Buying video games second hand is an essential practice, especially when it comes to games that simply aren’t in production anymore. There are different ways to go about it, from shopping online to finding local specialy shops, to even wheeling and dealing at conventions. But like any market, there are shady, lazy, and otherwise unpleasant characters trying to make a living in this space. Here are some of the worst habits and practices I’ve seen when shopping for secondhand games.
This one’s a real pet peeve of mine. Plenty of times at retail, you can buy a brand new console. There’s a good chance a store will be offering a new game or some other bonus along with the console, if you wait long enough. Secondhand game sellers are aware of that sort of deal’s appeal and sometimes offer console bundles with multiple games. The problem is, in those cases the games included are almost always either cheap, terrible, or both. Instead of six crappy SNES sports games, why not pack iin one decent copy of Super Mario Kart or something? Come on.
When you walk into a retro games store, it’s a real crapshoot on whether or not you’re going to have a pleasant shopping experience. If you’re not after the selection of games deemed glass case-worthy, you may find yourself digging through plastic bins or something. Sure, you don’t exactly make money moving random Game Boy carts, but the least you could do is try not to make your customers feel like they’re digging through sub-Walmart bargain bins because they collect Disney games.
Bad Trade Values
We all hear about GameStop and how bad the trade value is on plenty of games and hardware. Many game stores try to compete with GameStop and offer trade-ins for store credit, some of them even going as far as to give better deals than a retail chain ever will. But some places can be much worse and even refuse games outright. This is a minor one in the grand scheme of things, because if you really want to sell games, there are better avanues than trade-ins.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with reproduction carts. Usually with repros, you can acquire and play games that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive or play rom hacks and fan translations on real hardware. But while the general etiquitte with these things is to accurately label them, that doesn’t always happen. Plenty of people have been burned when making what they thought was a legitimate purchase on eBay, only to find they purchased a reproduction. That sucks.
Once, I found a pretty cool retro shop when I was traveling in the West coast. I was browsing around, and finally found something cool I wanted. But when I reached into the case to grab it, every game I touched had that slight grainy feeling to them. Almost every game in the case was straight up dirty and, while I still made the purchase to support the store, I was annoyed at having to do some basic cart cleaning on my own time.
Don’t get me wrong. It makes sense to sell games at a slightly higher price, especially if you’re running a brick and mortar operation. I understand that and will happily pay a little over eBay prices to help keep cool stores open. However, if you’re trying to get people to pay higher prices at literal multiplied factors, you’re out of your mind. Especially if you don’t even take care of the stuff you’re selling. Which brings us to our next slide and some bad memories.
Sunfaded Games, Are You Kidding Me?
I have seen this not once, but twice, in two different stores. In one, the store inexplicably had fluorescent lights hoisted directly above glass cases, selling games in their now destroyed cases for ludicrously high prices. In another instance, a store had a shelf right in front of its big ol’ glass windows, meaning pertty much the entire shelf of games was completely ravaged by the sun. I understand that you want to show window shoppers what’s good, but there are better ways than ruined product, y’all.
Again, I understand you need to make money and keep your store open. But you’re selling things secondhand. You aren’t having to make any retail partners or distributors happy; you’re making deals based on product you’ve come across and obtained on your own, for the most part. And it’s not like you make tons of sales all the time. If someone’s buying a stack, does it really hurt to ask for a slight deal? Most stores actually will do this, but the occasional seller who just shoots that conversation down right away is always fun to run into.
This is more of an issue at flea markets, specifically. If you do things like watch YouTube videos about flea market shopping, you’ll eventually notice that there’s a sort of person who isn’t there to find deals on things for themselves. Instead, they trapse around flea markets to find earnest deals from people just trying to get rid of stuff, only to turn it around at their own flea market shop at much closer to retail value. That’s why we can’t have nice things.
Finally, we have the scalpers. Arguably the worst of the secondhand market, scalpers actually prey on new items, rather than older stuff that’s hard to find. Whenever a new, limited item comes out, scalpers will do everything they can to snap up as many copies as humanly possible, then immediately turn around and try to sell them for well above the retail asking price. Because of scalping, people who just want to play and enjoy new things have much less of a chance to do so.