The Record of Purchasing The Record of Agarest War

My wife and I went game shopping today, which had been a completely foreign concept to me until recently. The idea of entering a game store with the intention of looking around and buying a game based on something other than hardcore internet research, was a strange idea. While working at Gamestop, I never shopped for a game in the traditional sense. I always knew exactly what I wanted, and knew exactly how much I needed to pay for it. If I had not been paid to spend seven to eight hours standing around in the store, I’m sure I never would have spent more time in there than what it took me to wait in line and ask for the game I wanted.

My wife though, she enjoys the shopping process, and it’s the easiest way to visualize all the new releases. She was the one who initiated the trip to Gamestop, as she was finally beginning to treat Final Fantasy XIII as job and not a game. I was hoping she would buy Red Dead Redemption, but purely for selfish reasons. I am currently wrapped up in a Super Mario Galaxy 2 love affair, but I have a strange desire to always have the next game in my queue within my possession. She does not like action games, nor has she ever been interested in open world games. She has never played any of the Grand Theft Autos, but did take a passing interest in the story and character elements of GTA IV. She likes RPG’s almost exclusively, but I thought that if she played Red Dead Redemption, however brief, I could at least see what it looked like while I was traipsing the universe with Mario.

Our current setup, which would allow me to literally see Red Dead while Mario and I explore the cosmos.

So, we were in line, ready to grab a Red Dead, when Ashley saw Record of Agarest War on the back counter. It was an Xbox RPG, and that was all she needed to know. She couldn’t even see the price tag from our vantage point and she said, “I’ll get that.” The clerk snickered. The only thing I knew about this game was all the sexual innuendo associated with it. I told Ashley, “this game comes with a boob mousepad.” Ashley didn’t even make eye contact when she said, “I don’t care, it’s an Xbox RPG. I need something to play.”

The really embarassing to buy with onlookers edition would have been more appropriate.

The clerk went to the back to retrieve the game and a small line appeared behind us. When the clerk reappeared with, The Really Naughty Limited Edition of Ashley’s requested game, she felt it was vitally important to repeatedly point out the suggestive images that adorned the spine of the box. We admitted complete ignorance to the content and plot of the game, but the clerk insisted on pointing out the images to us, and subsequently the folks waiting patiently behind us. The clerk also kept saying that the game had a lot of, “fan service,” something that is apparently crucial for a player who knows nothing about the game. Fan service must have been her code word for pornography. For me, fan service implies that the game has something that would appeal to fans of the series, something Ashley and I clearly were not.

We rang up the game, and I passed on Red Dead, partly becasue $60 is a lot for a game that won’t even get played until Mario had risked life, limb and mustache to retrieve every single last star, but also because the customers behind us could see that we had bought a game with pictures like this adorning the side.

I can't imagine there is any way to explain that top image without at least some awkward stuttering.

And that pretty much explains Ashley’s frothing demand (to quote one of the greatest box quotes ever) for Xbox RPG’s. She will play anything that can be described with the word Xbox and the acronym RPG, no matter how much clothing the female protagonists may or may not be wearing, or as we have learned today, what they have in their mouths. I have also found that perceived quality of these games plays a very small role in the purchase decision as well. Do you know anyone else who has very nearly finished Divinity II?

UPDATE

According to Wikipedia, it turns out the clerk was right. Fan service does sort of mean pornography. I was totally oblivious. Ashley has been playing the game and has not seen any sort of special attention payed towards any of the female characters assets. The game is (as of about five hours in) completely unsexual. The casing was designed purely to embarrass the consumer. Way to go Aksys Games!

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I Was a Teenage Vitamin Salesman

I was a vitamin salesman at one time. It only lasted for about 20 minutes. I think the problem with the job first arose when I was conducting the phone interview. I was answering all the interview questions promptly with well spoken answers and even as the words left my mouth I regretted answering them so well. All I could think was, why did I just say that? I should have made up something that made me out to be a terrible salesman. He called me back the next day, and I got the job. Hooray. I love vitamins.

Training hurt my brain and questioned my morals at every turn. It was all about cordial manipulation. Great tips like, start filling out the order form as early as possible because once there is something in writing, they will feel more willing to buy. Of course, when they said the word willing, they meant the word pressured. Don’t ask for the sale, make them believe they have already agreed to the sale. Don’t say, “would you like to order something,” say, “what would you like to order.” I would throw words like,”manipulate” and “corner” back to my trainers frequently, which was often met with a response like, “well we don’t like that term.” My favorite was when they were explaining how to make sure the customer would not abandon the sale if it seemed liked they were ready to buy. “We need to make sure they don’t have a way out, right?” I asked, believing I was cementing the lesson we just received. “Well, um, yeah. But, we don’t like to say it that way.”

