Radio Shack: goodbye
February 4, 2015 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Wire: Dear RadioShack, This Is Why We Adored You. Love, WIRED. "The time is near to bid farewell to that old security blanket, RadioShack. When the remote control broke, it was there. When we needed a cable or 20, it was there. But soon, it won’t be. The company is about to file for bankruptcy. Shares of its stock have been suspended from trading. We are forced to acknowledge that the era of personal electronics championed by the franchise stores that sold soldering gear and robots and had a Battery of the Month Club is really and truly over."

BBC: "The NYSE said it was forced to act because the 'company does not intend to submit a business plan to address its non compliance' with its listing standards of a $50m (£33m) average market over 30 consecutive days."

Gizmodo: "Radio Shack is meeting the fate of many other stores that were wildly popular in the twentieth century, including record stores, comic book stores, bookstores and video stores. Like Radio Shack, these kinds of retail outlets weren't just places to buy things. They were often unintentional community spaces, where enthusiasts could meet up to chat and learn new things about their geeky passions. Back in the 1980s, you could learn how to add memory cards to your PC in a Radio Shack. Or you could meet people from your local Mac User Group."

Fortune: "My grandfather - who is now 94 and who’s got all the zipper machine patents in Google patent search - took me to Radio Shack when I was about 8 years-old. He bought me a soldering iron and we made electromagnets. That was the first time i made something. I cant imagine what we would’ve made with Arduino or Raspberry PI. I guess the combination of entrepreneurial genes and that early time screwing around in grandpas lab inspired me to found MINR."

Mashable: "Amazon would vie with Sprint and Sanpower Group, the China-based investors behind Brookstone, for the locations, according to the report. RadioShack currently has more than 4,000 locations. Sprint is said to be interested in 1,300 to 2,000, according to the report. Reps from Sprint could not be reached for comment."

Bloomberg: "As part of the negotiations, Sprint and RadioShack have discussed co-branding the stores, two of the people said. Liquidation isn’t inevitable: It’s possible that another bidder could emerge that would buy RadioShack and keep it operating, the people said. Amazon’s talks also may not lead to a deal."

CNN Money: "RadioShack (RSH) is quickly running out of time and money. Its leading lender says the retailer in default on its financial lifeline. The New York Stock Exchange delisted its stock on Monday."

Reuters: "The electronics retailer was once the operator of go-to shops for innovators and engineers for products ranging from vacuum tube speakers to the first mass-produced PC."

LA Times: "At a newly retooled store in downtown Fort Worth, less than a mile from its corporate headquarters, camera drones and Bluetooth speakers are displayed next to clunky early-model portable phones and computers. A do-it-yourself wall of resistors, knobs, wire and other parts in the middle of the store is a throwback to its beginnings as a radio-parts retailer."

CBS News: "Take this account from Jon Bois, a former RadioShack store employee, who wrote about having to sell 'unsellable crap.' Once, his store was required to stock Brum cars, which no one in America had ever heard of. That's because they are based on a British children's television series that only aired on Discovery Kids. It also tried selling a CueCat, which was an infrared scanner that read barcodes, but no one wanted it."

The Onion, April 2007: "Despite having been on the job for nine months, RadioShack CEO Julian Day said Monday that he still has 'no idea' how the home electronics store manages to stay open."

Previously on MetaFilter:

2014: boom-Shack-a-lacka-lacka boom (and bust)
2012: The TRS-80 Personal Computer
2010: This is not your father's shack.
2008: Don't forget your battery card.
posted by Wordshore (129 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
Some years back Radio Shack Canada split off from the US stores and became The Source, I really hope they can hang in there but I fear the writing is on the wall for them as well.
posted by Cosine at 4:35 PM on February 4, 2015


Amazon reportedly wants to buy RadioShack stores to better compete with Apple

I am not entirely sure why this would work or be a good idea.
posted by Artw at 4:36 PM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


I am not entirely sure why this would work or be a good idea.

Radio Shack has huge retail holdings. Imagine each of those Radio Shacks littering towns around the US suddenly became an Amazon pickup point.
posted by JHarris at 4:37 PM on February 4, 2015 [29 favorites]


My first computer was a Tandy. 3.5 inch floppy disks, no hard drive. Cost $2300. It was one step up from an electric typewriter.

I think my throw away tracfone is more powerful than that old beast was.
posted by cairnoflore at 4:39 PM on February 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Radio Shack has huge retail holdings. Imagine each of those Radio Shacks littering towns around the US suddenly became an Amazon pickup point.

That is not competing with Apple. That is competing with the Amazon Locker around the corner at the 7/11.
posted by Artw at 4:41 PM on February 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


I guess they could sell Fire phones, for the market synergy of nobody wanting Fire phones and nobodywanting to go into Radio Shack.
posted by Artw at 4:42 PM on February 4, 2015 [59 favorites]


I recently had a loud battle with my local The Source manager, who refused to refund me for some returned headphones. I called him a jackass, he told me to leave the store.

My Radio Shack memories, however, are all lovely. RIP.
posted by davebush at 4:42 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


You left out the best Previously.
posted by theodolite at 4:46 PM on February 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


Clearly this is a case of not speaking ill of the dead, at many other times "The Shack" was the butt of derision, annoyance, frustration and worse. Amazon is not quite ready to staff all those strip mall slots with robotic cashiers so I would not expect for that to be actually something to be excited about, hey perhaps a chain of ebay outlets?
posted by sammyo at 4:47 PM on February 4, 2015


The article says
[...] two people apparently familiar with the matter said that Amazon may use the locations to give people a chance to try its growing range of hardware, including its range of Kindle tablets, its Fire smartphone, and its new Echo speaker.
Yeah, that might not be a good idea.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:49 PM on February 4, 2015


Every time I've walked into a Shack recently, no matter what it was that I needed, they didn't have it. Or maybe they did, but by hiring people who don't understand electronics they guaranteed that I wouldn't be able to buy it. I wanted to give RS money and they wouldn't or couldn't let me. So RIP Radio Shack, you've been a confused and shambling mess for an awfully long time.

seriously though, no flux pens? In a Radio Shack?
posted by 1adam12 at 4:54 PM on February 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


We get a lot of use out of our Kindle Fire as a cheap tablet, but it is very much that: A cheap tablet. Competing with the fancy Apple Store experience and all the premium Apple stuff by showing people a cheap tablet in a strip mall seems unlikely to bear much fruit.

And the Fire phone is basically an ET videogame cartridge.
posted by Artw at 4:56 PM on February 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Somehow, some way, this is Howie Long's fault.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:58 PM on February 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I love that Amazon is still using the Fire Phone tape for their boxes. They must have bought a ton of that stuff.
posted by Aizkolari at 4:59 PM on February 4, 2015 [35 favorites]


Every time I've walked into a Shack recently, no matter what it was that I needed, they didn't have it.

Same here, and the things I needed were things I'd bought there before. Somewhere along the way, they changed from a place to buy electronics, parts, and tools to a place to buy junk accessories for phones.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:02 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also have an unpleasantly clingy sales experience.
posted by Artw at 5:04 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


They always had some really decent RC car kits. Like, me and some friends got the XMods yeaaars ago, and raced them around. They were decently built.

Maybe in the inevitable going out of business sale I'll grab one. If they still sell them
posted by hellojed at 5:06 PM on February 4, 2015


Every time I've walked into a Shack recently, no matter what it was that I needed, they didn't have it.

Also have an unpleasantly clingy sales experience.

I wonder if this is a harbinger of things to come, because these two statements reflect my recent experiences with Best Buy perfectly.
posted by surazal at 5:09 PM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also have an unpleasantly clingy sales experience

Golly yes. The penultimate time I went into RS was 2003 to buy a hand-crank radio and it was so overwhelmingly negative and clingy it took me a decade to go back in, at which time to buy rechargeable AAA batteries which I am not kidding they didn’t have.

I kind of feel like I’m dogpiling here though. Sorry to see you go, RadioShack you hot mess.
posted by axoplasm at 5:10 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the weird things about the shift from brick and mortar to online shopping is how our expectations of value and time have shifted.

