Taylor Neubert did what so many GameStop employees have only dreamed about: quit on the spot. Fed up with working 10-hour days all by herself between piles of video games and stacks of Pokémon merchandize for less than $15 an hour, she closed her store in the middle of her shift, put a sign on the door saying GameStop doesn’t care about its employees, and walked off the job forever.
“I was like, I’m not getting paid anything right now, you know,” she told Kotaku in an interview shortly after it happened. “So for me to be working these long days, and they took away our bonuses, they took away our incentives and stuff like that, I got angry at that, because I was like, I’m working all of this for a paycheck that barely pays my bills right now and I’m missing out on hanging out with my friends and experiencing life. GameStop has really taken a lot of that from me.”
Previously a manager, Neubert voluntarily demoted herself late last year to an assistant role after being burnt out on running two stores simultaneously for only $1.25 an hour more. “I was already at my wit’s end, I was so stressed out,” she said. “I couldn’t make my employees feel appreciated because I couldn’t see them all very often because we were single coverage. And so morale was low. They were quitting.”
How to quit your job at GameStop
She decided to put in her own two weeks notice earlier this month, but was already dreading the shifts that remained. Things came to a head on February 4, another Saturday she was scheduled to work alone from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. since her manager was on vacation and no one else was available to fill in.
When Neubert stepped down as store manager her pay dropped from $21.75 an hour to just $14.25, but the long hours remained. I’m exhausted all the time,” she said. “I don’t go out because I’m just too tired to go do anything. Because working 11 hours, even eight hour days by myself, like my social battery is drained by the end of my shift.
Neubert called a former GameStop manager to vent. Instead of quitting, he had been fired a month earlier after two men stole $5,000 worth of PS5s from his store, an incident he wasn’t even on shift for and had nothing to do with, and which Kotaku reported on at the time. Neubert said reading that story during her shift on that Saturday pushed her over the edge.
“I got so mad, and I just thought about all the shit GameStop has put us through, especially over the holidays, it was awful,” she said. Neubert said she tried calling five other GameStops to get someone to cover the rest of her shift, as well as some nearby store managers, including her own, but nobody picked up. “That made me angry that no one was answering the phone.”
Her regulars, on the other hand, did answer and were apparently ecstatic. “I had texted all of my customers and I was like, ‘Guys, today’s my last day, I’m going to try to make it ‘till the end of my shift, but I don’t even think I will,” she said. “And they were all like, ‘That’s amazing!’ Like, ‘We knew how miserable you were.’ They were all really proud of me.”
One of her regular customers in the store at the time even helped usher a couple remaining stragglers out so she could lock up. At just after 2 p.m., not even halfway through her shift, she put the sign on the door explaining the closure, which a friend then snapped a picture of and uploaded to Reddit, where it quickly rippled through the GameStop community to cheers and applause.
“I didn’t do this because for any reason other than I do not like the direction that GameStop as a company is going,” Neubert told Kotaku. “Like GameStop just needs to figure their shit out and stop putting so much on their employees that they’re not paying well.”
Executives at GameStop get multi-million dollar golden parachutes and meme stock investors reap major windfalls. Store employees, tasked with holding GameStop’s crumbling video game retail empire together as digital sales cannibalize the underlying business, face insultingly low raises or outright pay cuts. Beholden to aggressive sales goals for PS5 bundles and new game warranties while at the mercy of inventory system snafus, incomprehensible warehouse shipments, and slashed hours, it seems like things are always as bad as they can get. Then they get worse with no end in sight.
A meme stock company without a strategy
While ultimately a spontaneous move, Neubert’s decision to leave so abruptly grew out of a series of increasingly frustrating moments. Over the holidays, for example, she said her store was suddenly told it had to schedule a bunch of extra hours despite being on a reduced staff. “It was nearly impossible for me to use all those hours but, you know, they were like, you have to figure it out so I figured it out,” she said. “And then, before the week was even over, they called us each individually and said, ‘Hey, they reduced the hours, you have to cut 30 hours from your schedules.’ And I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And they said, ‘Effective immediately, figure it out.’
GameStop also recently cut overtime pay for store managers, a consistent way for them to earn a few extra hundred dollars a month for doing work that they have to get done each week anyway. New sales initiatives rolled out at the beginning of the year have also ramped up pressure. One new metric measures every customer that leaves the store without buying something. And in an especially cruel twist of fate, stores are expected to upsell customers on at least three additional games and controllers whenever they buy a new console, even if it’s an all-digital one that can’t read discs.
Other frustrations abound, many of them detailed on the GameStop subreddit, and corroborated by many employees Kotaku has spoken with in recent months. Many pre-orders still go missing. Stores often don’t have enough copies in stock the day of big releases like NBA 2K23 and the Dead Space remake. And managing customer expectations among the messy console transition has been particularly draining as PS4 and Xbox versions of popular games like Hogwarts Legacy are delayed. This all while secret shopper calls grill lone employees on sales pitches in the middle of juggling online orders and in-store trade-ins.
Walkouts under these circumstances are becoming less uncommon, but they don’t seem to be getting through to GameStop management. They might even be part of the plan. After all, everyone who quits on their own loses out on bonuses, including the first batch of company meme stock that just vested this week. Many current and former employees tell Kotaku that store closures are necessary, and would be one way to theoretically re-consolidate teams and offer them more pay and resources. Instead, GameStop keeps spreading them thinner and thinner. Whatever the strategy, or lack thereof, it’s no longer Neubert’s problem.
“It’s so nice to just, you know, I’m not worried about anything like I’m just living life,” she said. “I want to travel, I want to go do things and like I’m very excited for my future for the first time in a long time.”