Would you kindly…?

As in any retail job, sometimes you have to kick people out of the store at the end of the day, whether they’re just oblivious to the time of night or don’t care enough about wasting your time. I have two stories about having to do such a thing. Both take place while I was closing the store alone.


#1

Even though our store closes at 9:00, I often start the closing tasks around 8:30, especially when I’m working alone. By 8:50 I’ve generally got everything cleaned up and one of our two tills shut down. A man – tall, broad build, shaved head – has been browsing the store since about 8:45 and so would have been at least vaguely aware of me scurrying around doing all my end-of-day tasks.

When 9:00 rolls around I shut one of the doors and turn off our overhead TV that blares trailers in order to let customers know it’s time to leave without having to actually tell them to get out. The man in the store with me (it’s just the two of us at this point) either didn’t notice or didn’t care about my subtle signs that it’s time to leave, so from my position behind the counter I gently say, “Hey there, afraid it’s time for me to close up now.” He looks over his shoulder at me, then turns back to staring at the Playstation wall with a disinterested “Okay.”

I don’t deal with confrontation well but I also know I can’t have him in here any longer. So, a little louder, I say, “Unfortunately that means I’m going to need you to leave, so I can close the store.” The man faces me and says, “Oh, it’s okay, you can go ahead and close. I’m just looking.”

“What?” I am seriously confused by his reaction. He continues, “I don’t actually plan to buy anything today, I just want to look around, so I won’t screw up your tills or anything. You can close the store with me in here, right? I’ll just leave when you’re done.” At this point I am open-mouthed gaping a little, willing a response to come out of my mouth. I can’t believe someone actually believes that I would be okay doing something like that. When I recover, I firmly tell him, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. You’re going to have to go.” Fortunately, there was no altercation beyond that. But did he realize how scary of a situation that was to put me in? I’m going to guess probably not. So I’ll say this:

Men: you have to be aware of what your actions can look like or feel like to a girl, even if your intentions are harmless. I’m sure the man in the above tale really did just want to peruse PS3 games. But a tall man with a big build requesting to be locked inside a store with a lone girl? That looks bad, and feels very scary.


#2

This story starts very much the same way as the last, except this time the male customer was playing the MLB 15 demo on our Playstation 4. Now, it’s important to note that the PS4 is set up immediately beside the door, so when 9:00 hit and I made a bit of a show of closing one door, pulling in the bin in the doorway and turning off the TV, I expected a reaction of some sort. He didn’t even flinch.

Since I was near the door, I had to pass by him to get back to the counter, and said, “Hey, sorry, but it’s closing time.” which was met with a quiet “Okay”. But he didn’t move at all. I glanced at the TV and saw that he was mid-inning in the game, so I figured maybe he just really wanted to finish with that one batter and would go after that. So I shuffled around a little bit, organizing the walls and whatnot, waiting. When that batter was done, I expected him to set the controller down and leave. Nope. He selected “next” and the next batter stepped up to the plate.

In a bit of a firmer tone, I said, “It’s past 9:00, so I really need to be closing up now.” Again, he said, “Okay.” But he still didn’t budge. I was so confused. Did he not understand that what I was saying meant I needed him to leave? I watched him for another few seconds as he lined up yet another batter.

“So… I really need to lock up now.” I repeated from behind the counter. No response, just a fixed gaze on the TV. The situation had quickly become unnerving. It’s not like I could forcibly remove him from the store, and if I got any more aggressive I wouldn’t be able to predict how he’d react. I thought about calling security, but when the mall closes they’re all stationed by the banks, so it would probably be a long wait for them to respond… if there was even anyone in the office to take the call. I decided to try one more time.

“Look, I hate to say this, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” I was a little louder and more forceful that time. As if I had just asked him for the first time, he went, “Oh, okay.” and immediately put down the controller and left.

Putting me in a situation where I need to get aggressive in order to get you to leave a store where I’m working alone is just not okay. If someone tells you it’s closing time, that means it’s time to leave. Please be aware that it’s awkward and uncomfortable, and girls are afraid to assert themselves when they don’t understand what the possible ramifications of doing so could be.

