Let me start off by saying that there’s almost nothing I hate more than having to write a negative review about a shop that’s doing its best to service the retro community. With that in mind it’s also important to note that when a shop is failing so miserably in its attempt to do so, something must be said; the community needs to know.
This week we’ll talk about two different shops: Console Game Exchange and FX Game Exchange. Similar in more than just name, these two companies were actually under single ownership at one point and time. From what I’ve read there was a dispute in the way the company was being run, so the six stores were split evenly and thus FXGE was born. Between both, with their multiple DFW locations, chances are there's one close to you.
Now, when someone meshes two reviews together it’s usually due to the fact that they don’t have enough for either topic to write a full review: I can assure you that this is not the case here. With the two shops originally being the same at one point, after the split they both still have very similar layouts, stock and pricing schemes. From the Nintendo games being packed in to a glass case to the unbelievable amount of accessories being hung on the wall behind the register, both stores are almost identical.
Let’s start off with what they’re doing right: The in-store layout is exceedingly clean, rivaling only Play N Trade’s impressive setup. Most games are displayed on a series of shelves, all neatly organized by the console they correspond to. Other games, mostly from the handheld systems, are displayed in a glass case with all titles readily visible...the exception to this are the NES games. For some reason, they thought it’d be a great idea to stack the NES carts in this huge, wall-like formation where you can only make out about a fourth of the game titles. Finally, their more rare(and expensive) titles are kept in a locked case, or on shelf in a glass case, all by themselves. I’d imagine that this helps with their visibility but once you see some of the unbelievably high prices they're asking, it’s almost as if they're simply gloating.
They both carry titles from virtually every system you can imagine, though not all locations have the same amount, or sometimes any at all from a certain console. From what I’ve seen they both have a good amount of Genesis, Sega CD, Dreamcast, Game Gear, Super Nintendo, NES, Nintendo 64, GameBoy and Playstation titles. Sort of creeping in, and again not available at every location, they also carry 3DO, Sega 32X, Saturn, Jaguar, Atari 2600, Sega Master System and Neo Geo CD/AES/Pocket. They also carry stuff from the last generation and forward, but again, I’m only in it for the retro.
For accessories, they are like both Play N Trade in that they keep everything together but in plain plastic bags where one has to sift through in order to identify items. Normally this is a very good idea, and as I mentioned in my review for Play N Trade I *really* enjoy going through the stuff to see what surprises I can come up with but here they have decided to keep all of this behind the register...where customers aren’t allowed to venture. So, essentially, it boils down to you leaning WAY over the counter and playing a game of “Twenty Questions” with the employee as you attempt to find something. Not exactly the most customer-friendly way to do things...
Pricing seems to be a bit on the high side overall, with only a few deals for titles on less popular systems ever surfacing. The only real exception to this is are the peripherals...but again, you have to sit there and get the employee to go through the stuff for you. If you have the stamina, and can find an employee willing to do this, you can find some real bargains. The real killer, the thing that hurts the store almost as much as the high prices, is the fact that they *refuse* to give you the box or manual for ANY cart-based game you buy. Found the box for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 on Genesis, or Super Double Dragon on the SNES? You’ll take it up to the register, they pull the game from a drawer and hand it to you and then take the box...that’s it. What they do with these boxes or manuals once they sell the game is beyond me, but I can tell you right now that it angers a LOT of gamers. Now normally I enjoy having the box and manual to go with my game, but I can(and do, often times) live with just the cart...but not at the prices they’re asking. Giving the box and manual to these games, when someone actually purchases them would really help soften the blow of the price. As it stands, it makes the store nearly un-shoppable for most of us.
Finally, customer service leaves a lot to be desired. Before I go any further I think it’s important to note that I’m a savvy shopper: I know what I’m looking for, I know where to look for it and very rarely need any real assistance. With that said these guys take “customer service” to a whole new, horrible level. Most of the time, the stores are manned by a teenager of some sort, usually without any real supervision or manager back up...and trust me, they act like it. The first few times I simply thought that they may just be having an off-day, perhaps the level of service I was receiving wasn’t representative of the way it usually is at most locations. Visiting both stores, and multiple locations quite a few times over the past few years, I can honestly say that poor customer service is just part of the shopping experience at both Console and FX Game Exchange. I won’t go in to any specifics other than to say that the “F” grade CGX has received from The Better Business Bureau is about right on(and I’d agree with that grade for FX as well).
Now I believe in forgive and forget, and though I’ve been burned in the past I still stop in to both stores, from time to time, just to give them another shot...but it never seems to get any better. I just don’t know that I can really say that either store is a good place for you to drop your retro gaming dollar, even for the odd deal on a Saturn game or some hard-to-see peripheral. Believe me, it pains me say it...