I love RadioShack

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Yesterday, our VCR finally got dirty enough to need a head cleaning, and no amount of turning the house upside-down revealed our VCR head cleaner. (Before you chuckle at my maintaining technology as old as a VCR, I encourage you to compare the robustness and ease-of-use of VHS tapes with DVDs. My autistic son has no problem starting VHS movies, but is easily lost in the menus DVDs blithely present upon insertion. We’ll get him used to DVDs eventually, but for now, we need to clean the VCR.)

I called a number of stores and examined a number of web sites: Blockbuster, Staples, CVS, Best Buy, Walgreens. None had anything that would help. Asking at each store, the clerk suggested another option I had already tried, until someone finally said RadioShack.

Sure enough, RadioShack stocks VHS head cleaners, and their web site knew that my local store had one in stock. 30 minutes later, we were cleaning the heads, and now the movies are playing again.

Last summer, when we went to Colorado, we left behind a charger, I think for a cell phone. We found a RadioShack in Crested Butte, which had the charger, no problem. This winter, when we stayed in a nice hotel in Puerto Rico, we witnessed a concierge rush into the lobby and present a well-dressed guest with a replacement phone charger. The bag she pulled it from? RadioShack.

RadioShack is not the coolest store, or the largest, or the cheapest. But it is true to its roots — they still have a section devoted to resistors and breadboards, for example. They do a great job stocking the odds and ends of technology that no one wants to shop for, but when you need them, you need them. Time and again, RadioShack is the place I go not because I am psyched to make a purchase, but because if they don’t have it, I am screwed.

I don’t know if that is a good niche to occupy in business. I know accessories are very profitable, so maybe it bodes well for RadioShack. They seem to be healthy, even having an iPod display in the store.

I’ll try to think of RadioShack first more often. More than once they have helped me to pull my bacon out of the fire.

» 11 reactions

Comments

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Stanley Seibert 7:57 PM on 27 May 2008

I am immediately reminded of The Onion article:
Even CEO Can't Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business

(amusingly, this is the 4th hit for "Radio Shack" on Google now)

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Scott Schwab 10:13 PM on 27 May 2008

I know what you mean about Radio Shack having those odd little things you need, the old style hardware store for electronics. It has saved me so many times, I always try to shop there. Even if it is a bit more then a box store, I think keeping the one down the street open is a handy thing.

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Nate 11:53 PM on 27 May 2008

They're always my first thought when I need an adapter, power cord, charger, etc. Definitely saved my butt on many occasions. One very good use is AC adapters... they have parts that can be assembled to power just about anything with any size cord hole (that's a technical term). Got one for my KVM switch that didn't come with an AC adapter for some reason.

So yeah, they're very good at what they do, and I would be very sad if there wasn't one nearby.

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Roger Binns 1:39 AM on 28 May 2008

You can use software such as DVDShrink (Windows or Wine) or k9copy/dvd::rip (Linux, possibly Mac) to produce remastered DVDs that just jump straight into playing the episodes/title of your choice without any interaction other than putting the burned disc in the player. As a bonus the original disc can be kept safely out of reach.

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susan senator 6:04 AM on 28 May 2008

Thank you Roger!
As the mother here, I need to explain that even though your advice is very good, our autistic son would still prefer videos because that is what he has known for his entire (18 year) life. But we will work towards weaning him off the vids.

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Cathy in CT 6:30 AM on 28 May 2008

Radio Shack saved my tush by providing a replacement power cord that enabled our 5-year old autistic son to (quietly) watch DVDs the entire plane ride from East Coast to Hawaii! (Maybe we can get them to be an "Official Sponsor of Autism")?

They do seem to sort of meld into the landscape though... I drive by them all over the place without even noticing.

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infidel 12:08 PM on 28 May 2008

I used to work at a RadioShack and it was very different then than it is now. Now they carry iPods and Sony this and Panasonic that. There was very little name-brand stuff ten years ago. Nearly all the televisions and stereo equipment were labeled Optimus. I suppose they had to adapt or perish with iPods and digital cameras, etc.

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Fredrik 1:56 AM on 29 May 2008

Ripping to DVD:s? People, it's 2008. If your son is more interested in the contents than getting the best possible video quality, consider ripping to DIVX files, and get a cheap DVD player that can play from USB sticks. With the right equipment, just press "power on", select the right track from a menu that looks the same no matter what stick you put in the player, and press play. No moving parts, no disks to misplace or accidentally scratch, and USB sticks cost next to nothing these days, so you can have a whole bunch of them.

(if you have a higher budget, get an open-sourced disk-based media player and have Ned hack up a custom user interface in Python ;-)

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Randy 9:30 AM on 29 May 2008

And the best part is that you can find those 1970s-era parts with a 21st century per-store inventory tracker on radioshack.com. they get a lot of my business just because i can be sure that the Coolidge Corner store has it before I walk up there.

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DeeDee 11:47 PM on 29 May 2008

I know! In Canada RadioShack has been renamed "The Source". But they come through for me whenever I need timers for my son's program. He's 16 and has autism. God bless the geeks!

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Bernard Farrell 12:51 PM on 30 May 2008

RadioShack is great. Especially now that they don't ask you for a phone number any more.

I've gotten small microphones (for Skype) there. I've even had one guy tell me where to go for better quality items than those they carry.

Also LEDs, wire for speakers. Pretty much anything for the DIY electronic/electrical/AV enthusiast.

Note, I don't even own shares in RadioShack. But I do like them.

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