It’s time to kick ass and chew bubblegum

A quick preface: This year’s hockey game, NHL 16, is set to release on September 15th. Each year a popular or successful player is featured on the cover, and EA confirmed sometime in July (I think) that this year’s cover would be Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane — captain and forward of the Chicago Blackhawks respectively — holding up the Stanley Cup. Now, for those of you who don’t know, a few weeks ago, Patrick Kane came under investigation (with overwhelming evidence against him) for the rape and assault of a woman he invited back to his home after going clubbing. Due to the case against Kane, EA made the very wise decision to pull him from the cover of NHL 16 and instead use an image of just Jonathan Toews holding the cup. This in turn meant that all the marketing materials we had in our store, namely the large ceiling banners paid for by EA promoting NHL 16 with the previous cover image, were removed and replaced with banner sporting the new cover.


It’s a quiet day in the store, with just me and my only female coworker in the store. A male customer walks in and sees me up on the ladder, replacing the old NHL banners with the new ones.

Customer: Why are you replacing those? Something to do with a new preorder bonus?

Me: No. See this guy? (I point to Patrick Kane) He’s currently being investigated for raping and beating a woman at his house. So EA pulled him from the cover and all the advertising for the game.

Customer: Oh coooome oooooooon! Whatever! There are athletes who have done way worse than that!

Me: UM. Excuse me?!

It is at this point that my coworker, who somehow managed to remain much calmer than I, jumped in. I assume she sensed I was about to verbally blast the guy and didn’t want me to get fired. I can’t remember exactly what the rest of their exchange was because I was so angry I think my senses blacked out, but he left shortly thereafter. My fuming probably scared him away.


I really hope that people start to realize we cannot have this kind of dismissive attitude towards the mistreatment of women. If we excuse this kind of behaviour from famous people who are in the public eye, what kind of precedent does that set? It’s a scary reality to live in, as a woman, when you come across people who think that rape is “no big deal” or is something that they can scoff “whatever” at. Until we ALL start taking rape seriously, and treating it as a heinous crime, these kind of apologists are going to continue existing.

Hey! Listen!

When I worked at the car dealership, I was used to customers not believing a word that came out of my mouth. More than that, I was used to them not believing me, then believing a male coworker say what I had just said VERBATIM. So, while I expected some sexism at the video game store, I certainly didn’t expect that. How naive of me, I know.


A man approaches my counter and I greet him with a smile. He’s middle-aged and holding a piece of paper — the telltale sign of a father who has been sent on a journey to retrieve something from the game store. Instead of asking him if he’s looking for something specific, I ask him, “What are you looking for today?” in my most reassuring tone of voice so that he knows I understand he’s a little out of his element here.

Customer: I need a Playstation gift card.

Me: A Playstation Network card?

I should point out here that the reason I correct customers like this is so they know what to ask for in the future. I’m pretty gentle, and good at deciphering parent-speak (i.e. “something in the sky… with dragons?” I instantly recognize as parent-speak for “Skyrim”), but some employees are not as patient, especially around the holidays.

Customer (showing me his paper): It says here “Playstation gift card”.

Me: Okay. So basically what you’re looking for is a card that gives you money to buy things on your Playstation, right?

Customer: Yes.

Me (smiling): Yeah! So those are called Playstation Network cards. I have them in $20 and $50.

Customer: I need $25.

Me: Oh, I’m sorry, but they only come in $20 and $50 increments.

The customer, who had been relatively pleasant until this point, is now looking at me like I’ve just told him the sky is red and I eat kleenex for breakfast.

Customer (showing me the paper again): I need a $25 Playstation gift card. That’s what he wrote down.

Me: Yes, he may not have known that we can’t do custom amounts. They’re pre-made at $20 and $50.

Now the customer is looking at me sideways, slowly glancing between me and my male manager who’s serving another customer at the cash beside me. He looks from me to my manager and back again a few times, then glances down at his paper again, then points to my manager.

Customer: Maybe he knows?

Me: I’m sorry?

Customer: Maybe he knows where the $25 Playstation gift card is.

Me: No, I’m sorry, it doesn’t exist. We have…

Customer: I’m going to ask him.

By this point I was so shocked that he still wasn’t believing me that I couldn’t even get anything else out. I watched in further stunned silence as the customer patiently waited behind the customer my manager was serving, then have an almost identical conversation with him. The absolute worst part was that the customer didn’t even question it when a man told him that Playstation Network cards only come in $20 and $50 cards. Not an eyebrow raised, not a single “Are you sure?”. Just a simple, “Oh, okay, I’ll take the $20 card”.


Sometimes it can be extremely demoralizing to realize that literally the only reason someone has credibility or not is what gender they present as. The customer in the example above had no idea that person was my superior, only that he was a man, and that immediately made his word fact and mine nonsense.

