It’s very rare these days that I will make the effort to visit a physical brick ‘n mortar videogame retailer. I won’t go into the reasons in this post because I think there is potential for a follow-up post dedicated solely to the decline of videogame stores. If I DO decide that I want to shop for games outside of the internet however, then there aren’t many options available here in the UK. First up, I don’t know of any independent game stores in my town (or the surrounding towns for that matter). So that leaves me with either GAME or CEX.
GAME is the most well-known videogame retailer in the UK and I can honestly say that I have no love for the company or the shopping experience there. GAME absorbed the (much cooler) Gamestation brand then binned it altogether when the group almost collapsed several years ago. That was strike one. Strike two is awarded for the sterile store interiors that dedicate half of their space to gaming merch, trading cards and Amiibo-style toys/figures. GAME also receive a third strike from me for how it’s all about the new shit. They used to keep retro games and pre-owned software from previous generations around for quite a while for example but it gets eliminated sharpish these days. This is all understandable from a marketing point of view of course but it does mean that I often leave a GAME store with nothing to show for my visit. If you are a mommy and just want to buy the latest Call of Duty or FIFA for little Timmy’s Xbox One then GAME is perfect. For gamers with a more niche and varied taste that doesn’t necessary depend on cutting-edge hardware, it’s not so interesting.
CEX on the other hand carry a wider variety of used videogame stock. They have cabinets of retro games/consoles as well as shelf space for the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube generation and everything that has happened since. So it should be the perfect antidote to GAME…right? Well, not really.
Now, I don’t know if CEX operate anywhere outside of the UK (I have heard that Australia have CEX?) in which case, y’all might be wondering just what the hell I’m talking about. Familiarity with the brand doesn’t matter in this instance though because I’m going to list all of the reasons why CEX is such a horrible shop to peruse and these reasons should resonate with everybody.
The stores stink
A CEX isn’t a CEX without some sort of nasty, nose-wrinkling odour permeating the interior of the store. The strange thing is that every CEX – no matter where you are in the country – smells terrible. Imagine a stale, sweaty, hot fragrance sometimes infused with undertones of shit and that’s what a typical CEX smells like. Honestly, it’s enough to make you evacuate the place after just a few minutes. Bleugh.
The other customers
I’m not sitting here and acting all elitist as if I’m a member of a superior master race but I certainly don’t believe that I’m “just as bad” as the typical CEX customer. Whether it’s shifty-looking individuals eyeing up used smartphones in the glass cabinets or snotty, rude kids clogging up the aisles, your fellow CEX customer isn’t a pleasant sight. Then there are “those” shoppers…the huge blokes with unkept long/afro hair wearing oversized camo-pattern jackets and enormous backpacks, taking up all of the space. Finally, the last time I visited a CEX, some guy pushed past behind me and the lingering smell of pure shit that he left in his wake forced me to leave at once. The smell was so bad that I wanted to gag. True story.
A double-edged sword this one. Sometimes, you will find a game in CEX that is so underpriced that you break into a huge grin once you’ve successfully purchased it and left the shop. One such instance occured when my sister found a Professor Layton title for the DS marked up at £6 back when each game was averaging £20 used due to their popularity. These are rare occasions however. Anything retro or from the PS2 generation is often priced according to the higher end of the “what it sells for on ebay” scale. Yeah, you won’t exactly be getting ripped-off but it’s no bargain either, especially when the manuals are often missing or the cases dirty. The proper retro stuff in the “high end” glass cabinets are the worst offenders though. You will find cardboard-boxed games in beaten-to-hell condition for the top-end price that you’d expect to pay on ebay for a copy in nice shape. Consoles are often overpriced and in filthy, scratched-up conditions as well. Also, CEX’s definition of “mint condition” is best described as ‘loose’. If “mint” means a battered-up case and missing instructions then I’d hate to know what a “bad” condition game looks like…
The condition of the stock
If you are after games that look as if they have been shat on or unearthered from a Jurassic-era bog then CEX’s shelves may have what you seek. DVD-style cases that look as if dogs have chewed on them are another common sight. Will such horrible items come with bargain-bin prices though? LOL – get out of here with that common-sense thinking!
The biggest mystery surrounding games in such despicable states (as described above) is this: how did they come to be a part of CEX’s inventory in the first place? “Well, maybe they are super loose on condition when trading in”, you might be thinking. Funny that because anybody I know who has traded games in at CEX will tell the same story: they scrutinise the condition of discs and reject badly scratched games or dirty items. This is how it SHOULD be as it is in the interests of the consumer AND the business to have good condition stock on the shelves. It is a mind-boggling contradiction then when you see games on their shelves that are only fit for the bin. Attempt to make any sense of this and you will likely look like
Lack of professionalism
Look, I know that CEX is just a crappy retail job that probably pays low and will therefore not attract professionals. That said, the CEX staff often don’t inspire any confidence at all. I have dealt with polite and decent guys/gals in a CEX before but often, the people behind the counter are dopey, lazy and more interested in continuing private conversations than serving you promptly and professionally. I don’t need to see a college kid flirting with the pretty emo/goth/punk girl to his right. I don’t want to see staff spinning my games around casually or bitching loudly when they can’t find a disc or can’t pronounce the name (if it’s something Japanese and weird). And why do they work with battered-up laptops instead of proper till systems? Why are the card machines hidden under the counter like a guilty secret?
So that’s why I really don’t like shopping with CEX. If my standards seem too high then please, feel free to berate me in the comments section below…