To save enough for a copy of Panzer Dragoon Saga
July 10, 2017 2:25 AM   Subscribe

“Hard times, hard times,” he’d mutter to himself, attempting the doorway. “You get through ‘em. You get through ‘em.” A long and curious tale of working in a used game shop.
posted by mippy (30 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, good job, I guess. This post led me to finally settle something I have never followed up on before. That game with the sorceress girl NEVER HAD A DAMN THING to do with Panzer Dragoon.

(Said game was Alisia Dragoon.)
posted by Samizdata at 3:00 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the Acts of Gord. I remember enjoying those stories quite a bit, back in the days when I was on the customer side of the counter, significantly younger and daydreaming about how cool it would be to work in a game shop.
posted by protocoach at 3:06 AM on July 10 [9 favorites]


I used to be in a band with James, before he moved to Japan! He's written another one of these about the flat he used to rent here in Cambridge, but I don't think it's published online, for fear of recriminations from his (highly outspoken, controversial media figure) ex-landlady. I'll see if I can convince him to redact some of the names and put it up.
posted by spielzebub at 3:38 AM on July 10 [11 favorites]


That was lovely.

Reminds me very much of stading at the counter that stood between us and The Customers at a couple of early jobs.

I would love to read more by the same writer!
posted by wenestvedt at 3:48 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Metafilter - an unfailing urge to correct the trivial mistakes of others, a habit I cultivate as it makes me attractive to women.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:34 AM on July 10 [14 favorites]


I thoroughly enjoyed that. One of my first jobs was working in a rural record shop, now inevitably closed. I was sacked after two months because of my belief that the Who are shit, although as Mike the owner put it, it wasn't personal.
posted by threetwentytwo at 4:47 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of working in the Pink Pussycat Boutique on W 4th Street in The Village, NYC. A real rollercoaster ride.
posted by Splunge at 5:35 AM on July 10


So an aga is an oven or something?
posted by Literaryhero at 6:28 AM on July 10


AGA cooker.
posted by zabuni at 6:40 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


So apparently we're not going to discuss the fact that Satan apparently lived over the shop, and the whole operation was probably some Needful Things type deal and everything they sold was cursed? Okay then.
posted by um at 7:42 AM on July 10 [8 favorites]


How does one go about purchasing the movie rights to a blog post? Asking for a gaunt old man in an anorak friend.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:51 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


That was quite good. Reminded me a lot of my days working in a full-service gas station in the rural north (Canada, not the UK). Even though the specific incidents are all different, the tenor of them is nearly identical.
“Oh, but the worst ones were the middle classes,”my friend Tom told me ten years later, over a flat white in Stoke Newington.
This might be the truest thing ever said about customer service since the dawn of time. I found that as a general rule, poor folk assume you're one of them (I was) and talk to you like you're anybody else, whatever level of politeness that is, and rich folks will either be friendly or just do whatever basic level of interaction they need to do to get on with their day. The middle class expected you to fawn over them, or to read their minds (we had so many customers that literally wouldn't speak to us under any circumstances... we just had to keep saying services until they nodded at what they wanted), and if you made a mistake or--and this was more frequent--if they thought you might make as mistake, they'd scream, and curse, and call you a deadbeat or a loser or stupid or some other thing that made it known that you were beneath them.

I miss the weird solidarity of the "behind the counter" people described here. I remember saving up for weeks to buy a cheap pocket knife from under the glass counter. It's a strange thing.
posted by Fish Sauce at 8:10 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


This was quite good.

I remember reading Acts of Gord, which as a 12 year old seemed super cool and now I think is almost a little sad shit_that_didn't_happen.txt. This seems more honest.
posted by dismas at 8:23 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


I was never a big videogame retail store customer, but I have a certain amount of nostalgia for janky independent retailers of pop culture, comics stores in particular. There was a comics store called Dreamth in my undergrad college town, run by a guy who I'd guessed had gotten into the trade via the underground comix of the sixties and seventies and seemed a little fuzzy on what he had in stock or might be ordering or possibly even the year. The shop had a couch and a cat, and I'm surprised in retrospect that it was still in business when I graduated. The college town downtown underwent some major renovation starting about fifteen-twenty years ago, and although it's generally a lot nicer, the building that housed Dreamth was either remodeled beyond recognition or just torn down and replaced. Sic transit gloria shambolic shops.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:32 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


I've said it before and I'll say it again. To teach more people how to be better humans, we should require everyone to work 3-4 years of customer service/retail work. These types of service jobs teach you a lot about how to interact with other people. They also teach patience and empathy.
posted by Fizz at 8:36 AM on July 10 [10 favorites]