Fifteen years ago, had you told a friend your stereo setup was on hold because you needed some connecting cables and you had to wait two days for them to ship, they'd have asked what the hell was wrong with you, when there is a Radio Shack right down the street.

Today, if you told a friend you were heading over to a Radio Shack to get the cable you needed to finish your stereo setup, they'd tell you that you were bonkers. Why pay twenty-odd bucks for something that sort of fits your needs when the exact right part can show up on your front door by Friday for a couple of bucks?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:11 PM on February 4, 2015 [53 favorites]


As a kid, I would pester my parents into taking me to Radio Shack so that I could get the free battery of the month. Being dirt poor, I didn't have anything I could use the battery with, but getting a 9V was a bit of sour entertainment.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 5:13 PM on February 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


SBNation's Jon Bois, who you probably know as the genius behind Breaking Madden, wrote a by turns touching and horrifying eulogy for Radio Shack and hilarious commentary on the 2002 catalogue.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:13 PM on February 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Aw fuck Radioshack no. Where else am I going to get stuff to tinker with my cables now?

BTW, my experience of wandering around the local electronics shops with my boss looking for bits and bobs we needed to build our sound chambers? Radioshack was the only place that a) had much of anything useful or b) had staff who knew enough about what we were asking for to find the parts. I've always had good experiences there, or at least better than anyone else. Now, Best Buy, there's a store that's always been a combination of incompetent personnel and useless-for-my-purposes kit.

At least we still have Fry's, I guess.
posted by sciatrix at 5:18 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of the strangest jobs I had as a college student was the summer I worked in our local Radio Shack. It was strange for lots of reasons, but the biggest was the degree of control that the RS Tandy Corporation exerted over its stores, and especially its managers. They felt they owned their employees, especially their managers, and they treated them as such.

This was in the mid-80's, and most people did not yet have their own personal computers, or if they did, they were still pretty rough, with only rudimentary networking. No "internet" yet, kids, or any sort of wireless networking, that sort of tech was still a good 10 or 15 years away.

Anyway, Radio Shack had this company policy that was both wildly futuristic and incredibly stupid: every month its managers had to inventory their entire stores, and then send those totals to the corporate HQ in Dallas-Fort Worth. Which required, y'know, counting a billion small packages of transistors and capacitors and banana clips and such, and then entering those results into Radio Shack's TRS-80 version of proto-Excel. This whole exercise was kinda OCD and crazy, but not the craziest part. The craziest part was that each store was then required to transmit those results to Corporate HQ via 300 baud acoustic coupler modems. These transmissions took forever, and had a failure rate of, I don't know, maybe >50%? And when it failed, you had to start over from the beginning. It was just nuts, and the whole thing was so cutting edge and unlikely to succeed that being forced to do it just made you want to tear your eyes out. So you'd spend all day taking the inventory, and then a store manager - who was salaried, not hourly - might spend 6-10 hours after work just trying to get the damn inventory uploaded to HQ. And they had to do this every damn month. And in the middle of taking inventory you'd have a steady parade of folks coming in and demanding their free monthly batteries. Kinda made you hate people. And batteries. And especially acoustic coupler modems, and the bean-counters that forced us to use them.

I can't say that RS was ever particularly well run, but it did have a long, long run, and that says a lot about just how much we used to need what they used to sell. RS thrived when the tech they sold was a lot less polished, and the technology that people had in their homes was actually serviceable by knowledgeable end users who had access to a store that sold resistors and 16 kinds of solder and flux. I don't miss a lot from that era, but I do miss the Radio Shack that sold electronic parts and components. I wish it had remained profitable and relevant, because even though it was a bit nutty, it was liked by the community it served. The RS that's going out of business lost its way a long time ago and has no particular constituency. Lots of places sell phone cases and wall chargers, but good luck finding a .047mF capacitor or pack of 100k ohm resistors in a brick and mortar store when you really need one. But that ship has sailed.

RIP, Radio Shack. Some of us will miss you, even if the best parts of you died a long time ago...
posted by mosk at 5:18 PM on February 4, 2015 [34 favorites]


Even as a 10 year old kid spending his allowance all by himself on a $9.95 clearance computer game in a Radio Shack at the mall while mom is in the store next door, I found it weird that they asked for your phone number. Maybe it's extra weird when you're just the kid by yourself.

Normally I bought those at Electronics Boutique or whatever. But once I bought one of those games at Radio Shack and it had ambiguous system requirements labeling but I was assured it was "IBM PC/AT MS-DOS compatible" because I knew exactly what I needed. It wasn't PC compatible, it was some crappy Tandy jibba-jabba (King's Quest II or something but NOT for "PC") but I was too put off by the buying experience to bother returning it, even though I accrued $5 a week, seemingly nothing at the time to a 10 year old in 1991, in allowance.

I did end up becoming an occasional customer for nerdy bits and overpriced RCA cables and the like. Somewhere around 2003 they became too ridiculously expensive for what I would need (odds and ends and random cables) compared to what was available online and lost me entirely.
posted by aydeejones at 5:21 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


And I was probably ashamed that I let a Radio Shack semi-technical-seeming-dude convince me some weird Tandy game would work, but I should've been NERD RAGIN'. I didn't have that nerd rage tendency and still to this day have to invoke it only on special occasions like a firehouse; it was just like "fuck those guys" [grumble grumble] instead.
posted by aydeejones at 5:24 PM on February 4, 2015


I genuinely miss early 1980s Radio Shack, but 2015 Radio Shack seems totally irrelevant to me.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 5:27 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


One last memory. I am old enough to remember our neighborhood Radio Shack having a vacuum tube tester in the store. The catalog used to advertise that if you needed some weird tube, no matter what it was, they'd special order it for you. I did and they did. Respect.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 5:33 PM on February 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


> At least we still have Fry's, I guess.

You still have Fry's. Despite its popularity and name recognition, it is very much a regional chain that, despite having a couple locations east of the Rockies, covers so little of the country to not be relevant at all for most of us. Like In-n-Out, really.
posted by ardgedee at 5:35 PM on February 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


I've had some Realistic gear in my time, but my favourite was a modified black analog delay that a friend gave me. Noisy, but incredible sounds. Wish I still had it.
posted by ovvl at 5:49 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I bought the iPad I'm typing on at RS in 2013. Before that, I think the last thing of substance was a cb in 1988.
posted by persona au gratin at 5:51 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]




I'm also listening to Realistic Minimus 7s that I bought 30 years ago. Still great little speakers.
posted by persona au gratin at 5:52 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


DTMF pocket tone dialer already
posted by mean square error at 6:01 PM on February 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


But where will I buy a new radio-controlled R2D2 when my current one finally dies?
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:04 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


You still have Fry's. Despite its popularity and name recognition, it is very much a regional chain that, despite having a couple locations east of the Rockies, covers so little of the country to not be relevant at all for most of us. Like In-n-Out, really.

Ouch, very fair! I actually genuinely didn't realize they were super regional--I encountered them first in Atlanta and now live in Austin, so I definitely didn't notice they were a Western US thing. I figured they were pretty widespread. Apparently not!

I wish you the best of luck finding specialized electronics on the Internet?
posted by sciatrix at 6:06 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel like RS is an example of how the safe bet can doom you. They were well-positioned to become the patron saint of the maker movement, stocking Raspberry Pi boxes and Arduino gear, hosting meetups, and hiring smart electric engineering geeks to convince bright ten-year-olds that they should give building robots a while. Would there be money in it? Hard to say. So instead they became a cell phone store that paid too little to get anyone competent. On paper, it seemed like the safer move, but it was death. I dunno if the more daring move would have saved them, but at least they would have been unique.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:12 PM on February 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


I'm disappointed that their "Do It Together" campaign wasn't more popular. It seemed like a return to their roots as a place to buy electronics parts and tools, and a good way to re-connect with the maker "community" that had apparently written them off as a place to buy cell phone accessories. Oh well.
posted by smammy at 6:17 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I don't understand is why RadioShack didn't tie themselves to the Maker surge that has been going on in the last 10 years.