War. War never changes.

A man is standing next to the counter, browsing, while my female coworker and I are behind the counter chatting. Eventually he catches my eye and I turn my attention to him. He holds up a Vault Boy keychain.

Customer: What can you tell me about this game?

Me: Oh, you’ll want to ask my coworker. She loves Fallout.

Coworker: Well, it’s an open-world role-playing game in a post-apocalyptic setting…

Customer: Yeah yeah. What do you know about Fallout 4?

Me: Oh, well actually Bethesda has been keeping the storyline secret on purpose…

Customer: No no! I mean the specs! What specs does my computer need to play it?

Coworker: I don’t think they’ve released them yet…

Me: Yeah, I’m not sure I’ve heard.

Customer (rolling his eyes dramatically): Geez, I just figured you were gamers…

Coworker: Uh… we are gamers.

Customer: Uh huh. I think real gamers would know the specs for popular games.

Me: Well actually, she’s on PS4 and I’m on Xbox One, so we never need to know PC specs.

Customer: Okay. Yeah. Sure.

As he snorts and walks away, I can just make out the word “useless” out of the muttering under his breath. At this point I should probably note that this man was middle-aged — immaturity is everywhere.


Apparently women can’t be credible gamers unless they know the detailed specifications for every PC game ever, even the ones that aren’t out yet.

Stay frosty

Back before our ridiculously sexist dress code was implemented, I used to wear dresses and skirts to work all the time. I would also wear dress sandals, because they’re comfortable, they give me a little extra height (everything in the damn store is out of my reach) and had the added benefit of showing off my tattoos. My tattoos are a very pretty 5″ wing on each ankle (picture the wings of Hermes) and are 100% allowed to be visible. Why am I talking about my tattoos? Well, you’ll see.

In an otherwise normal workday, wearing a fluffy knee-length skirt with cupcakes on it and wedge sandals, I approached a customer who was browsing the discount bins at the front of the store. I asked him if he needed help, but I was also refilling some gaps in the bins, so I was slightly preoccupied as he started casually chatting with me.

It’s important to note that probably my favourite part of this job is getting to talk to customers about video games. Discussing theories and strategies, gushing over a well-done game or laughing over a terrible one is a great thing to get paid to do. However, on the flip side, I also get paid to stand and listen to customers talk AT me, rather than with me, because many customers are not great at picking up on social cues (that I have other work to do or other people to serve, or that I don’t really care how many playthroughs of Pokemon X they got through with randomized Pokemon in their party) or, as I frequently suspect, are lonely. Generally — as long as it’s not insanely busy in the store — I’m more than happy to smile and nod complacently as someone tells me the entire plot of a game I’ve literally just said that I’ve played all the way through.

So I was not fazed by the man at the bins who was commenting on every game I put down. I replied pleasantly, even though I could feel his eyes boring into me, up and down and up and down. I keep my own eyes forward and down, because I don’t really like confrontation and he wasn’t really doing anything wrong. But then…

I guess he noticed my tattoos because he immediately pointed at my left ankle and said, “Wow, you have a tattoo! That’s so cool. Very sexy. What does it mean?”

As I opened my mouth to give him the shortest possible version of what my wings mean to me, I had one of the most bizarre, surreal and uncomfortable experiences of my life. Before I could stop him,

THE MAN BENT DOWN AND RAN HIS FINGERS OVER MY TATTOO.

I know what you’re thinking. I know you’re thinking “Why didn’t you kick him in the face while he was down there? Why didn’t you scream at him and tell him to get the fuck out of your store? Why didn’t you tell him off or explain to him how what he did is super not okay?!” The reason I know you’re thinking that is because I had those same thoughts. All possible reactions coursed through my brain as I attempted to process the fact that there was a man crouched beside me, repeatedly running three of his fingers over my skin. Well, my actual reaction will probably disappoint you.

I just simply walked away. I walked back to the cash wrap where a customer can’t follow me and stayed there until he left the store. He did attempt to continue talking to me, but my replies became so short and curt that eventually he left. I was pretty shaken for the rest of my shift.


If you’re wondering why I didn’t respond in one of the many ways that may have been more satisfying, I should first clarify that I happened to be alone in the store at the time of this event (my relief wouldn’t show up for another half hour and there were no other customers in the store). As a woman alone, I have to be careful how I act around a man I don’t know, because I cannot possibly predict his reaction. I had to pretend that he did nothing wrong for my own safety, because even though it is UNLIKELY that he would respond aggressively, I’m not willing to take that risk.