Despite all my rebelliousness, which was for the most part very low key, I often caved or agreed with them after my initial attempt to corner them into telling me I was supposed to corner customers. “You’re right, we probably shouldn’t say it like that,” was my usual response. They were after all, going to pay me to sell these things, and being salesmen and women themselves they were very friendly and wanted to sell me their selling tips.

During my first mock sale, I found myself going through our assigned product book not pointing out the benefits of the vitamins, but rather remarking on how happy the models in the pictures looked. “You know you want these vitamins. Look how happy these models are! They love these vitamins!” It inspired a chuckle from my mock customer, but she clearly wasn’t interested in purchasing my vitamins.

I truly came to terms with my inability to sell vitamins when we played the Kevin Bacon game. They had us play this game to show us how easy it was to connect one person to another. The business of selling vitamins was all based off of referrals. You find one person to sell vitamins to and then you get your new customer to provide you with the names of five or six people they don’t like so that you can go bother them about buying vitamins. Kevin Bacon’s over-saturation in the film industry is a great way to show how easy and lucrative the business model of referrals can be.

I was tasked with connecting Kevin Bacon to Bill Murray. I pondered for a moment and came up with this. “Kevin Bacon, of course you go with bacon, that you eat for breakfast, which leads you to cereal, because that’s for breakfast too, which takes you to eating cereal watching Saturday morning cartoons. Saturday morning cartoons takes you to The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, which was based on the Ghostbusters films that starred Bill Murray.” My vitamin salesman aficionado, of whom was a short balding Italian man, stared at me quizzically with a piece of chalk in his gold ringed fingers. He had been prepared to write down the trail of names that led me from Kevin Bacon, but had stopped after writing the name Kevin Bacon. “Um, yeah. That’s a bit outside the box. Let’s try somebody else.” At that point he moved on to the next vitamin salesman student since I had failed miserably in proving his point.

Allow me to reiterate that I was not trying to be a smart-ass. I was here for a job, with a goal to become a valued employee with this company. The problem is that my mind went there first. It seemed perfectly logical to me to develop this tangential relationship between Bill Murray and Kevin Bacon. Why connect them with their relationships to other people, when I can create an abstract one involving cereal and cartoons? I truly thought I had played the game well and was surprised when my answer was brushed off so lightly.

A few days later, after never having sold a single vitamin, I turned in my resignation. It was one of the hardest things I ever did. Here I was face to face with a man who truly believed in these vitamins and this company. Even though I was saying words like, “not for me,” and, “thanks for the opportunity,” all I could think was, “this is stupid,” and, “I haven’t decided if this is a scam or not.” He may have seen through my veiled politeness, but he didn’t let me know. He was an absurdly nice guy, as I imagine you have to be in order to be a successful salesman.

So with that, I left the world of vitamin salesmanship, but not before buying one month’s worth of vitamins for myself. I couldn’t leave empty handed right? Or at least that’s what I was convinced of before leaving Mr. Italian’s office.

The Mustached Man -or- I Can Be a Total Jerk Sometimes

I have been writing here tales of woe and absurdity from my clientele, often in an insulting and derogatory manner, but I think it is time I shared a story of my own personal absurdity. You may have heard that old business saying, a bad customer experience will be shared with nine friends, while a good customer experience will be shared with three friends? Well this guy probably told his entire extended family and 50 of his closest friends about this experience.

So first some explanation. This guy can be kind of rude at times. He once yelled at a coworker who attempted to give him back his change, simply for trying to return to him his owed money. There was a mis-communication, but still, no reason to yell. He tends to ask lots of questions, but ignores the responses and he always seems to be on the verge of angry retaliation. He does have a sweet mustache though.

So one day, after a transaction, a barrage of questions and many ignored answers, he left. It was after he left that I noticed that he had forgotten his store discount card. He had left me in a particularly bad mood that day so in a weird bit of partially good intentioned, yet still blatantly bitter customer service, I wrote a note on his discount card that read, “this belongs to that annoying customer with the mustache.” You can probably tell where this is going already.

He returned a few days later to do some more shopping, and he was excited to learn that I had saved his lost card for him. It was behind the counter, waiting to give him his discount. The store got busy, and I left my coworker to ring him up. You can guess what happened next, and you can imagine how my stomach felt nestled comfortably next to my feet when I heard him say, “I need to talk to someone about this,” with a crumpled note squeezed between his thumb and forefinger like a crushed bug.

The plan was to remove the note before triumphantly returning his card, but I had neglected to inform my coworker of this.

I quickly pulled him aside and began to feverishly apologize for my indiscretion. It was a total asshole move on my part. The note was completely inappropriate to begin with, and the fact that he had to read it? I can’t even imagine his justified anger.

Imagine if one of your favorite stores, one that you shopped on a weekly basis, with employees that you liked (I assumed he liked me before all this, and I think he still does actually) informed you, discretely, that they thought you were annoying. I think I would be a little frustrated.