Plenty of components, rasbperry pi's, arduinos, 3d printers, and home robotics that would have made the store fun and useful for enthusiats.

How did they miss out on that trend, they could have been the store people go to locally to get things, and assistance making them.
posted by dreamling at 6:22 PM on February 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Plenty of components, rasbperry pi's, arduinos, 3d printers, and home robotics that would have made the store fun and useful for enthusiats.

How did they miss out on that trend, they could have been the store people go to locally to get things, and assistance making them.


There's no way that this market would support 5000+ retail locations.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:33 PM on February 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


I should like Radio Shack; I'm squarely in the target demographic. But once upon a time, when I was about 10 or 11, I went into one of their stores and the manager yelled at me—after I'd barely stepped in the door—demanding: "you gonna buy anything, kid?" Well, I was somewhat put off; I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to buy, only that I had about $20 burning a hole in my pocket and was out of Forrest M. Mims books, which were to me at the time what Playboy might have become a few years later, and I told him I didn't know. He told me to "get the f­--k out."

I remember to this day: his name badge said that his name was Nate. And also to this day, when I hear the word "asshole", it's his sweaty, white-shirted, porcine countenance that comes immediately to mind.

I can't say that I never went into another Radio Shack store; they were too necessary, in the pre-Mouser, pre-Amazon Prime world, to shun completely. But I sure as hell never went back to that one, and even other stores always felt... dirty.

I drove past that particular Radio Shack location a few weeks ago, and a part of me was pleased to see it sitting empty, like a gouged-out strip mall eye socket. I win, you shits.

Radio Shack ran themselves out of business; they did it by underpaying their employees (except, as far as I can tell, from putting them on commission to sell shitty cellphone plans to people who didn't know better), they did it by flailing from radio parts to toys to mobile electronics to cellphones and then back to DIY electronics only when it was woefully late, they did it by selling overpriced junk and becoming the retailer of pure, desperate last resort.

Like Sears, who traded their birthright as the premier mail-order fulfillment company to become a shitty mall retail store, I lament what Radio Shack might have been. I can't really find much sympathy for what they actually became, or were.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:40 PM on February 4, 2015 [32 favorites]


Way back about 20 years ago I used my birthday money to buy a small receiver and some Realistic Minimus 7 speakers. I used those speakers until 5 or 6 years ago, even bought another pair off eBay to do surround sound. They were surprisingly good for the price and size. The only problem was they were unshielded, so you had to make sure they weren't too close to the CRT TV.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:46 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


the era of personal electronics championed by the franchise stores that sold soldering gear and robots and had a Battery of the Month Club is really and truly over.

Didn't that ship sail back around 1990? That's how it seemed to me.
posted by DarkForest at 6:49 PM on February 4, 2015


Fry's? meh....

In Berkeley we still have Al Lasher's Electronics! If that closes there will street protests.
posted by TDIpod at 6:49 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


What I don't understand is why RadioShack didn't tie themselves to the Maker surge that has been going on in the last 10 years.

Plenty of components, rasbperry pi's, arduinos, 3d printers, and home robotics that would have made the store fun and useful for enthusiats.

How did they miss out on that trend, they could have been the store people go to locally to get things, and assistance making them.


Actually, when I popped into the RS store on Market St in SF, they did have a number of either Raspberry Pi or Arduino (or both) kits. Maybe a Bay Area thing?
posted by MikeKD at 6:54 PM on February 4, 2015


In the Boston area (where Radio Shack actually started, in a building now owned by BU), we're lucky to have You-Do-It Electronics, with its atomic-ish '50s-era signs off 128 in Needham. It's sort of like what would have happened if a 1985 Radio Shack mutated into a giant beast (well, for a Radio Shack) and then somehow kept up with the times (every single type of LED bulb imaginable? Of course. 3D printers? You bet).
posted by adamg at 6:55 PM on February 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


My first radio was a flavoradio.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:58 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Source is by far the most unpleasant retail chain in Canada that I've been unlucky enough to have to shop in.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:15 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I worked at Radio Shack in the late 80s - early 90s. I was just out of high school and pretty directionless. I was playing with a remote control car and talking to my jaded manager. We hadn't had a customer in three hours. I asked her what she really thought of Radio Shack and if she liked being a manager. She chuckled and said in 10 or 15 years there wasn't going to be a Radio Shack.

She was close to being right. Radio Shack has been like a zombie for at least 10 or 15 years now.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:19 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


After reading the Jon Bois eulogy aka a worker's account of how shitty and abusive this company is/was to employees, I gotta say, fuck that company so hard. Plus the whole Scientology vibe of being aggressively defensive with "defamers" on the Internet in the past.

I sort of hate reading stories like this because they remind me of what an Oliver-Twist shithole this country I live in (US) seemingly wants to become -- but there's also certain enjoyment in sort of commiserating vicariously, having been abused as an employee my fair share in my teens...more like schadenfreude knowing the company is getting its comeuppance, whether or not the current batch of employees wants it.
posted by aydeejones at 7:20 PM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


What aydeejones said. If you guys take nothing away from this thread, it's that they fucking earned this slow gradual collapse. This is all their fault. I know many people still working in that company, they're going to be unemployed soon. But I would much rather be unemployed than work for that company for another nano-second. Don't forget this is the company that made people come in to work on Thanksgiving Day. Don't forget that usually they were guilt tripped into coming in, because they only have one employee working in a store most days.

All of this talk for the Glory Days Of Radioshack...the store meant something to you as a younger person, fine. But that store that you knew has been dead for at least 15 years.
Fuck That Company.
posted by WeX Majors at 7:28 PM on February 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'll never forget the joy of going to Radio Shack and digging though a big box of magnets, just because...


.
posted by Huck500 at 7:30 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


In fairness they did take a stab at courting the Makers, stocking Arduinos and products from Parallax, my favoritest company evar. But it was too little too late. If they had done it a couple of years earlier with an aggressive ad campaign, and tied in with local makerspaces, they might have found a niche. But they no longer have the resources and have now liquidated all that cool stuff which hey I got a couple of QuickStarts for seven bucks each so whatever.
posted by localroger at 7:31 PM on February 4, 2015


You still have Fry's. Despite its popularity and name recognition, it is very much a regional chain that, despite having a couple locations east of the Rockies, covers so little of the country to not be relevant at all for most of us. Like In-n-Out, really.

Also, fry's stores are in the middle of fuckass requiring-a-car-for-sure nowhere even where we DO have them. At one point i needed some Important Doodad(let's say it was a router that wasn't some crappy dlink, i forget), which happened to not only be on sale at frys, but that was also the only place in town i could realistically buy it. It was that, or ship it from newegg/tigerdirect/etc. I ended up busing to the nearby suburby/light industrial town fry's is in(which also has the ikea, of course). The entire process involved a freaking cross country athletic amount of walking, at least an hour on the bus both ways, and just lots of general anguish.

Radio shack? i could walk there in 20-30 minutes if i wanted to, or take a quick 5-10 minute bus ride.

I'll also take radio shacks annoying clingy(and corporately pushed to be so) staff that will at least try and help you over the clerks shit at frys. Yea, at frys, there might be a chance they know what they're talking about... but they're this weird combination of cocky and apathetic always. You're always the dumb customer who doesn't know what they're talking about, or wants something stupid. If you call and ask if they have something they wont go look for it even if they say they will, they just put the phone down, count to 45, pick it up, and give you a random answer. Soooo many instances of heading all the way down there figuring i could get a substitute thing to find exactly what i'm looking for they obviously didn't even try to look for because there's 40 on the shelf... or getting there and the thing they said was TOTALLY there is long gone. In both instances it's obvious they didn't even begin to try.

Radio shack people on the other hand are like a really eager puppy. They're going to try their bestest to find that thing, or help you... even if they don't understand what you're talking about at all.