My mother has a theory that everyone should be required to work three specific types of job as a teenager in order to become a decent person: food service, working with children, and physical labor.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:50 AM on July 10 [16 favorites]


Did anyone else have that weird sensation of arriving at the bottom of the article, seeing the picture, and thinking the store looked WAY nicer than you'd imagined in your head?
posted by chrominance at 8:56 AM on July 10 [21 favorites]


@chrominance: absolutely
posted by Fish Sauce at 9:00 AM on July 10


Things tend to look a hell of a lot less grimy in low-res grey scale. It's good at hiding the rot and ennui.
posted by pan at 9:07 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


But still, I wasn't expecting windows and a shopfront. Also, it's kind of eponysterical that chrominance thought a greyscale photo looked too good.

I did like the article, though.
posted by ambrosen at 9:13 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Stories like this make me consider writing up my stories from my time working at a grimy strip mall RadioShack the summer before my senior year of High School.

I don't miss it.
posted by SansPoint at 9:45 AM on July 10


I was picturing something out of Silent Hill. Especially by the time the secret door to Frank's cult chapel came around.

Like every afternoon at 4:10 p.m. a mysterious siren would go off, blood would start dripping from the walls, and the same customer would come in to try and sell his copy of Road Rash 3D with some arcane symbol scratched into the disk. His feet would make a wet, squishing sound when he walked, and he never spoke - just handed over the disk and took it back when it was rejected to try again the next day.
posted by Naberius at 9:49 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Stories like this make me consider writing up my stories from my time working at a grimy strip mall RadioShack the summer before my senior year of High School.

I love reading stuff like this. Set up a blog or a twitter account and let the stories begin. I'm all for stories like this.
posted by Fizz at 9:52 AM on July 10


Thanks, SansPoint, for helping me realize the source of the deja vu this piece was giving me - it strikes me the same way as did MetaFilter favourite Jon Bois' Eulogy for Radio Shack.

I'd love to hear your stories as well from within that horrible dead empire.
posted by ZaphodB at 10:22 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


Nthing wanting to hear the Radio Shack stories. Loved that Bois piece; along with the FPP one, it admits that the problem isn't always with the customer, as opposed to Acts of Gord, in which there is seemingly an infinite number of customers trying to rip him off, to which he responds with perfect patience and civility. As if.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:58 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Thanks, SansPoint, for helping me realize the source of the deja vu this piece was giving me - it strikes me the same way as did MetaFilter favourite Jon Bois' Eulogy for Radio Shack.

I'd love to hear your stories as well from within that horrible dead empire.


My employment at Radio Shack led to my one unsuccessful attempt at revenge blackmail.

(announcer's voice)

Do you want to know more?
posted by Samizdata at 11:01 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


That sounds a lot like my experience, minus people living in the premises.

The store, however, was completely different. From the photo, it looks about every indie shop we had here (minus fruit machine), while I worked in a dingy corner shop in the basement of a mid-80s mall whose only upside was being a shortcut to the subway - a makeshift shortcut because the actual shortcut, a corridor on the ground floor, was taken over by a co-working place. And I guess the garden in the middle was great in the summer.
Otherwise, it had two counters (one for costumers, the other to put dvds and work behind them. It had security bars on every window because despite being on a closed mall, it had a private club and so it remained open with little security until 4am or so) and the door had clear signs of years of attempted break-ins.
All games were on shelves behind the counters. Right to the costumer counter, there was a big metal shelf to storage consoles and cables. Next to the other, a wooden cabinet where we stored documents and older consoles.
To order a game, a client either asked who was in charge or checked a listing for a code. We didn't have space for looking a proper store, and even if we had (we also had a larger space on the same floor, but it had worse placement and we mostly used it for storage of), I doubt the owner would have gone with any boxes on shelves, discs behind the counter scheme. We also had a table next to the big window with a clipboard to put a listing (which I went through great lengths to remove and allow me to stick the listings to the security bars with tape, that allowed to have a better idea if there was someone lurking in the stairs for too long) and a shitty couch for the costumers.
The TV was utterly fucked up (although since nobody wanted to play in it, nobody loitered playing there, either), it smelled of tobacco because apparently I was one of the few employees in the previous 15 years that didn't smoke at all, and the whole store looked yellow because the glasses protecting the lamps had a yellow-ish film in front of them from years of smoking inside, the floor was some sort of cork-based flooring we rarely bothered to clean, the walls were half-wood panel and half-painted (although most of it was covered by shelves) and the whole thing was not exactly a pleasant place to be, particularly during the winter when it was cold and damp (didn't help I refused to heat up the place on my days at work because the less hospitable it was, people would make their choices far quickly).

