For almost an entire year, pretty much any videogame that I purchased was from an offshore vendor; and if it wasn't from overseas, then it was almost always online. I did some trade-in deals here and there, but rarely did money ever end up with an Australian bricks-and-mortar retail store. The last time I remember actually buying a game at retail was in April 2011. Just weeks after release, Motorstorm: Apocalypse and WWE All-Stars were slashed to half price at an EBGames sale. It was the first time since discovering ozgameshop that new release games were cheaper in store, how could I resist?
March 8, 2012 was the day where my will would break. I wanted Street Fighter X Tekken on day one (and Mass Effect 3, if you really must know). I couldn't handle the seven to (what was usually) fourteen day wait for a highly-anticipated new release to arrive in my mailbox. We are talking about the return of Rolento and the meeting of peanut butter dreams and chocolate reality. My favourite World Warriors against participants from the King of Iron Fist Tournament: this really is the stuff of fantasy for me. There's no chance that I was going to wait.
So I prepared for this retail encounter the way I always would: I kept a keen eye on my mailbox for catalogues from my local retailers, and then sifted through pages of ads for low-quality clothes and cut-price DVDs until I found the gaming sections in each publication. K-Mart and JB Hi-Fi were in a dead heat, offering both games for seventy-eight dollars each. Not a bargain, but nor was it that much more expensive than the more sluggish alternative. Because of their advertised ability to match competitors' prices and a seven day return policy (that I used to abuse fairly regularly), I decided to mark my return to the retail sphere by shopping at EBGames.
The transaction started off well enough, both games were in stock on both home console platforms; there were even Collector's Editions available if I was so inclined (I wasn't in the mood to pay an extra fifty dollars for each title in case you were curious). There was a young man dressed in Ryu's likeness and another in corporate colours screaming "Street Fighter X Tekken.... yeah!" The latter staff member apologised for his enthusiasm and then proceeded to serve me. I asked for both games and handed over the K-Mart catalogue which had the lower price advertised. I was informed that the K-Mart in the Australia Fair Shopping Centre had run out of stock of Mass Effect 3, and that he could not match the price. The best offer he could make was the lower price plus ten dollars.
Now I'm a fairly lazy young man, but when the K-Mart store in question is not even one hundred metres away, you'd best believe I'll check.... and check I did. Sure enough, both games were in stock. So rather than wander back and give EBGames my money in spite of their attempted deception, I bought the games at K-Mart. It's not like I'll be unhappy with either of these high profile releases anyway.
Is there any chance that THIS will leave me unsatisfied!?!
I did confront the staff at EBGames, however, and they were unrepentant. No apology and no willingness to pass on the details of their manager. Still, I got their store number and hit up the retail chain's Twitter account with the details. I have not yet received a response.
So what have I learned? Firstly, if I want a game badly enough to be happy to pay the extra money at retail, odds are I won't be taking it back; so next time, I'll just buy it at the retailer that sells it for the least amount of money. Secondly, there's a reason that I've been (for the most part) happy to buy games online: the service is better, the range is superior, and the prices will be lower roughly ninety-five percent of the time.
How do you buy your games? Have you had any bad experiences at retail? Have you had any bad experiences with grey importing?