Mostly though, i just remember the shows with my band or running live sound when i needed a cable or adapter RIGHT FUCKING NOW and wasn't about to drive to guitar center(or that wasn't even an option), walked 15 minute or so to radio shack, grabbed cable, walked back, day saved. Hell, i could get connectors and solder new cables there. I've bought a plug and socket and repaired a busted off laptop power port AND cable by hand for $3 from there when we needed the machine ASAP and there were no other good options.

Sure fry's has all that stuff, but it's far, and irritating... and huge... and hard to find things in... with useless staff. All i've used radioshack for in years is grabbing quick cables/adapters/parts i needed right then. I get why it's not a sustainable business, and some of the stuff was a bit overpriced compared to online... but i'll really, really miss the convenience.

The only real replacement i can see is if amazon gets that same day delivery to lockers thing off the ground and working for lots of items. It would rule to get say, that weird USB cable or odd stereo to mono splitter delivered to a 7-11 near something i was helping run in an hour. Time wise, it'll never beat putting feet on the ground and hitting a meatspace store though.

Radio Shack has huge retail holdings.

Yea, they have shit retail holdings. In assy, low prestige locations that would generally make even a payday loans shop faint. When was the last time you saw a radio shack that wasn't in utterly the seediest location? All the ones that weren't in some butt-pimple location in seattle closed several years ago, and even those were in run down buildings that looked like they hadn't been maintained since the 80s.

Even their locations in malls are always D grade, off in some little side area next to the generic frozen yoghurt place and sketchy weightlifting supplements shop.

Everyones like "oh, google should buy them" and "oh, amazon should buy them!" when they don't fit either companies brand or image. These retail leases are borderline worthless.

The only argument i could really see for amazon realistically doing this is that they have no taste, style, or understanding of what consumers want aesthetically. They're good at selling and supplying things, but every time they try and roll their own products or presentation it's awkward and silly. Phone? tasteless, silly, crippled in bizarre ways and shows a complete misunderstanding of what people want. Non e-ink tablets? same.

Everything they do that isn't just forwarding along other peoples products is super cargo culty. This would be an intensely cargo cult move.

I saw a really good analogy recently of how target tried to move in to canada. Initially they were trying to do it smart and only open a few stores and focus on a good experience, great locations, etc. Then Zellers, a big chain up there that was dying like sears or kmart in the US up and flopped, and target went "oh, we can just buy out all their stores/leases!" and jumped on it... and opened like 130 stores with no supply chain in place, confused with what the actual plan is. But it was such a good deal! It's all there already!

Any company that buys this is buying a boat anchor.
posted by emptythought at 7:31 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Actually, when I popped into the RS store on Market St in SF, they did have a number of either Raspberry Pi or Arduino (or both) kits. Maybe a Bay Area thing?

The RS's in the Cleveland area have had those for at least a couple of years.

There was definitely a period (around here, anyway) when they ditched the parts/supplies business entirely (early 2000's, maybe?), so I pretty much had no reason at all to go in one - there were certainly better places to get whatever else they were selling. Then about 5 years ago I stopped in one for something minor, just because I happened to be passing by, and discovered that they'd restored the parts & DIY area. But their selection was much smaller, borderline unusable, and some of the prices were so ridiculously high I couldn't justify a purchase even for convenience sake.

Like Kadin2048 and localroger, I think they just got into (or back into) the hobbyist/kits/maker/parts business too late, with too little selection, too high prices, and not enough marketing push to those potential customers. I dunno if a revived parts & hobbyist store could support 5000 retail locations, but I think a pretty fair number could make a go of it in & around major cities, since at this point there's almost nowhere else to buy these kind of things except online; Radio Shack isn't the only brick-and-mortar electronic supply house to either close up or move all operations to the web.

I actually stopped in one today, partly just to do it, partly because they actually (for once) had a couple of parts in stock that I wanted, and the store was half-gutted - all that was left were the small things; the batteries, the cables & adapters, the parts bins, the soldering irons & supplies, the phone chargers & cases. The three teenage employes made a friendly but half-hearted offer of help, and when I pointed out that I was just going to poke around for a couple of parts, they went back to screwing around on their cell phones & joking with each other (as they should be.)

Clearly the axe is just days away.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:33 PM on February 4, 2015


In the early-mid 60's my father would come home with something called a "Heath Kit" and proceed to cobble together weird things like a "Stereo FM Receiver" and a "UHF Converter Box". I still have vivid memories of sitting at the dining room table while he would pick diodes and transistors off a card, solder them into place on a circuit board, and check off the steps in the instruction manual. I can still remember the smell of lead-flux solder as it wafted through the kitchen.
And I remember that those things he put together worked.
I also recall my Dad going to the local Radio Shack and asking the clerk for something like a "Tridiode capacitor interocitor blue/green left handed whatsit" and the clerk, immediately, would say something like "Of course. Do you need that with a two or five prong?". The staff knew their stuff.
The last couple of times I ventured into a Radio Shack the employees were unable to help beyond cell phone plan minutiae.
A sad but not unexpected end to what was, at one time, to me, the coolest store ever.
posted by TDavis at 7:35 PM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


I can't wait to buy some cool shit at the going out of business sale.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:47 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


...annnnd another important part of my personal history bites the dust. Seems to be happening at an accelerated rate, now. Like pieces of me just dropping off. Just a matter of time before I lose an arm or a leg.
posted by IRFH is not dead yet at 7:51 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


RS has been the walking dead since at least the Howie Long and Terri Hatcher advertising campaign. Basically the writing has been on the wall for a very very long period of time and I think just plain inertia and mean spirited abuse of their employees has kept them going for the better part of a decade.

It basically hasn't helped that their leadership has basically been a mixture of inept or crooked for ages because they continually brought in leaders that fundamentally didn't understand the tech industry at all.

It's kinda a shame because it's a local company in Fort Worth and a bunch of people are going to be hurt by it's closing (although honestly most people I know bailed on it ages ago). But in the end even if they had been run be competent executives their business model was basically doomed in the era of Amazon Prime.

It's just another casualty in a long line of deaths brought on by Bezos relentless drive to gain a near monopoly on several retailing sectors, i.e. the death of brick and mortar booksellers and now the inevitable death of smaller electronics retailers (no doubt followed by the death of bog box electronics retailers like Best Buy).
posted by vuron at 7:56 PM on February 4, 2015


I would lay money in the Seattle area ones all become vape and/or pot stores.
posted by Artw at 7:57 PM on February 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


As a former shit-stirrer and political type I always think of Radio Shack as "that place where you can always buy a megaphone."
You have no idea how often people plan out the entire protest/vigil/rally/march/sit-in down to the last detail when suddenly, "hey so does anyone have a megaphone"
BOOM Radio Shack is there for you. $99 and another $14 for the C-cell batteries you'll need to power it. Thanks Radio Shack. You helped me frustrate the provost.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:01 PM on February 4, 2015 [32 favorites]


Home de Pot
posted by aydeejones at 8:01 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would lay money in the Seattle area ones all become vape and/or pot stores.

That's a good point, but would probably only work if seattle and washington would get over their asinine super strict rules of where those stores can be located. Which are pretty much as dumb as seattle's "you can only sell malt liquor outside these areas, but everything else is fine" silly rules.

Probably only a few of them would be eligible for that. The vape store thing would work perfectly with the generally seedy locations though.
posted by emptythought at 8:02 PM on February 4, 2015


When was the last time you saw a radio shack that wasn't in utterly the seediest location?

There's one in downtown Cleveland, which is not quite the shithole it used to be; one in a newly rebuilt (last year) shopping plaza in the middle of the immediate western suburb (Lakewood); one in a large plaza anchored by a Lowes & a grocery on the south edge of Cleveland; and one in Steelyard Commons, which is a fairly new (2007) major shopping development on land formerly occupied by a defunct steel mill, anchored by WalMart & Target & Home Depot.

Admittedly, none of these locations are anything special, but they're hardly "the seediest." I don't think your analysis of their retail space holds up everywhere. And just from doing quite a bit of driving around the country I got the impression that a lot of their stores are in strip shopping plazas in the suburbs; boring and soulless, maybe, but not decrepit.

