Putting Controllers In People’s Hands

Kasey Black took the brand new Wii and placed it in a plastic bag as he smiled at his customers.  He thanked them for coming into the store and then walked away chuckling to himself.

“They only wanted the Wii, but I also sold em’ five games and two remotes,” Black said gleefully.

These are the kinds of experiences that Black has on a daily basis.  He sells video games.  He’s the manager of a local video game store in Coralville called Video Games ETC. Black describes himself as very competitive, saying that he wants to set an example for his coworkers.

“Our main goal as employees is to provide a service to customers.  A lot of people are unfamiliar with video games and it’s our job to help them figure out what they want,” Black said.

Driven by a love for video games, Black enjoys not only getting to talk about games with customers, but also his fellow employees.

“There are a lot of people like me here,” Black said.

This passion for gaming started at a young age for Black.  When he was six years old he received a Super Nintendo for Christmas.  He would play it every day after school, regardless of the amount of homework he had.

According to Black, part of the reason the Super Nintendo was so fascinating to him is it fed his competitive side.

“I would practice every day at Super Mario Kart.  I had to beat my older brother, I just had to,” Black said.

Competition wasn’t what made gaming a passion however.  It was in-depth role-playing games that would keep him coming back to the controller for years to come.  Role-playing games focus on story and characters to draw you into a world.

“I remember playing Final Fantasy II on the Super Nintendo for the first time.  I had never encountered a game quite like it before.  It blew me away,” Black said.  “I love the feeling of getting immersed in a game like Final Fantasy.”

An element of role-playing games that Black said carries over into his work is problem solving.  On a typical day, he starts out with bookwork and then has to figure out how the store will be successful for the day.  Every day is different, he has to account for big game releases, or a new system launch, or even simply if a holiday is approaching.

Because some days demand more than others, Black says that he has to divide them into two different categories, training days and selling days.

“There are some days where there is just simply too much going on to try to explain new store polices, or make sure everyone is doing the right thing,” Black said.  “Some days we just have to get out there and push merchandise.”

Unfortunately pushing merchandise is also where Black thinks he encounters his biggest challenge, customer service.  Whether it’s people trying to talk him into lowering prices, attempting to sell stolen merchandise, or swearing in the store, Black says he always has to keep a close watch on what’s going on.

“The most difficult thing is trying to explain cash refunds to people.  If you open a product and use it, we can’t sell it as new anymore.  So we can’t give you your cash back,” Black said.

Another problem, and a thing Black said he would like to change, would be how the store handles their trade-in program.  Trade-in is something the store offers where customers can bring in their used merchandise for either cash or in-store credit.  Used merchandise is the most profitable thing at Video Games ETC. according to Black.

“We hardly make any money on new stuff, our priority and our specialty has and always will be used merchandise,” Black said.

If the store could be more discrete with what they take in, Black thinks they could be even more profitable with their trade-in program.

“We give too much for worthless old games and not enough on hot new games.  We have to do better at enticing people to trade-in things that will sell and discourage them from bringing in things that won’t,” Black said.

Even with offering lower prices by selling used merchandise, brick and mortar video game stores may not be around forever thanks to digital distribution.  Though in its infancy with games, services like Steam, Xbox Live, Playstation Network and WiiWare have proven that digital is the future.  Black agrees, and thinks that this is the way retailers need to start seeing the game market.

“Nobody likes change, but it is easier and more convenient.  It will probably be cheaper because of not needing raw materials to make the disc and case.  I definitely think we are moving towards and will eventually be 100 percent digital.”


Kasey Black audio interview


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