I began my monologue of apologies promising discounts, taking total responsibility for everything. And he listened, stone-faced, with a twitchy mustache, never blinking, never looking away. I already felt like the scum of the earth, but it was his parting words that truly drove the sword deeper into my stomach. “I thought you were one of the cool ones. I thought you were cool, man.” He was comparing me to the other employees of the neighboring stores. He had been making special trips to my store to shop with me, and I insulted him — in writing.

Eventually he came back to my store, and I gave him some sweet discounts, apologized some more and he forgave me. He still shops at the store and I have a great deal of respect for him having been such a forgiving person. Would you have continued to shop with me if I called you an annoying guy with a mustache — in writing?

Talking On a Cellphone Does in Fact Require Shouting -or- Why is This Guy Always Writing About Cellphones?

I cannot imagine what life would be like without having a cellphone in my pocket, even though there was a time where that was the case.  They allow us to reach people in case of emergencies, or non-emergencies, most people take advantage of their calendar functions, they’re starting to store our music, and most importantly they serve as our clocks.  The ability to be reached by anybody at anytime is a negotiable advantage, but it has certainly come in handy.

I discuss them here because of something that has been bothering me lately.  The volume levels of people talking on cellphones.  This did not seem to be a problem when cellphones first starting gaining in popularity.  This may be hard to believe, but there was a time when people felt a slight tinge of embarrassment over owning a cellphone.  Who could possibly be so important that they would need to be reachable at all times?  The President perhaps, maybe even a CEO of a major corporation, but regular old John Smith?  No way, he can just wait to make or receive that phone call when he gets home.

I remember snickering at my friends as they would politely relocate themselves in order to accept or make a call, much like somebody would on a home phone.  The idea seems so foreign to me now, politely excusing oneself to answer a call, but even I must have done it at some point.  These days we barely interrupt our real life conversions in order to begin our digital ones.  Nothing more than a brief, “hold on a sec,” or a “let me get this real quick,” separates us from the people in front of us and the people on the other line.  Worse though, and the purpose of this column, is our volume.  We talk to the people on the other end of our phones as though we interpret their distance literally.  We shout as though that will be the only way for them to able to hear us.

When did this switch occur?  I have learned more about people’s personal lives just by walking alongside them on the street than I’m sure I ever could during an introductory conversation.  Upcoming doctors appointments, relationship problems, relationship benefits, grocery lists, grades, family quarrels, what happened last night, or at least what you can remember of it.  Everything suddenly becomes transparent while on a cellphone.

For some reason we — and I use the word “we,” because I am just as guilty as everyone else — become oblivious to those around us while on a cellphone.  Maybe its a way to brag about our awesome grocery lists, or maybe we just don’t realize our voices have become louder.

My proposal to stop this?  Butt into somebody’s conversation after they hang up.  “Hey man, that sucks about that party last night, I’m sure that guy won’t press charges though,” or “Hey man, I’m sure that colonoscopy won’t be that bad, good luck.”  The sudden realization that a complete stranger just listened in on your conversation will make us think twice about raising our voice on our phone again.  Maybe we will start saving those more personal conversations for a later time.  Or maybe, you will get the rudest look you have ever received from a stranger.

Of course, it won’t be a problem much longer now.  Remember when we realized that it took twice as long to text somebody as it does to just call them?  Yeah, me neither.

A Bitter Hateful Note About Cellphones -or- Ways to Effectively Point With Your Middle Finger

I speak for anyone who works in retail — or rather, anyone who works with people of any kind — when I say that we love when people can’t hang up their phones to talk to us. We adore being treated like vending machines. Isn’t that all we really are? We take your money, and give you your chosen product along with your change. Why treat us any differently?

Please avoid eye contact at all costs, please ignore any and all that we say, and please if you absolutely must make eye contact, make sure to give us an unsavory look, after all, we are the ones interrupting your very important phone call about what your favorite taco bell menu item is. I’m partial to the chalupa myself, but who cares what I have to say? I’m only the one handling your money.

It’s offensive how locally owned food establishments post signs on their registers that say, “We will not take your order if you are on your cell phone.” The audacity of these handwritten signs are unbelievable. I deserve the right to not speak directly to you while you ask me what I would like to order. I am on a tight schedule and if I don’t explain to the person on the other end of the phone what happened in last nights episode of “Lost,” they will never be able to catch up. That show is all over the place, and the next episode starts in 952 hours. If I have to hang up the phone for five minutes to order some food, they won’t know whats going on.