And those are just the four of the . . . . . *quick count on GoogleMaps* . . . seventeen or so (yikes!) general Cleveland locations that I might reasonably stop in to.

Yeah, that seventeen number strikes me as a pretty silly number these days. A hobbyist/parts chain might support 2 to 5 locations for every metropolitan area.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:03 PM on February 4, 2015


The first computer I saw in person was a Commodore Pet in 5th grade (lawn, get off etc.). I instantly fell for computers and electronics in general. On my walk home from school there was a radio shack and I took to stopping by and gawking. One day I scraped together enough cash to buy a book from there of simple projects like circuits to make an LED blink out of a few transistors and other parts. I remember staring at the schematics and debating which project to do first when I got enough money to buy the parts. It was probably some trivial dollar amount but I never did manage to get the money together. I still regret that a little. Radio Shack in the late 1970's was full of all this cool stuff. You could build anything from that place! It was like a gateway into the magical world of electronics.

I went by a Radio Shack a couple of months ago to get some LEDs and resistors to make glowing eyes for Halloween. A few resistors were like $5! It seemed silly to have such cheap, tiny things shipped from Amazon and I have no idea where else I could get them so I bought them there. I guess it will be my last purchase from them. The store was mostly empty floor space, and they had 3 or 4 people working and almost no customers.

Sad to see you go Radio Shack. It has been a long slow death.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 8:04 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I will argue -- and you might disagree if you enjoy wrongness -- that the TRS-80 Model III is the... computeriest... home computer. The shape is right out of 2001 or Trek and the color is just so... official. It's like Starfleet issued it to you.

I wonder how much mail, in total, Radio Shack ended up sending to Wrigley Field.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:31 PM on February 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Anecdote: I've been in many a RadioShack going back to the 80s. Not once was there more than 3 people in there. I have a hard time believing this "community" thing is a thing.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:32 PM on February 4, 2015


A month or so ago I needed to buy some capacitors for a repair. I thought, "Huh, this is it, this is the time where I actually go to radio shack to buy something for the first time in about 10 years"

Surprise, they didn't have them! I mean, it's not really a surprise. Most people don't need capacitors, much less capacitors in a hurry.

Another thing is that radio shack is the only place that reaaaaaaally tries my "be nice to retail employees no matter what, they have a terrible job" rule. I know you're on commission, but seriously fuck off. I don't want you trying to push garbage on me when I have already stated I do not need help.
posted by Ferreous at 8:51 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


The last time I was in a RS was about 5 years or so ago. I was at the Carvel next door eating a chocolate cone (natch) when I remembered I need some C batteries. I went next door with my cone and grabbed a pack off the wall then sidled up to the counter to pay. When they asked for my name and address. I said to them, "Cash". He said we need your name and address. I muttered something about buying a $5 pack of batteries and I had cold hard cash. He was looking at me like I still needed to provide some information. So I said, "John Cash 123 Main St. [Name of local town] He just looked up at me and said, "Sorry. Thanks."

Never went back.
posted by 724A at 9:11 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm one of those who remembers the glory days of Radio Shack, when the place was fun and somewhere you could get oddball things to tinker with and learn electronics and occasionally blow a circuit breaker with. We got our first computer from there in 1983. I had countless Battery of the Month Club cards. Oh, I loved that store.

I also remember when the place fairly abruptly stopped being that wonderful fun store. Walking in to get a new TV antenna? You're going to be running a gauntlet of salespeople trying to push you to a cell phone plan. Get past those guys, and, huh, there's not really anything you were looking for there anyway. Computers? Hardly any at all. It's just another retail electronics store, a sort of mini-Circuit City. It just wasn't a place you wanted to go wander around in anymore, a place where you'd go in for the fun of it and walk out with some gadget you hadn't planned on buying.

I feel bad for the people who are going to lose their jobs in the process, but it's not their fault. They were just doing the job that Radio Shack told them to do, and now that company is not long for the world. So long, Radio Shack... we hardly knew ye.
posted by azpenguin at 9:22 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


"My grandfather - who is now 94 and who’s got all the zipper machine patents in Google patent search - took me to Radio Shack when I was about 8 years-old. He bought me a soldering iron and we made electromagnets. That was the first time i made something. I cant imagine what we would’ve made with Arduino or Raspberry PI.

You would have made something that blinks lights.
posted by thelonius at 9:34 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


The first desktop computer I ever saw and used was a Radio Shack TRS-80. That was a great experience, though I was too young and stupid to appreciate what a difference it could've made in my life at that exact point if I'd stayed with the impulse to learn more (programming, that is).

Anyway, Radio Shack was all downhill from there.
posted by blucevalo at 10:17 PM on February 4, 2015


In the early-mid 60's my father would come home with something called a "Heath Kit"

My father build a heathkit organ (electric piano, not kidney) in the early-mid 1970s. He did a few other heathkit things, too, trying to remember what they might have been.
posted by maxwelton at 10:57 PM on February 4, 2015


There's no way that (the Maker) market would support 5000+ retail locations.

No. But then, what would? There's just shy of 14K McDonalds stores in the US. The store, yes, has to reduce, and sell off some of those locations.

But more than that. It was always Radio Shack's duty to grow its customer base, to sponsor the kind of knowledge in the world that would have use for its products. Imagine if every Radio Shack was like a mini-hackerspace, with paid people on hand who could help you put stuff together? Or help you learn to put stuff together, for internet tutorials and YouTube videos only go so far. Or maybe service busted gadgets you'd otherwise throw away, or put you in touch with people in your community who do? But no, WE GOT SELLPHOANS.

Yea, they have shit retail holdings.

Yep, but when you got 5,000 of them, that still adds up. I assumed above that's why Amazon was looking into them. Remember, Amazon has sponsored pick-up lockers in 7-11s and looked into delivery by drones and other crazy ideas. They're doing everything they can to solve that last mile problem, to buy the capillaries their circulatory system needs.
posted by JHarris at 10:58 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tandys is long gone in Australia.

Fortunately we have Jaycar. I'm not really much of an electronics nerd, but when for some reason it was decided that I was responsible for getting the sound system in the Bar we'd just bought running that was my first port of call. Speaker cable (50 odd metres or so), a dozen or so 1/4" jacks, soldering iron, flux, wire strippers, etc. And some reasonably decent advice concerning impedance and its effect of audio signals. Did the job until we could afford the get some professionals in to replace my jerry-rigged & soldered together from scraps system.

There is something about looking at a tray of banana clips or toggle switches or resistors and thinking what if. What could I make with this. What couldn't I.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 11:09 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


My father build a heathkit organ (electric piano, not kidney)

Good thing too, those Heathkit dialysis machines were pretty janky.
posted by Avelwood at 11:31 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Back when I was an audiophile in the 70's I noticed that RS had stereo equipment routinely priced, oh, about 50-80% higher than equivalent Japanese stuff. Why was that exactly?
posted by telstar at 12:05 AM on February 5, 2015


One day I scraped together enough cash to buy a book from there of simple projects like circuits to make an LED blink out of a few transistors and other parts.

That would be a Forrest Mims book, Bob. Man that guy could explain electronics.

That same article also points out that "By the 1990s, components became smaller and it was difficult to assemble electronics projects with low-cost hand-tools." Very true, surface-mount components sure dampened my enthusiasm. Too, by then Shack had quit printing catalogs, which helped decide which projects were do-able without waiting forever for DigiKey to ship.

Sad sad. Miss those years. On the other hand, there's AdaFruit, and the RasPi 2.
posted by Twang at 12:12 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


When they asked for my name and address. I said to them, "Cash". He said we need your name and address. [...]

Yeah, this. The second-to-last time I was there the guy said, a little too briskly, "phone number?", to look me up. I said "let's not." He laughed slightly uncomfortably and said okay. The very last time I was there they'd given up and weren't asking anymore.