But there is a bigger issue at hand here. This man felt entitled to touch me just because I was there, politely responding to his comments about video games. Just because my tattoos happened to be exposed due to my skirt and sandals. Would he have done the same thing to a man? I can’t say, but the fact that he used the word “sexy” to describe it immediately before touching me suggests that he probably would not have.

I am randomly touched by customers ALL THE TIME. This was the most invasive example but my male coworkers NEVER have a hand laid on them. While they get customers going, “Hey bro, can you help me?” on the floor, I get a hand on my shoulder. I get my hair touched (it’s always dyed a variety of colours and apparently that’s an open invitation for tugging or stroking without invitation). There is so much behaviour that men seem to just think is okay to direct at women that they would never in a million years direct at men. You may be still wondering, “In what universe could anyone possibly think that crouching down beside a woman in a skirt and then touching her without consent is okay?” The answer is that there are many, many people who live in that universe.


The reason I’m writing this is to make everyone aware that stuff like this ACTUALLY HAPPENS. It’s easy for people to say that women aren’t treated differently in the workplace (or in general, but in this particular case let’s focus on the workplace) when they aren’t looking at what actually happens at all. Maybe, just maybe, if everyone is aware of this kind of thing happening and recognizing that it is not okay, things can begin to change.

Boom. Headshot.

A male customer has been chatting with one of my male coworkers about various good open world-style video games. Every time I try to make a contribution to the conversation the customer looks at me, smirks and furrows his eyebrows like I have no idea what I’m talking about before turning back to my coworker without responding.

At some point during the conversation my coworker has to answer the phone, so the customer wanders over to where I’m putting games away on the shelves. He absent-mindedly picks up a copy of Red Dead Redemption.

Customer: Did you ever play this?

Me: Yeah but I never ended up fully completing it.

Customer: *audible snort*

I ignore the obvious non-verbal shot at my credibility and continue putting cases away.

Customer: Well it’s a really good game anyway. I wish they would make a second one.

Me: You mean a third one.

Customer: What?

Me (turning towards him): You mean a third one.

Customer: *short pause* Ohhhh, well I mean I GUESS if you count Undead Nightmare, though honestly I wouldn’t call it a sequel because it’s just the same game with zombies…

Me: No, I mean there was a first game — Red Dead Revolver, for PS2 and Xbox.

Customer: Uhh… uhh…

After a few more seconds of being able to come up with what I assume would have been a snide remark, the customer walked away from me and straight out of the store without another word to either me or my coworker.


Gamer egos are fragile. Handle with caution.

All your base are belong to us

Today, I am angry.

Very, very angry.

Today I was informed that our company’s dress code has suddenly and without warning changed. For the last two years of my employment there, I have been allowed to wear dresses and skirts — as long as they were of an appropriate length — as well as open-toed dressy sandals. All three of these articles are no longer permitted.

Why?

We were not provided an answer. My store manager was not provided an answer. A little package containing a pamphlet outlining the changes simply arrived at our door. At first I was simply a little annoyed, but then the more I thought about it, the more I became enraged; least of all because of I was wearing a dress and open-toed sandals when I arrived at work (luckily I was not asked to leave and change or anything ridiculous like that). My anger only increased as my coworkers and friends began speculation on the reasons why the changes may have been implemented.

The reason my coworkers guessed was to avoid perverted customers leering at us.

Let’s assume this is in fact the reason for the change. This is infuriating on its face. First of all, that kind of backward-ass mentality is why women still struggle in the workplace. Do you know what message that delivers? The message is “We care more about pervy douchebags than we care about our female employees.” Also, it puts the ownness on women to change their behavior to avoid something that the man SHOULDN’T BE DOING IN THE FIRST PLACE. If anyone has the responsibility to change, it is the company: they should be instructing employees in the store to get rid of someone who is making a female employee uncomfortable, not telling female employees that their wearing a knee-length skirt and sandals is what’s causing a man to leer at or harass them. And by the way, newsflash: I’ve been leered at and made uncomfortable just as many times in jeans and a t-shirt as I have in a dress. While I acknowledge this may not be the actual reason for the new policy, it seems likely, based on how the company has handled issues surrounding leering customers in the past. But if it’s not…

The reason my friends guessed was women in dresses don’t come across as knowledgeable in this industry.

