Misadventures in Funcoland: Wait… Your Name is What? / Abandoned MerchSeptember 16, 2009
Store: Clinton Twp.
Notable Gaming Release: Driver (PS1)
This story takes place in the summer of either ’98 or ’99. Summer is usually the slowest time for gaming as you probably already know. So it was not uncommon to be working alone during the day at any of the stores, even though the Clinton Twp. store was generally one of the busier ones.
I was working alone… obviously… and was playing around with Driver for the Playstation. It was a great game, kinda beat GTA to the 3D sandbox style of game play that GTA 3 would eventually take to the masses, even if it was a bit crippled, but Driver was an awesome game. The story was advanced through this repeated FMV between levels where the driver would pick up a phone and you’d see him from behind and the frame would freeze. You’d see the guy standing there listening to someone give him his mission over the phone, it was a pretty ingenious way to save resources since it looked like your guy was just standing there listening.
We had started a phone prank war with another store where this guy who was an assistant manager at the Clinton Twp. store was now working temporarily. I think the previous management staff got fired for embezzlement, happened a lot at Funcoland. So how this ties into the prank war was that these mission briefings really sounded like someone just called you and was talking to you, telling you what your mission was. Things like “OK listen up, here’s deal. Now I know you’s a reeeeeeaaaaaaalllll smooth playa, and I like that. I’m gonna need you to pick up a package for me. Meet Pookie behind the shop and he’ll fill you in on the details.” Stuff like that. So we’d call up the other store and as soon as TempManager would answer, just hit play and hold the phone up to the GXTV and let the hilarity ensue. The best part being that TempManager didn’t really know video games so he didn’t really know what was going on. This is also before the days of widespread caller ID. He was a nice guy, but to him the job was just a way to pay the bills.
So here I am, “working” to unlock each mission so I could freely choose which message to play, and the door alert goes off. I pause up the game and greet the guy as he walks up to the counter. Standing in front of me is what looks to be a biker. Like outlaw biker kind of guy. Older, weather worn face, dressed in what looks to be a full on Canadian tuxedo (all denim with a denim vest to boot!), scruffy beard, etc. So I ask him how I can help him, and he has this weird voice, sorta like the creol guy from The Waterboy where he just sorta slurs all his words together and you can’t really understand what he’s saying.
I’m able to decipher that he wants to sell a game, and he pulls out Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire for the N64. It was a fun game that I enjoyed but it’s pretty old at this point and not worth much. So I tell him that it’s probably not worth a whole lot but he seems to just shrug it off and doesn’t care what it’s worth. I recall catching something about it was his daughter’s game but she didn’t want it anymore, or he didn’t want her to have it anymore or something like that. So I start the process of doing the buy back in which I need to get his info like name, address, license #, etc. All that good stuff. So I ask him his name, and this is what I thought I heard:
Me: I’m sorry?
Me: One more time?
Biker: WhoDaMan! WhoDaMan! WHODAMAN!
Me: Actually, I need to see your ID anyway, I’ll just get it off that.
This is when it got fun. He hands me over his license and I now see what his name is.
Hooterman: Yeah! WhoDaMan!
One word, like Madonna… Hooterman. Right there in black and white on his license. I’m not sure if this man is my hero or someone I want to get out of the store ASAP. I went the extra step so I could have proof of this even though it wasn’t policy, I told him I needed to make a copy of the ID to keep with the transaction. I ran to the back, taped it to a piece of paper and ran it through the fax machine to get a copy. Came back up and continued with the buy back. I don’t recall the exact price we were paying store credit for the game, but it was something like $2.50. I told him that and he got a little flabergasted. He wasn’t pissed or upset, just sorta shocked as I’m guessing he recalled paying like $50 for this thing a couple years ago. He finally agreed and said to go ahead and I asked if he had anything in mind he wanted to get right then or to just give him the store credit. He again was shocked to find out he wasn’t getting cash for the game. He took it all in stride and said it was no big deal. I told him about the corporate check option where he’d lose 20% of the value and it would be mailed to him and take like 2 weeks. He eventually just gave up on it and said to keep and it left.
I tossed the game in the abandoned box in the back since I wasn’t about to take a chance at losing my job over this game. See, the way Funcoland worked, they had to make money off anyone they could. So if someone came in with something that we couldn’t or wouldn’t buy and they left it, it went in the abandoned box. Game with a scuffed up label? Put it in the box. Old game we won’t buy anymore? Box. We weren’t even allowed to purchase these types of things straight from the person, make arrangements to do so, etc. ManagerPart2 was cool about this kind of thing though. There was this guy I worked with TheHead, we actually went to school together before I graduated. Real nice guy, but picked on by the cool kids in school for being a dork, and he had a big ass head. He had done parking lot deals to pick up several R.O.B. the robot’s from people since we didn’t buy them. I think last I heard before I left for school he had about 6 of them, all working and complete. He never payed more than $50 for them and even then I think you could sell them on ebay for like $150.
It made sense to us that we could buy things like this. The rule obviously was to keep us from lowballing the company to buy something or claim something was broken so we couldn’t buy it then give the person less money for it. But something we won’t even accept… that was just stupid. There was one time I took advantage of this.
I was working at the Sterling Heights store… the really slow one. This guy in probably his mid 20’s came in with a ton of Genesis and SegaCD stuff to sell. We bought the Genesis stuff, but wouldn’t buy any of the SegaCD things. He was understanding and just didn’t really care, so he got his store credit, bought a Playstation I think, and he left the SegaCD stuff behind to be tossed out. Now I’ve never owned a Genesis in my life, but I know something rare when I see it. The SegaCD unit the guy had brought in was the Type 1 SegaCD. The one that fit underneath the original full size Genesis with the motorized tray for the disc and the CD player controls on the front. I’d never actually seen one in person aside form on display at a store. This one had everything, original box, manuals, all the stuff to hook it up, including the contact plate. It really wasn’t just slap on the Genesis and go to town, you had some work to do to get this thing working.
So I was working alone, and TheHead was coming in soon, and I sure didn’t wanna get busted taking this thing. The guy abandoned it, and I figure hell, why give it to the company to turn around and sell on ebay for a profit? That’s what stuff like this was destined for in the abandoned box. Some things were canibalized. A game woth a lot of money that had a broken cart would be swapped out into one with a good physical cart but the game didn’t work. Boom, 2 free games become one valuable game to be sold. So I took the thing in back, wrapped it in like 8 garbage bags, they were clear and I didnt’ want it known what was in there, and I burried it in the dumpster out back.
Closing time came my plan was to just swing around back and pick it up as TheHead and I were leaving. TheHead actually lived on the street behind me and he wanted to race to the freeway for some reason. He never wanted to do this, but I had recently gotten a Firebird so I think he thought it would be fun. I tried to make up an excuse about needing to go the other way but he didn’t care, he’d go the same way I was. So I finally conceded and we gunned it down 21 Mile until we got to the first turn around (Michigan left if you are familiar, if not, google it.) I cut left hard and dove into the turn around and headed back to the store. Picked up my supposedly illbegotten goods and headed on home.
That thing is STILL sitting in my Mom’s basement, never used.