An interesting anecdote has appeared on the Consumerist blog. To summarize the story, a 21 year old went to a local Best Buy to purchase a copy of Assassin's Creed (Rated M) and a Xbox Live Gold card. The protagonist of our story had his 15 year old brother in tow, as he was taking him to dinner. Upon getting to the counter, the clerk made a series of loud statements to everyone in line that he was "illegally purchasing a video game for a minor." After a string of banter, the 15 year old left the store, the patron waited in line again only to have the store refuse him yet again, this time on the half-baked theory that the gift cards were "stolen." Needless to say, the customer left the store, went to a different Best Buy, and purchased the game without an issue.
I must say this is one of the worst cases of store clerk vigilante-ism I've run across, and is disturbing on a number of levels. First and foremost, the rating system is voluntary. No state has yet passed any regulation barring the sale of any game to anyone that has withheld scrutiny in a court of law. To have clerks declaring random acts "illegal" on their own authority is disturbing, and the fact that the manager saw no reason to rectify the situation (or, for that matter, also bought into this arbitrary declaration of legality) speaks very poorly of the management of the store. More importantly, it may suggest that Best Buy's corporate policy may need to be revisited and revamped to have a clear, uniform policy in stores nationwide. Second, this particular anecdote rises past the level of restriction I've seen some store clerks operate under with regard to alcohol and tobacco. Should a law ever be passed, it raises serious concern that minors won't even be allowed in the store, which would essentially end the sale of M rated games entirely. Third, it's further discrimination against the medium. Would this clerk have even blinked if it were an R rated movie rather than an M rated game? I somehow doubt it.
While I'm sure this anecdote will make a certain attorney happy, the rest of the gaming community should keep a vigilant eye out to prevent these kinds of problems from being widespread. Moreover, when issues such as these are made public, the corporate offices of the retain store should be made keenly aware that it will cost them sales if they allow their store clerks to harass paying customers.