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Florida County Mandates Fingerprints to Sell Videogames

June 2, 2009
Stephen C. Webster
Raw Story
June 2, 2009

For many young Americans, reselling video games to pick up the newest, latest and greatest is simply the only choice to keep up with the fast-paced, high-dollar industry (which is about to kick off a massive annual trade show in Los Angeles as I write this).

GameStop, the largest games retailer on the planet, has made billions from the trade, building an empire off the business model that one Florida county appears to now view as a haven for criminals.

From the Broward-Palm Beach New Times:

I’m in line at Gamestop the other day, breaking down and finally buying the much-hated NCAA Football ‘09, when I hear the clerk ask the guy in front of me for his fingerprints. He’s returning a game, and the clerk breaks out some kind of form. He swipes his thumb across an ink pad stuck to the counter and then puts his mark in the appropriate box.

What the deuce? “The sheriff’s office has been making us do it,” the clerk told me. “People hate it.”

Reporter Eric Barton goes on to say:

Broward County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kayla Concepcion said the new requirement comes straight from the Florida Legislature, which enacted a law on October 1 of last year that treated video games like second-hand goods sold at pawn shops. Now any store buying used video games has to collect the thumb prints, along with a bunch of other personal info about the seller.

Now, I’ve got a little personal insight into this issue. As a teen and young adult, well before I found myself tasked with the journalisms, I was employed by Blockbuster, Movie Trading Company, Borders Books and Books-A-Million. Library science — or, at least inventory management and customer service — was my forte as a student. (We’ve all got to get by somehow.)

At Movie Trading Company, we had tons and tons of DVDs and VHS cassettes for sale, almost all of them brought in by customers looking for cash or store credit. After about six months, it became quite easy to spot the thieves among them.

I’m talking about people who’d walk in 10 minutes before closing with a stack of Simpsons box set DVDs, or five copies of that week’s big, new release. We had one regular customer, Eddy (a sex offender, I later found out), who offered a couple of us, myself included, methamphetamine in exchange for more cash back from his stolen DVDs. The man was obviously desperate. I’d even go so far as to guess that stealing DVDs was essentially his job.

It was policy that we accept what customers bring in unless the condition was beyond repair, so every time he’d show up with a backpack full of DVDs and games, we had to give him cash. But by the same measure, he had to submit some form of identification. We’d record it, pay out and go about our business.

One day a cop walked in with Eddy’s photo and asked if we’d see him and if we had records of what he had sold us. I told the officer yes, but the management stepped in after that and I never found out what happened … And I never saw Eddy again.

Case in point: That happened in Texas, where there is no requirement for fingerprints to sell used media like games or DVDs. Crimes were committed openly and law enforcement (apparently) worked. It wasn’t that difficult.

Surely Florida does not lack basic law enforcement capabilities. Why should such draconian measures be necessary just to trade in a video game?

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