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GameStop says it’s an ‘essential’ retail service, should stay open during pandemic

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Retailer tells store managers to keep stores open, even in the face of law enforcement

GameStop sign on the front of a strip mall building Photo: James Bareham/Polygon

GameStop is arguing it sells “essential” products, and should remain open in the face of government orders to close businesses, like retail stores, restaurants, and bars, in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to an email sent to employees on Thursday.

According to three sources, the company sent out a missive to retail managers today, saying, “We believe that GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open at this time.” The message from GameStop argues that the retailer carries goods that “enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home.”

“We have received reports of local authorities visiting stores in an attempt to enforce closure despite our classification,” the message says and store managers are instructed to give a letter to law enforcement agents who make inquiries. The document states: “Thank you for what you are doing to keep us all safe. If you have questions about our store’s hours, operations or policies could I ask you to please call our corporate office.”

Polygon called the number listed in that letter, which goes to a voicemail for the company’s purported coronavirus inquiries response. We left a message but have not yet received a reply.

In some areas of the country, shelter-in-place orders have been enacted that call for all non-essential stores to be closed. Essential services that are allowed to stay open generally include emergency, utilities, transport, gas, food, medicine, banks, laundry, cemeteries, and hardware stores. Other stores are ordered to close.

One GameStop employee, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, told Polygon they believe the company is “putting employees at even more risk” by remaining open.

GameStop’s response to the coronavirus pandemic comes in the wake of a general decline in the retail company’s fortunes, including store closures, redundancies and increased pressure on workers to buttonhole customers with used item trade offers.

Polygon has also contacted GameStop’s publicity department. A company spokesperson did not address its policy of keeping stores open directly, but released a statement that mentioned various other plans related to the coronavirus outbreak, including a decision to suspend trade-ins.

Update: A few hours after this story went live, GameStop issued a statement specific to its policy of keeping stores open.

“While GameStop is best known as a provider of gaming and home entertainment systems, we also offer a wide array of products and devices that are important to facilitate remote work, distance learning, and virtual connectivity. As millions of Americans face unprecedented challenges adapting to virtual learning, working and interaction, there is significant need for technology solutions and we are one of many providers of these products that are remaining open at this time. Schools, businesses and families are now suddenly dependent on being able to connect through technology. While there are many businesses and organizations far more critical than ours, we believe we can have a positive impact during this very challenging time. The health and safety of our employees and customers is of utmost importance and we have and will continue to take extensive precautions consistent with CDC guidelines. We are complying with all state, county, city and local ordinances and we will continue to adjust to any future developments.”

If you’re a GameStop employee who has dealt with law enforcement inquiries about your store, please contact the author of this story.