Of course, sarcasm aside, the real emotion that I express here is my jealousy towards these signs. I would love to paste my own handwritten “no cellphones” sign to my register. I often imagine what it would look like and what words I would underline with an angry red pen. The different smiles I could employ while pointing to it. Maybe a big smile revealing all of my teeth, or perhaps just a sly smirk would get my point across. Maybe I would just point to the sign with my middle finger. Unfortunately though, I am not the one paying my salary, so I don’t get to make those kind of decisions.

Instead, I use this editorial as my handwritten sign, and this is the part underlined in red pen: hang up your cellphone before you get to the register. We’re not vending machines. We don’t spit your bills back out to you. We accept wrinkled and folded dollars, and we thank you for them. We only ask that you at least show some acknowledgment.

Tales of People That Confuse Me -or- I Will and Cannot Ever Know

I have worked in the retail sector for a long time. I began working in a game store my junior year of high school and have continued to do so following my graduation from college. Approximately six years I have been peddling games to people of all ages and backgrounds. I enjoy my job for the most part. I enjoy games and I enjoy talking about them to customers, even those who, “Don’t know nothing about no games,” which is a quote I hear more often than you would think.

Christmas is of course, hellish as it is with any retail scenario. A busy holiday season is not exclusive to game retailers. During the wonderful months of late October to early January my job changes from leisurely discussions of advantages of one game over another to discussions of, “my child needs this and the fact that you don’t have it in stock is absolutely appalling.”

Spats with customers happen, there really is no way to avoid it. Customers make demands that I cannot abide, or the line is not moving fast enough. There are millions of things that can upset a customer at any given moment. Needless to say, my patience tends to wain, and the customer experience can sometimes be hindered.

One customer I had during this last season, I don’t think I will ever forget. Not because she was particularly angry, nor because she was particularly nice, but simply because I have absolutely no idea what transpired during the course of the transaction.

It occurred in early January. The holiday sales were beginning to slow, but the store still remained busier than usual. A customer brought a game to the counter. She did not appear fully ready to commit to her purchase. “Do you have any questions, mam?” I asked. “No” she said, clearly already annoyed, “I want to buy this.” “Sure no problem,” I responded. I rang up her game, bagged it up and said quite pleasantly said, “There you go, thank you very much.” I held the bag containing her game out in from of my chest waiting for her to grab it. I could tell by the look on her face that I had clearly done something terribly wrong. Her eyes were squinted, her arms were crossed and her lips were slightly pursed. She had her hip cocked to the side and after a moment of awkward silence she muttered an exasperated, “okay,” the way that people do when they decide to agree with you despite their obvious inclination.

“Is everything okay?” I asked with one eyebrow raised in obvious confusion. “Yeah okay,” she said, ending the second syllable of “okay” with a sarcastic laugh. “Are you sure, mam?” I had to attempt at least one last time to figure out what I had done to offend this woman. “It’s fine,” she said sharply. She grabbed her bag and stomped out of the store.

After she left, I turned to my co-worker and immediately asked what just happened, not because of my burning desire to self-evaluate my own customer service capabilities, but to find out what the hell just happened. He shrugged clearly as confused as I was.

I was polite, I was expedient and I made two honest attempts to figure out what had offended this woman so deeply. Even upon reviewing the security tapes I still cannot figure out what happened. Because of my complete and utter confusion, I have come to the conclusion that this woman was simply trying to make sure that I went insane, and I just want to let her know, mission accomplished.

Tales of Human Behavior -or- Procreation Isn’t For Everyone

We have a television in our store that plays trailers for upcoming games and has two attractive hosts telling family friendly jokes about videogames.

There was a woman waiting on her son to pick out a game watching the video in rapt attention. Her stained gray sweatshirt, which had very apparently been thrown on just before walking out the door, gave me the impression that leaving her house was a rare and dangerous excursion. It also led me to regrettably visualize what she could have possibly been wearing before deciding that she needed to cover it up with the last second sweatshirt.

A trailer for the upcoming Rock Band Beatles game came on the video, and she felt compelled to shout the names of the songs as they played.

“Paperback writer!” she quickly sputtered. She turned to me with an accomplished grin on her face undoubtedly thinking, “That’s right, I know the title of that song.” She must have been looking to me for verification, which I provided with my overly polite smile.

Her son having finally narrowed his search, brought Grand Theft Auto up to the counter. “Now ‘mam,” I warned, “This game is mature rated. I can’t sell it to anyone under the age of 17.” She looked at me, aghast — not becasue of her son’s choice of entertainment, but becasue of my audacity. How dare I assume this game be inappropriate for a child clearly under the age of 12. “He plays with the volume off,” she assured me.

I have conducted tests in order to prove this theory, and can say, without a doubt, that any form of mature media that is presented without sound automatically becomes suitable for all ages.

I once watched Aladdin on mute only to discover that I had in fact been watching Scarface the whole time once I turned the sound on.

That boy grew up to be a Harvard graduate. And by Harvard I mean 6th grade.