Let’s assume THIS is in fact the reason for the change. Obviously this enraged me because it plays into a troublingly common negative stereotype that “girls don’t know about video games”. To play into that stereotype rather than make all efforts possible to dismantle it by showing that even a girl wearing a dress and heels and makeup can tell you everything about Assassins Creed backwards and forwards (I choose that game because its my favorite) is just wrong. Wouldn’t a game store WANT to prove that video games are for everybody? Wouldn’t they want to display that they don’t discriminate in an age where people are actually noticing and speaking out against this kind of sexist crap? But apparently what’s important in a corporate environment is marketing to what notions people already believe — marketing doesn’t exist to change people’s minds.

Today, I am angry.

I watched my male coworkers all shrug their shoulders as I raged. I was told “calm down” and “it’s not MY fault” and “it doesn’t matter”. No, no, no. It absolutely matters, and not just because I have a lot of awesome work-appropriate dresses that I rock the hell out of. No, it matters because this is discrimination based solely on the fact that women are simply women and they don’t deserve to wear what they want just to make everyone else more comfortable.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

The princess is in another castle

A mother with a boy (around 10) and a girl (around 6) come into the store. I don’t hear everything they say to each other, but as they go past the counter, I overhear this…

“No sweetie, there’s no girls section here. This is a boy store.”

My heart breaks a little every time I hear something like this. Do you want to know why there’s no girls section in my store? It’s because there’s no such thing as “girl games” and “boy games” — and there doesn’t need to be.

Of course there exists a lot of questionable marketing in an industry like video games, especially when the societal standard has dictated for ages that video games are a hobby for boys. But we know better now, don’t we? Don’t we see the hundreds of girls coming into the stores, playing online, discussing that we don’t want to be an invisible fan base at every opportunity? I have a little understanding when elderly grandparents don’t have a grip on how the industry has evolved, but a young mother pushing that kind of sexism into her little girl’s mind? Disheartening, to say the least.

When people ask me for a good recommendation for a “girl game”, I look at them with confusion. I respond by asking what kind of elements their daughter/wife/friend/etc likes in a game, and go from that. The games are labelled with ratings for age; there’s no label for gender.

For goodness sake, are we not past trying to shoehorn people into things oriented around which genitals they have?


Play the games you like, seriously.

Finish her!

A male customer enters my store. He keeps his eyes on the wall as he walks over the Xbox One section, which is directly in front of the cash wrap.
Me: Hi there!
Him: Hi.
Me: Anything in particular you’re looking for today?
Him: No, just looking, thanks.
Me: Okay! Well just so you know, we’re having a sale on…
I’m suddenly interrupted by shouting from the doorway. It’s a girl, holding some shopping bags. From the following interaction, I’m going to guess she was the male customer’s girlfriend.
Girl: HEY! What are you doing?
Him: Nothing, just looking.
At this point she takes a few steps into the store, staring directly at me. It’s a little unnerving.
Her: I wasn’t talking to you.
Me: I’m… sorry?
The girl doesn’t respond further, she only glares at me. The glaring literally continues without breaking until I sensed her boyfriend get uncomfortable and leave the store. Even as they walked away, she glared at me over her shoulder until I was out of their line of sight.


Is my life some kind of terrible movie?

Player 1 has entered the game

I work in a video game store. When people ask where I work and that’s the reply, I’m usually faced with the words “Oh my god, you’re living the dream!”

And yes, I do love learning and talking about video games. Making money while being surrounded by one of my favorite hobbies is fun. But would I say that working in the game store is “living the dream” if I had to describe my experience there? I’m going to have to go with no, but the reason why goes beyond making minimum wage and dealing with young children who hog the demo units.

You might think that these days, women are on equal footing with men in the workplace. The reality is very much the opposite, especially in an industry that has been socially constructed as a “male” hobby. In a job as innocuous as video game salesperson, I get asked questions and treated in ways that no one would ever think of doing to a man. So I decided to start this blog, because so many people don’t even realize the kind of crap that women in these kinds of professions deal with on a day-to-day basis. This is a place for me to share stories and interactions that have taken place in the game store where I work. I think that information is power, and if people understand what women go through, maybe things will start to change. One can always hope, I suppose.

Please feel free to laugh at some of these stories. Occasionally things are so ridiculous the only thing you can do is laugh.


PS. I am not a gamer girl. I am a gamer.