Pretty much, I dragged the store out of the mid 90s. We had two computers, one for database input and other for internet and stuff like that. The first was a DOS machine from the early 90s that had been in service from the heyday of the store back when it was a legit chain. To update listings (and because we couldn't afford any decent sort of SQL thing for the online store), we had to wait to the database to do a stock check, export a CSV file to a floppy (in 2008, because that's the way he has been doing it for 15 years and it always worked), load up the CSV on another computer with Excel, manually adjust fonts, column widths and so on, save to html and then print to put the listing on the counter and on the website, pasting the html code over the top of the older one (yes). This took around 15 to 20 minutes to each system we had stock for.
I got my job by complaining about the lists often being broken as shit and updated every week or so, and in a few minutes, making up a macro that produced a fully automatic, better formatted and always consistent list in a second, and then revamping the site to use a frame to display the list instead of having to paste list contents. A few years later, sold a compaq desktop I had bought on the cheap as a backup to replace the database computer. It started exporting even the long PS2 lists in a couple of seconds, and since there was no need of transferring to another computer (also because in the meantime, I had replaced the awful USB modem the store had with an actual router because turns out, companies are more than ok replacing old gear for free in exchange for a year contract if you ask them), the 20 minutes to update a single list turned to 5 to update all lists. Also started accepting email enquires, a twitter feed to update on new arrivals (and did it work to sell stuff fast) and a blog for longer updates.

Then the waves of recession hit, and people stopped buying games, had my hours cut off and eventually got tired with the boss no longer investing in the shop at all and taking away all money that got in and left. I guess a lot started either buying from Amazon (while we didn't care, a lot of stores didn't sell games that had been imported through the proper channels and had a pink stamp - at a time, I had a long letter to send to the EU asking if the threat of fines levied against retailers who acquired stock outside local distributors was not against free trade agreements) or directly on facebook groups. Or CEX, I think if the recession had not killed the store for good around 2014, CEX certainly would.

Stupid thing is, I kinda miss it. As a shitty job as it was, it wasn't also demanding anything out of the ordinary. On slow days I could simply bugger off to the garden to have a coke and keep in check if the phone rang or some costumer appeared, during winter I left a pair of comfy slippers in case I got my feet wet, could go to the toilet at will, and so on. I know people who got into call centers for less on the hour, and ended up on far shittier situations than I did.

Also, found a picture.
posted by lmfsilva at 11:02 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


So apparently we're not going to discuss the fact that Satan apparently lived over the shop, and the whole operation was probably some Needful Things type deal and everything they sold was cursed? Okay then.

We can't jump to that conclusion. First we need to know if their Frogurt toppings contained Potassium Benzoate.
posted by Talez at 11:18 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Thanks, SansPoint, for helping me realize the source of the deja vu this piece was giving me - it strikes me the same way as did MetaFilter favourite Jon Bois' Eulogy for Radio Shack.

I'd love to hear your stories as well from within that horrible dead empire.

My employment at Radio Shack led to my one unsuccessful attempt at revenge blackmail.

(announcer's voice)

Do you want to know more?


I will type it up later when I get home from work.
posted by Samizdata at 1:08 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


As promised, the embarrassing story of why Samizdata was never meant to blackmail...

I worked at a Radio Shack. At the time, RS was pretty much commission driven. You tended to manage your commissions by giving out cards with your name on them to interested, but uncommitted, customers. One of the sales people, a sleazy hard charger guy we'll call Bob was infamous (and had been caught on numerous occasions) violating the general code of RS employees by intercepting returning customers, accepting the prior employee's referral card, telling the customer that the person was not there (when they were), and sniping the sale.

Numerous times, Bob showed up with his girlfriend, a not unattractive blonde woman.

One day, Samizdata comes into work, and sees Bob's girlfriend hanging all over notBob, a man with some extremely distinctive facial features who had been the surgeon on Samizdata's stepfather's surgery. Sami walks over, and asks if he can help them. During rapport building, Bob's girlfriend mentions this is her husband and they are shopping for a widget together.

The next day, Sami sees Bob snag another employee's card AGAIN and loses it. Sami walks over to Bob and mentions he knows notBob and suggests his tongue might loosen around notBob, unless Bob stops sniping sales from everyone.

Two days later, Sami's store manager cuts him to five hours a week. On his rounds saying goodbye, Sami finds out from coworkers that Bob and Manager are housemates and great, close buddies.

And this is why Sami doesn't try blackmail for great justice.
posted by Samizdata at 8:06 PM on July 10 [7 favorites]


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