• Across America, non-essential services and businesses are temporarily shuttered as people stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Embattled retailer GameStop, the world’s largest video game retail chain, argued it was “essential” and stayed open until March 21.
  • While the company is still operating a “delivery at door” service for in-store pickup, employees told the Boston Globe that they’re not being given proper safety equipment to operate during a pandemic.
  • In a memo from GameStop’s corporate office, employees are instructed to “tape a GameStop plastic bag over your hand and arm” while handling customer credit cards.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

While the coronavirus outbreak caused all “non-essential” businesses and services to pause indefinitely, GameStop, the world’s biggest video game retailer, kept its stores operating far longer than most and even argued its business operations were “essential” because they “enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home.”

The company only walked back standard operations on March 22, and introduced a “delivery at door” service where customers can order products online for pickup at the door.

Employees still working during the ongoing pandemic say that proper safety measures aren’t being taken to ensure they don’t get sick. According to a memo sent to GameStop managers and reported by the Boston Globe, employees were reportedly told to cover their hands am arms with plastic bags when interacting with customers.

“Lightly (you want to be able to get it off easily) tape a Game Stop plastic bag over your hand and arm,” the memo read. “Do not open the door all the way – keep the glass between you and the guest’s face – just reach out your arm.”

GameStop in New York City

Foto: A Brooklyn-area GameStop store in September 2019. Source: Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

COVID-19 is spread primarily through respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beyond disinfecting surfaces and washing your hands, the number one way to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus is through so-called "social distancing" - staying away from other people so you can't breathe in their potentially infected droplets.

A GameStop manager who spoke with the Boston Globe highlighted the discrepancy between those guidelines and what he's being asked to do by his employer.

"I have to make a choice between doing a job that nobody needs during a pandemic and not being paid, and possibly infecting people or being infected," he said.

Across the last year, the company's stock value dropped by two-thirds - from about $15 in January 2019 to under $5 by January 2020 - and it reshuffled its C-suite.

Like Blockbuster Video and Tower Records before it, GameStop faces major challenges to its business model from the internet. As more people buy video games through digital storefronts, fewer buy games on physical discs from GameStop, leaving the company struggling to modernize its business.

GameStop representative Joey Mooring offered the following statement in response to our request for comment:

"With employee and customer safety as our paramount concern, we've closed all our stores to customer access. Where provided for by state and local directives, we are only processing orders on a digital basis through our new curbside Delivery@Door pick-up service. Only employees may enter our stores at this time. Importantly, all GameStop employees have been assured that they do not have to work if they are not comfortable, or need to stay home to care for a family member. 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."