has actually attempted this tactic.
GameStop has been criticized for its poor handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The company has been unable to provide adequate cleaning supplies to employees, instead asking them to seek out such supplies at local stores. The company has not extended sick leave policies to employees, instead asking them to rely on their existing time off options.
While other companies have voluntarily shut down amidst the pandemic, GameStop has remained open. This week is a big week for video games, with both Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal launching tomorrow. Only in recent days did GameStop make the decision to cancel its late night launches, where consumers line up to buy games as soon as they’re available. This morning, GameStop announced it would start selling Doom Eternal today—a full day early—to try and separate the Doom and Animal Crossing Crowds.
Pandemic or not, GameStop appears committed to staying open as long as possible.
“I'm picking up my Animal Crossing tomorrow,” said another employee, “and leaving my keys.”