But they spent a lot of years and god knows how much goodwill alienating the shit out of their customers with that and for what? It now seems a pretty safe bet it did more harm than good, as it made me not want to go in there, and I've heard others say the same.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:14 AM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


That would be a Forrest Mims book, Bob. Man that guy could explain electronics.

Evolution, not so much.
posted by pracowity at 12:25 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I knew this day was coming for a couple decades now, but I'm still sad to see it go. Got my first amateur radio license in jr high. I practically lived at RS after that. I can remember when easily half of the store was only parts. It really was a place for radios like its name said. (around then the CB craze was still a thing). With parts from RS I built stuff for my radio setup. Science projects. Hacked my telephone to give it hold music in college. Guitar pedals and other rack mounted audio gear when I was in bands. Might have even bought some batteries. But, just as the hobby of "ham" radio has petered out with the all-encompassing computer age (hams, not-so-coincidentally, call the room with the radios in it their "shack"), so too must RS go into that white (555-based blinking) light. So long old friend.
posted by readyfreddy at 1:20 AM on February 5, 2015


My Dad had to send his failed Heathkit stereo receiver back to the factory for assembly. The ultimate humiliation.
posted by thelonius at 3:34 AM on February 5, 2015


And somewhere, there is a forum of cranky men with cholesterol and amateur radio problems furiously typing about how they made good kit, they could've stayed in business if they'd just stuck to amateur radio and in all-caps WHAT WILL SAVE US IS A GOOD AMERICAN-MADE HF RIG which is basically ham radio Godwin and all that's left is Alex Jones and get your g. d. gubmint hands off my medicare

The last Tandy leather store that I knew of just closed in our neighbourhood. I wish it had been The Source instead.
posted by scruss at 4:01 AM on February 5, 2015


Even when I was an electronics obsessed kid in the 70s I knew I deserved better than Radio Shack and I could tell their gear was crap. Frankly so were their components and tools and parts and wire and everything else they sold at absurd prices. RS brand batteries lasted half as long as Eveready for chrissake. Every other potentiometer I bought didn't work. The soldering irons broke if you held them funny. It was a joke store if you needed real gear like cable with functional shielding. It was all we had in suburbia but I never formed any relationship to RS not based in necessity.

I just ordered a bunch of parts from Amazon to rewire some guitars with active electronics. Pots, resistors, wires, battery clips, etc. took me ten minutes online, they arrived the next day, Fender branded parts that work perfectly, cost me less than a bottle of Advil.

And if you don't have the cables and adapters you need at the gig and it's after 6pm RS wasn't open and what kind of sound guy are you anyway? JK sort of.

Radio what? Fuck them. Ripped me off as a kid, useless to me as an electronics nerd grownup.
posted by spitbull at 4:47 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I will argue -- and you might disagree if you enjoy wrongness -- that the TRS-80 Model III is the... computeriest... home computer. The shape is right out of 2001 or Trek and the color is just so... official. It's like Starfleet issued it to you.

Realistic stuff, tandy stuff, and just the RS brand stuff in general had amazing industrial design for a while. My second bedroom stereo(and the first was also a realistic! combo record/tape/receiver unit i paid $5 for at a garage sale) was this little black on black realistic amp, maybe 25 watts. It had, and i say this having seen some seriously epic hardware, some of the most satisfying looking 2001-esque chrome ringed knobs with recessed black centers. They made everything else around the amp look less cool. The only amp i've ever had that had more minimal shnazz than that was my HK505 with its dual power lights and giant ridged knobs. That thing was more "controls for the laser that kills james bond" though, the realistic was "knobs for the thrusters on the escape pod in U.F.O.

When i first saw this, my first thought was actually "I can totally imagine that with the R><S logo on it". It looks like a tandy/radio shack product that would exist if you jumped forward to a 1989 vision of the present, back to the future style.

The world needs more of that old school scifi, computeriest computer design. I really wish some of those companies(commodore/amiga, etc) had survived and just kept making stuff with their own quirky style up to the present.

I like to believe it wouldn't just be totally generic looking stuff, at least.
posted by emptythought at 4:53 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Without Radio Shack, where will I get my electronics plastered with fake wood?

AND DON'T GIVE ME THAT DIY CONTACT PAPER SHIT, MAN. I DO NOT STICK MY OWN FAKE WOOD.

Wait, what? They haven't used fake wood in quite a while? Oh, shut up.
posted by sonascope at 5:25 AM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


> I think my throw away tracfone is more powerful than that old beast was.

I'm certain that's true while both of 'em are running. But if they both croak I would have a prayer of reviving the trash-80 and none at all of fixing the tracphone. Snails don't beat much, but they beat a rock.

> The last Tandy leather store that I knew of just closed in our neighbourhood.

It has always seemed surpassing strange to me that Tandy Leather and Tandy Radio Shack were blood relatives. In truth I have bought much more from TL over the past couple of decades (for SCA armoring and costuming) than from TRS (the occasional replacement wall wart power supply.)

> In the early-mid 60's my father would come home with something called a "Heath Kit"

Heath sold me the teach-ur-self course that got me my A+ cert. One sweet li'l flower for their grave too.

Jeez, where will I get my wall warts now?
posted by jfuller at 5:41 AM on February 5, 2015


My favorite Radio Shack story is from a couple years ago, when I was there buying a phone they had on sale. I had to wait ten or fifteen minutes for the phone to be activated.

A blind woman walked in -- I mean completely, totally blind (the RS in question is right off a big bus route). She pulled out her iPhone and very clearly explained to the salesman that she liked to listen to shows on Netflix, but her phone wasn't loud enough to hear around the house. Could she get some kind of speakers?

The salesman said, yeah, we have something like that ... And proceeded to try to sell her a $300 TV with a Roku. I can just imagine the bro salesmen cheering him if he had actually managed to sell a television to a blind person.

I was so upset that I actually interrupted and pointed out the $50 iPod dock that was right there the whole time.

We chatted for a bit and she walked out without buying anything.
posted by miyabo at 5:43 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Honestly, though, I don't always get the "OH NO BRICK AND MORTAR IS GOING WHAT'LL I DO IF I NEED PCB ETCHANT ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON?" instinct, because it's more a sign of a lack of patience than of a shrinking, cooling, human-free world.

As a lifelong kitbuilder who used to wear shoes to school that my mother made from Tandy kits and outerwear she made from Frostline kits, and came home to build circuits from the book Things A Boy Can Do With Electricity (which was often difficult because it called for incidentals like the ignition coil for a Model T) and clocks, radios, and computers from Heathkit, while it's annoying that the DIY section at RS shrank to a shelf of badly-curated nothing, we are in the golden age of kits and DIY electronics. It's just a turn-of-the-century Sears Roebuck mail order catalog age, not a shopping mall age, and that's fine, too. Instant gratification is sooo 1987.

Plus, I'm for anything that makes me giddy for the arrival of modern Mr. McFeely.
posted by sonascope at 5:49 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Clearly this is a case of not speaking ill of the dead, at many other times "The Shack" was the butt of derision, annoyance, frustration and worse.

When I was growing up, it was never 'The Shack', it was always 'Rat Shack'. I miss the computer centers, where demo CompuServe accounts could be harvested wholesale.
posted by davelog at 6:04 AM on February 5, 2015




Actually, in terms of locations, L.A. Radio Shacks have some pretty nice ones. Not going to make or break the buyer, but still.

What I don't understand is why RadioShack didn't tie themselves to the Maker surge that has been going on in the last 10 years.

I've used Radio Shack a couple of times for some LED lighting I was building, but Fry's is only another 2 miles and always has what I need - so I stopped going to RS quite a while ago.

.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:15 AM on February 5, 2015


Back when I was an audiophile in the 70's I noticed that RS had stereo equipment routinely priced, oh, about 50-80% higher than equivalent Japanese stuff. Why was that exactly?

Weren't we (the U.S. in general) still somewhat in the "Japanese stuff is cheap junk" mindset then? Like RS figured American-made, or at least American-branded, stuff could command a higher price just by being not-Japanese.


