Tuesday, 23 November 2010

My Time As A Game Store Manager

Its been 8 years since I left Game. Do I miss it? No not really, what I do miss though are the people I worked with. I was lucky I had a great team, all young blokes with a love of gaming, drinking and taking the mickey out of the window lickers (more of them later). So to end my week of gaming blogs here is a brief history of my time in Game.

I started in the Ilford store as an Assistant Manager and after 8 months I got promoted too store manager of the Stratford store. This my friends would be where the fun really began. When I got the store my brief was to sort it out. It had been invaded by the local gangs and they weren't budging. Well they hadn't met me yet!. My first day was me going face to face with the local drug dealers who had threatened one of my staff. Nothing wins your staff over quicker than sorting out an issue. So there I was eyeball too eyeball with two of the local druggies, on my own I might add as the security guards for the shopping center decided to watch from the safety of the door way. There were all sorts of threats being made towards me on a packed shop floor, my Area manager arrived whilst this was going on and stood there watching it with great in tersest. In the end they saw my way of thinking and left the store. This was only the start of the fun though.

I had a Deputy called Mark Foggell. A top bloke for a Northerner, well apart from the fact that he was a total hyprocondriact. He made Dot Cotton look healthy. He never went off sick he just always had something wrong with him. For example one year we got a load of Tango cans too give away as freebies, the small tester cans you used to be able too get. When the promotion finished we could take them home. Foggey, as we called him, came in the next day complaining of stomach pains. After a few hours he was constantly in the toilet. I asked him what was wrong and he said he want sure, so I asked him what he had eaten the night before. Here lay the problem. Foggey had drunk a CASE of this Tango and a bag of Haribo and wondered why he was ill!!.

Another time his girlfriend Nic had her bag stolen from the local pub, she was in the shop when a bloke came in, one of our regulars called Crazy Paul, (you'll see why in a minute), he saw Nic upset and asked her what was up, she told him and he disappeared only too reappear about twenty minutes later with Nic's bag. I asked him how he got it back. I swear this is true, he went into the pub and ordered a pint, he then put a box of matches on the bar and told the barman that if he didn't get the bag back he would burn the pub down!!!. No less to say the bag was returned. Paul was last seen disappearing into the local police station having been arrested for assaulting 4 guys in the car park with a baseball bat who tried to mug him. He was a great bloke really.

The staff were great to be honest, I had Shabs the depressed Asian who was forever being told to have kids by his mum (anyone remember Goodness Gracious Me? The old Asian women who argued over who's son was the best? That was one of Shabs Mum's). Every time he came into the store we used to ask him if she was pregnant yet, when he said no we used to joke with him that it was her fault. He took it in good spirit. He got his own back though, one day a new chicken shop opened, you know the sort all the chicken you can eat for 20p, anyway he bought us all lunch one day which was great, except the chicken wasn't cooked properly and there was 5 of us fighting for the toilet the next day!!. Then there was the other Shabs, the intellectual genius who insisted on wearing a tie all the time. At the end of every shift he would tie it around his head and hoover the shop floor pretending to be Rambo. He was going too Brunei University as well at the time. God knows where he is now, probably running the health department. Colin was my warehouseman. A top, top bloke a real hard worker. Only problem was he had a bit of temper on him.One year we were so busy and packed I had to close the doors to stop people coming in as we couldn't move in the shop. I was at the doors, Colin was in the warehouse and Foggey was behind the tills. We all had walkie talkies as it was the only way we could communicate with each other. Colin got the hump because Shabs kept asking him for the same thing, so after blasting him on the walkie talkie which he had nicked from Foggey with language we wont repeat here, the back door came flying of its handles almost as Colin proceeded too make his way towards Shabs. Shabs saw him and CLIMBED up the back counter too get away from him. Colin is screaming at him, Shabs is crying and half the shop is transfixed by whats happening. Me? Well I made my way over to Colin picked him up and placed him outside the shop too calm down. Not very HR or PC but we were all young lads and it worked for us.

The interviews were the best though. We had too recruit our own staff and every Christmas we hired a load of temps. Three that stand out where the guy who I interviewed and told me he was banned from the web. I asked why and he said it was because he had bought a flight Sim game, nothing too strange here you would think until I delved a little deeper, he had used it too fly the planes into Canary Wharf tower and then posted them online. Seeing as this was 2 months after 9/11 I'm surprised they didn't nick him. Then there was the guy who couldn't work past 7.00pm. I asked him why and he rolled up his trouser leg and showed me his tag!!!. He then got the hump when I said I couldn't employ him, My all time favourite though was the guy I asked what his favourite game was, he replied Cricket, I thought he meant the game that had come out a few months earlier, no he told me he couldn't stand computer games he meant the real one!.

We hired this guy one year, forget his name now, but I went for lunch one day came back and the door too the staff room was missing. I asked Colin where it was and he didn't know. Then my phone rang and it was a member of staff calling from the shop floor asking if I had seen what was going on, on the shop floor, I said no and he said I had better come down. Worried there was fight (this was normal for Stratford) I ran too the shop floor, where I saw this guy standing in the Que with the door!!. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was bored and decided too have some fun. I was going too bollock him but was too tired so just shrugged my shoulders and let them get on with it. Does that make me a bad manager? Not really, we worked so many hours and so many days that we had too do anything to amuse ourselves and keep going through the day.

One time I asked two of the guys too move the Xbox pod upstairs as it was taking up a lot of room. They couldn't get it through the shop floor door so decided too take it round the back. This was Stratford remember. They had been gone a few hours and starting too get concerned that it should only have taken them 20 minutes tops I went looking for them. I found them talking too the police in the car park. I went over and asked what had happened. Apparently some local gents had decided too try and take it from them. What they didn't know was that one was an amateur boxer and the other was a black belt in Karate. They made short work of them and then wanted too press charges against my staff, utterly priceless.

The rats was another good one, we were positioned between Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Percy Ingels and KFC. Apart from the smell which was awful the rats loved it. So much so that they took refuge in my air con unit. When the pest controller turned up he had a quick look, opened the back of his van and told me not too come outside for 20 minutes. He then proceeded too shoot them, 22 of the largest rats Ive ever seen he had in a shoe box. Even he was surprised at how many he had managed too get.

One final story before I end though. Remember the window lickers before at the start?. These were people who stood hours before a game came out, outside your window waiting to be the first too get a copy of whatever that game was. They would stand there with their faces pressed against the glass almost dribbling down the window with anticipation. The girls had Take That, the boys had Grand Theft Auto. It was their obsession. The best of the lot though was the middle aged woman who changed her name too Pikachu, the Pokemon character, by deed pole and dressed like him every time a new Pokemon game came out. She was a little eccentric too say the least.

In the end the hours got too much for us all, 60 a week most weeks, and most of the guys left for other jobs. Angel cake and a can of red bull was no longer enough too get us through the day anymore. It was an experience I will never forget. The people I worked with, the friends I made and the stuff we got up to I have never dared repeat anywhere else. It was a special moment in time and I'm grateful I lived through it and came out the other side.

Would I do it again? With the same team yes defiantly. With anyone else? No chance. They made it what it was and Ill always be grateful for them for that. As I write this blog all the memories are coming flooding back, the laughter and the hours we worked. You cant put a price on that. So Gents this one is for you, no matter where you are now.

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