Thursday, July 12, 2007

Not a Parts Radio Shack

Radio Shack is going down the tubes these days. This jumped out at me in Norfolk when I ran down to the local Radio Shack to pick up some emergency electronics parts. They had the usual slide-out trays, but they were unlabeled. And unorganized. I opened a few trays at random and found a sparse assortment of unrelated items in each. They had resistors in the same tray as little light bulbs and stereo plugs. I asked the store manager if he could somehow check on the computer to see if they had the parts I needed, before I went to the trouble of digging through every single bin in the hope of finding the right electronic doodad at random. He said they didn't have much of a selection, because they weren't a "parts" Radio Shack. They were located in a mall, so their chief interest was in selling cell phones and calling plans; nobody really comes to their store for electronics components. He recommended I drive down the street a few miles to the next closest Radio Shack, since they were more of a Parts Radio Shack.

The other Radio Shack at least had labels on their parts bins, but they didn't have what I needed either. They mostly sold phones, too. The store clerk expressed surprise that I was even in a Radio Shack store looking for electronics components. He told me that if I really need something technical, I should be looking at Radio Shack's online store, where they carry a wide variety of pieces/parts. This was amusing; if I wanted to shop online, I could find a pile of stores that carried electronics components and had better selections, cheaper prices, and better customer service than Radio Shack. I went to a Radio Shack because I needed parts right away; I don't think I'll waste the effort in the future.

My other Radio Shack disgruntlement came this afternoon. I saw that they had a steep discount on SanDisk flash drives, so I wandered over to the Radio Shack at Linwood Square while the drugstore was filling my prescriptions. I found what I wanted, but it was bolted to the sales rack. I rather resent the fact that Radio Shack assumes we're criminals. It's a going trend in retail, and shrink is a serious problem. Still, I was annoyed that I had to have an employee unlock one for me, and the employees were otherwise occupied. One was busy engaging in a high-pressure sales pitch toward a guy who couldn't speak much English, trying to talk him into way too many options on his cell phone plan. I listened in and figured out that the guy was paying for about $100 a month in services he didn't need and would never use. But, hey -- he got the cheap phone for free, just for signing a two-year contract! I didn't realize their new business plan includes preying on immigrants as well as not selling parts. The other salesman was busy talking someone into upgrading their cell phone and service as well. I waited a few minutes, but neither salesman was interested in helping me, so I left. I didn't take it personally; they also weren't interested in helping the older gentleman trying to buy a camera, or the guy with the kid who wanted to buy a Transfomers toy. Cell phone plans ├╝ber alles!

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