Even if not, though, IME Radio Shack has always had a lot of things really oddly high priced, like they were operating off some kind of assumption of a captive or astoundingly loyal market, that once you'd gone into a Radio Shack for something even vaguely electronic related you would always shop there for similar things and pay whatever price they felt like charging. They seemed totally oblivious to the idea that even in pre-internet days you could go look at home stereo gear and RC toys at a Radio Shack and then wander down to the other end of the mall to the Sears and find a wider selection and better stuff for the same price or less. This was obvious to me even as a kid in the 70's.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:27 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh Radio Shack, a.k.a. Shit Shack. When I was a kid, we had a TV that was in heinous shape (in no small part due to my and my brothers making pretty rainbows on the screen with magnets). My dad, an EE, decided that he was going to build the replacement, a Heathkit. To his credit, he did and it worked. It had a motor drive to change channels - you push a button and a motor whirred and thunked the next channel into place. It had a tip out panel with many knobs for adjusting the tuning and picture, which was no end of fun, and opening that door let out such a nice scent of ozone.

I bought circuit board etching kits and made my own guitar effects in 1984. At that point, you could get nearly all the parts you needed right there. That hasn't been the case for a decade. I decided to start a business making and selling guitar effects and started ramping up the circuit board production and had a lot of spent Fe3Cl2 etchant, so I dumped it down the slop sink in the basement and flushed it with a ton of water (couldn't be much worse that what was in the New Jersey water supply anyway). I learned several thing:
  1. My dad had put in copper drain pipes in the basement slop sink
  2. The Iron Chloride was not nearly as spent as I thought
  3. I didn't flush it with nearly enough water
The result was that there was enough etchant left over to eventually etch pinholes through the copper pipe and force my dad to replace the pipe again. Once he figured out what that cause was. He was irritated, but in his mind the cost of a few pipes was worth what I had learned in the process of running a business at 17.
Speaking of 17, I wrote this for Leslie Harpold 17 years ago. I miss Leslie.
I won't miss Radio Shack when there's Spark Fun, Jameco, Mouser, All Electronics and so on. Radio Shack dug their own grave at the pace of an Egyptian pyramid and now they're sealing themselves in within a chamber full of crap toys and cell phone contracts.
posted by plinth at 7:49 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seems like almost everyone has a personal radio shack story.

I have a nerd badge of honor in that I was kicked out of a Radio Shack in the early 90s. I used to go in and mess with the musical keyboards - They had one with a sampler, and I had recently learned how to burp on demand.

The manager was laughing as he kicked me out.
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:31 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Obligatory Simpsons quote:
Homer: We'll search out every place a sick twisted solitary misfit might run to.
Lisa: I'll start with Radio Shack!
posted by Gelatin at 8:35 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, Jon Bois worked at the Radio Shack I was kicked out of. For all I know, he's the guy who did it.
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:44 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Went to a college alumni meetup last week for the first time ever. Met a guy who graduated about 5 years ahead of me who had worked for RS as an accountant most of his career, so, in his early 50s. Once he said who he worked for, there was a sort of weird embarrassed pause from the rest of us. All of us thinking You poor bastard.

He has been railing against the stupidity for decades apparently, while dodging an incredible number of layoffs, but to no avail. Don't know why he's waiting till the bitter end; maybe he can get another accountant job so doesn't worry about it. Maybe he's socked enough away. Hope so.

RS would always have employment ads going when I was looking for work, and I'd always look at them, then think: Nah. Better not.
posted by emjaybee at 8:46 AM on February 5, 2015


Every RS/Source I know of it also empty every time I am there BUT:

My young nephew excitedly told me a while back that he has his first after school job, working at his local RS/Source, I told him that sounded great and then told his mother the store wouldn't likely be there for long, she disagreed, I visited recently and what do you know, the store is full of customers every day and my nephew sells thousands of dollar worth of gear every shift, go figure.
posted by Cosine at 9:15 AM on February 5, 2015


Even as early (to me) as 1988/1989 Radio Shack was a weird experience - they had amazing catalogues and kits and components and cool gadgets ... but...

... completely clueless and overly pushy sales staff...

To my personal shame, there was a period of time when one of my geeky friends and I would drop by a Radio Shack on a Saturday afternoon to, um.... "bait" the salesperson by asking them questions about PC's, components, modems, etc, that we absolutely "knew" they would be unable to answer accurately...

However... this has been a long-time coming... Wherever will I go to get overpriced cables, couplers, extenders that I absolutely need TODAY? (Well - we have 1-2 alternatives locally - but nothing covers their range of "old" audio/video craziness)
posted by jkaczor at 9:38 AM on February 5, 2015


Kadin2048: Like Sears, who traded their birthright as the premier mail-order fulfillment company to become a shitty mall retail store, I lament what Radio Shack might have been.

So, speaking of dead men walking (Best Buy, are you still there?) - I think this is a very interesting question. Sears was originally a catalog store - you ordered by mail from a catalog and they shipped it to you, yes? (This is before my time.) So how did they so completely miss the boat on the internet? How did Amazon become the default place to order online, when the internet should just have made Sears' operations even more efficient? "We'll skip the catalog printing and mailing, and you skip the ordering postage - we put it online, and you click what you want, we mail it to you exactly as we were doing..." - seems so obvious. And with the physical stores already there, well, maybe we ship it to you the same day from our store, and you can return in store. Isn't that a solid value proposition?

I know Sears has an online presence now, and I've even ordered a washer and dryer there, but it is a grudging operation, where the online division doesn't talk to the retail store which has the item in stock, but trucks it in from a different city, and when they mess up ... but that's a different story. (Oddly enough, what fixed it for me was tweeting at them - the executive office of the president got involved, and lost a huge amount of money on me. Thanks, new media.)

I hope there's a business school case study somewhere on how Sears missed out on "their birthright", because that seems like another interesting story about how MBAs and business consultants really know nothing.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:52 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nostalgia is a terrible reason to keep a national retail chain operating. But, I'll miss Radio Shack. At least, I'll miss the idea of radio shack. (I haven't actually been in one for a decade, and the last time I did they didn't have the incredibly common camera battery I needed.)

As a small kid growing up in a town without much visible tech stuff, I was fascinated by Radio Shack. My first spark-breathing plastic robot came from Radio Shack. My first spring-connector circuit building kit came from Radio Shack. My first soldering iron came from Radio Shack. My first computer (a TRS-80, bought used from a newspaper ad many years after they were released) originally came from Radio Shack. Once I was old enough to find a mentor and started learning real electronics, Radio Shack was the place I went on a sunday afternoon to find perf board and phototransistors. I can't think of a single science fair entry during my childhood that didn't hinge on having access to a Radio Shack within busing distance. When I was looking for a part time job in high school, Radio Shack was first on my list. (They turned me down for being under 18, which saved me the trouble of turning them down for being slimy salespeople who knew less about their products than I did.)

But, even when I knew them in the late 80s, they were already terrible. The employees were beaten dogs, who neither knew nor cared about the back-of-the-store products I wanted to buy. They were annoyed I wanted them to look in the back for a $4 part. I was annoyed they kept asking me if I wanted to buy stereo equipment. 80% of their shelf space was full of stuff you'd fine in skymall, but made even worse thanks to desperate up-sells and service contracts. All the radio old-timers used to moan about how far they'd fallen from the glory days when they were operated by and for geeks. I was once refused a $2 purchase for declining to give them my home phone number.

Farewell, Radio Shack. You missed the chance to seize the mid-90s Technician-class ham radio boom. You missed the chance to supply the maker movement. You stumbled into a world brimming with ubiquitous palmtop touch-screen computers, fully-automated mail-order CNC fab houses, and software defined radios, and you offered it service contracts on plasma globes and wired home security systems from the 80s. Not only that, but you're spent decades crafting a working environment that makes Best Buy look like a worker's paradise.

