I should've known better. My son asked whether I could pick up a copy of Super Paper Mario for the Nintendo Wii, on my way home yesterday. I had originally ordered it as a pre-order through Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), but I cancelled it when it hadn't shipped by Tuesday's release date. He's a good kid. He's on spring-break recess. He's bored.

So I did a little e-tail surfing. One of the best things about retail websites these days is that many of them show inventory levels at individual stores. Consumer electronics like Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Circuit City (NYSE:CC) even promote the ability to order online with your merchandise waiting at the store.

I have a GameStop (NYSE:GME) that is conveniently located so I checked GameStop.com. Sure enough, store availability is an option there too. Like a cutting-edge retailer, punch in any software title and the GameStop site shows three levels of availability (0, 1-3, or 4+). The ideal location had it as 1-3 copies of the game in stock, and I was there a few minutes later.

"Can I get a copy of Super Paper Mario?"

"Did you pre-order?"

I didn't. There were two copies in the store -- true to the website's inventory tracking -- yet they were reserved for other customers. I was then lectured about the importance of pre-ordering new titles.

Nice try, GameStop. I could have paid $5 less through Amazon for the same game. Five minutes later, I was at Best Buy, where the game was readily available -- just as the Best Buy website had promised.

I'm a fan of GameStop when it comes to picking up used games and gear. I know that GameStop marks them up -- it's actually a higher margin product than new wares for the chain -- but it's usually a wide selection with some surprises along the way. I just don't have a whole lot of love for the "pre-order" hoops, especially for software titles that are usually readily available. New consoles? Now that is a pre-order must.

I've hit the "did you pre-order" wall at GameStop before, but now I'm wondering whether the website is deliberately rigged that way. Is this some sick "hook-and-pre-order-bait" switch going on to get folks into the store with game-hungry kids? Like the game's own two-dimensional Mario, it's a paper-thin tactic. Maybe this is an isolated incident, but if GameStop's in-store availability feature isn't subtracting reserved copies, it really has to stop. Or is that why they call it GameStop?

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves playing video games but he doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.