People who have played a lot of GTA Online recently might be forgiven for thinking that the in-game universe's equivalent of the rapture just occurred, not long after a major hacking incident. The problem came as quickly as it went, and while it stuck around it prevented the completion of daily objectives and the tutorial. The issue? All store clerks were gone.
The first reports of this odd phenomenon come from less than a day ago, and since then the clerks have returned to their jobs, however there is no explanation for the issue. The NPCs were just simply missing. They didn't spawn at all.
On the one hand, this wasn't an issue that impacted regular gameplay for most players as the convenience store clerks never really play a major - or any role - in the day to day activities of the average GTA Online player. That is, unless they're part of the daily objectives. Oops.
This was particularly bothersome for players who have been diligently keeping up with their dailies for a long streak only to be cut off now. GTA Online tracks how many times you complete daily objectives back-to-back, and provides stacking bonuses. Keeping up a streak for 28 days, you get GTA$ 500,000, which is a pretty serious payout for low-effort busywork. This bonus is noted in our extensive money guide, which includes a host of other things to keep an eye out for too.
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Beyond potentially tossing 27 days of hard work out the window, this particular issue also messed up the tutorial for the game. At one point, Lamar instructs the player to go and rob a convenience store at gunpoint, however without a clerk to point your gun at, players found themselves waving their pieces at thin air with no result.
Sure, thankfully the tutorial is skippable, but that shouldn't be something players are forced into, especially if they are new to GTA Online. No one knew what was going on, whether the absence of the clerks was a bug, a glitch, the side effect of some new hack or possibly even an unannounced in-game event of some sort.
In the time since the return of the clerks, many theories have been flying around as to the cause of the disturbance. One popular, and overall the most plausible, theory is that Rockstar uncovered an in-game money glitch that somehow exploited the clerks in whatever which way.
Since both the insurance fraud hack and the passive mode exploit required the disabling of their associated systems to get fixed, it's possible that this is now the go-to method for a quick band aid. If something can be exploited, rip it out of the game and stick it back in when it is secure again. In the previous two cases we mentioned, no fix ever appeared that would solve the underlying problem while allowing the exploited systems to remain in the game.
Now, with something like store clerks, that would have been more noticeable. Not only are they part of one of the first gameplay sequences new players encounter, but they are also often needed for daily objectives. Plus, we've not even mentioned how immersion breaking unmanned convenience stores would be, which is even more of an issue considering GTA Online prides itself on its open world filled with meticulous detail.
Since much of the purchasing systems in the game are automated and are often completed through a series of menus instead of done via an NPC, the store clerks don't have much of an essential role in the game beyond, well, existing. Going into a store and being met with floating menu after floating menu, but doing so without any other human being present in the store will shatter your immersion like it never existed.
While the issue was still present, the complete radio silence from Rockstar led some players to believe this was some kind of hidden mission and that they are somehow supposed to track down the missing clerks. Many multiplayer games opt for temporary special events to keep players hooked. GTA Online has its weekly and bi-weekly bonuses, but in most cases these events go beyond mere multipliers, so Rockstar might have thought that they should get with the times.
Alas, the truth is more mundane than that and the issue has been rectified. The NPCs are back from the strike and are open to being robbed by you for tiny amounts of pocket change or significantly larger bonuses provided you hit one of your daily objective stretch goals.