I'll miss you. But the world doesn't need you.
posted by eotvos at 10:07 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Don't Buy The Realistic!
posted by Cosine at 10:19 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


RedOrGreen: Back in 2007, Pastabagel wrote the definitive MetaFilter comment on Sears’ failure to seize control of Internet commerce in the early to mid ’90s.
posted by letourneau at 10:41 AM on February 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


And there is this. RS worker accused of stealing racy photos from customer's phone.
posted by 724A at 11:42 AM on February 5, 2015


10 reasons why Google should buy the remains of Radio Shack

Over the first year, Google could manage continuing losses while training up current and new staff on Google products, redesigning the stores to be more inviting, and switching product lines to become more valuable. Apple and Tesla have both proven that high tech companies can prosper in retail. Microsoft and Amazon are both making efforts to get into retail as well.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:47 AM on February 5, 2015


Thank fucking god we got Arthur T back.
posted by maryr at 11:59 AM on February 5, 2015


RS worker accused of stealing racy photos from customer's phone.

Not only was it unethical, he did it in the stupidest way possible.

That's about par for Radio Shack at this point, I guess.
posted by Dr-Baa at 12:48 PM on February 5, 2015


10 reasons why Google should buy the remains of Radio Shack

Again I'm thinking "that sounds like a lot of money to pour into something that would probably fail and lower your brand image while it's at it."
posted by Artw at 1:21 PM on February 5, 2015


They have deserved to be euthanized for over 15 years now - and would have been if not for the cellphone business - but their departure really feels like one of my teen rock gods has shuffled off. The TRS-80 model one (pfft to you johnny-come-lateleys with your one-piece model threes) was the computer that started it all for me. I grew up in a house with an IMSAI 8080 but that was beyond me at that age. The model one I could work.

Radio Shack was where we got gidgets and gadgets and parts and it was one of the places you could go out in society and find people into that stuff like you. It was even better than the bookstore since SF/F was shoved shamefully back in the corner of the Waldenbooks. The entirety of RS was for Us.

RIP, what you once were, RS. You're the anemic and strung-out rock god of my youth, dying far past your peak and after many embarrassing efforts to recapture what you once were. We've spent long years watching you try to recapture your glory and not understand what went wrong. It's pretty much a relief to see it finally happen but it still feels like a big chunk of what we once were going away forever.
posted by phearlez at 2:13 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]




So I wonder what mall retailer is next. Sears/Kmart? J.C.Penny? Macys? Best-Buy?
posted by octothorpe at 2:51 PM on February 5, 2015


What I don't understand is why Radio Shack didn't tie themselves to the Maker surge

The retailer Makers really need stateside is Tokyu Hands. Japan, you've answered our prayers, now we have a few Muji stores. So please, can we also have a Tokyu Hands?
posted by Rash at 4:39 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


As one of those people who always gave a fake name, Jonathon Shade wishes good luck to the employees.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:26 PM on February 5, 2015


.
posted by homunculus at 5:29 PM on February 5, 2015


The last time I was in one of their stores I thought, "Geez, with all the damn phone accessories, they should just call the place the friggin' Accessories Shack." In hindsight, maybe that's what they should have done and just embraced what they had become. Instead of phones and a few televisions, they should have just concentrated on the high margin accessories for all your electronics. Need a digital antennea for your TV? We've got it. Charge cable for you laptop? We're your place. Instead they treated all that stuff as an after thought; which is exactly how consumers treated their stores.
posted by dances with hamsters at 5:47 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]




It should be remembered that Chapter 11 bankruptcy is for reorganization, and while this will hurt them, there's a chance they could use this to get rid of a lot of dead weight and come back stronger, perhaps better. They're not dead yet.
posted by JHarris at 8:48 PM on February 5, 2015


Well, Chapter 11 is an effort at reorganization. The creditors still have to be satisfied somehow and their load may be such that nothing other than completely parceling out the buffalo will come close to doing so.
posted by phearlez at 8:39 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm with sonascope (now I get that name!) . . . *This* is the golden age of hobbyist electronics, with computer processing power now reduced to a cheap commodity and a vast, practically infinite selection of parts, kits, tools, demos, lessons, projects, schematics, videos, communities -- that scene is thriving like never before.
posted by spitbull at 2:16 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've said it before and I'll say it again: the maker movement vastly overestimates it's size and ability to support a place like radio shack.
posted by Ferreous at 2:37 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, what the hell could support a place like Radio Shack? I mean sheesh, McDonald's sells food and only has about three times as many stores in the US. Really, your statement says more about the weirdness of Radio Shack than the smallness of the maker movement.
posted by JHarris at 4:10 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


No idea. It is surreal how many of them there are. There are three in this two bit town; though I guess a shambling hulk that doesn't know it's dead yet is a great metaphor for here.
posted by Ferreous at 6:14 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Many of our local stores are going to remain open, and will be restocking. Stopped in at one today and the guy there heard it yesterday morning.

Going into Chapter 11 allows them to close stores they couldn't before due to reasons (I don't really know, leases, maybe?).
posted by one weird trick at 7:19 PM on February 7, 2015


Retail leases are traditionally long, supposedly because retail landlords are very risk adverse. There was an article recently about how the Halloween story phenomenon reflects retail uncertainty; I feel like it was even on metafilter.
posted by phearlez at 11:47 AM on February 8, 2015


I mean sheesh, McDonald's sells food and only has about three times as many stores in the US.
While I don't disagree with the conclusion, that doesn't seem an entirely fair comparison. McDonalds is one among dozens of indistinguishable chain restaurants, and they're competing with a comparable number of independent businesses and (at some level) the entire grocery industry.

Outside of a few major cities that still have brick and mortar electronics shops, Radio Shack is pretty much unique, except to the extent that they overlap with cell-phone stores and television stores. It may well be absolutely true that keeping thousands of stores afloat on arduino kits and 3D-printer filament isn't viable. But, it's also true that everyone I know spends an average of several hundred dollars per year on consumer electronics. They just don't buy them at Radio Shack.

14 thousand McDonalds is one store for every 22 thousand US residents. 32 billion in sales (in 2010) is about $100/person/year spent at US McDonalds. (Which seems a rediculous number. There must be a lot of people who never eat anywhere else.) And they have more staff and presumably sell much lower margin merchandise.

If there are 1/3 as many Radio Shacks, and we assume the profit margin is something like twice that of McDonalds (which seems to be 15-20%, depending on the year), then we're talking about something like $15/person/year for McDonalds-equivalent revenue per store.

Radio Shack's reported 3rd quarter sales from Dec 2014 were $2.06B for 39 months. That works out to abour $8/person/year in the US. So, they're only short by about a factor of 2 of what they'd need to look like McDonalds.

It's clear the 0.2% US population who are Ham Radio operators, a large fraction of whom don't actually spend any time or money on the hobby, can't come close to sustaining that difference. You'd have to sell every ham an $8K rig every year to sustain that many stores. Maker movement folks and people doing professional hardware work may be a similar sized group. (A quick search doesn't turn up much data, but it must exist.)

But, it's not a completely crazy number. If they managed to sell a laptop, DSLR camera, oscilloscope, or CNC router to a few percent of the population every few years, they'd be set. Same if they were able to sell a pair of headphones, an audio player, a single-board pc, or a cell phone battery to a few 10s of percent of us every year.

If you ask me, there probably should be fewer Radio Shacks. But, I also never would have imagined that the two blocks around my home could possibly sustain four cell phone stores and six dry cleaners.
posted by eotvos at 2:43 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Last Week Tonight has returned. A short piece they did on Radio Shack. Very NSFW.
posted by Wordshore at 4:46 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I asked my friend who works for Sparkfun here in Boulder about what RS going bankrupt means for their business and he just shrugged. Honestly RS hasn't been relevant to his demographic for over a decade, possibly ever.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:05 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sparkfun is very much the company Radio Shack should have become, were it possible to support in retail instead of by mail. They aren't completists like Mouser or DigiKey but they make a point of having all the stuff you need to do a variety of practical projects.
posted by localroger at 12:11 PM on February 11, 2015


« Older A database of average home price by street name   |   Neville Brody rebrands his studio after 20 years Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments