Speak your mind and help RadioShack suck less

radio_shack

We can all agree that RadioShack isn’t exactly the DIY mecca it once was.

What used to be a haven for amateur radio operators, tinkerers, and builders alike has devolved into a stripmall mainstay full of cell phones and overpriced junk. RadioShack knows that they have fallen out of your good graces, and since you are the demographic that put them on the map, they are appealing to the DIY community for input.

They want to know what is important to you – what you would like to see at your local RadioShack, and what would bring you back through their doors. Obviously price is a huge concern, especially with online outlets like Digikey and Mouser just a few clicks away. At the end of the day however, if you require a component RIGHT NOW, it would be nice to have the ability to grab some parts locally.

We’re well aware of the fact that this is all part of a marketing scheme, but if it helps stock your local store with a few odds and ends that are actually helpful, it won’t hurt to let your voice be heard.

Stick around to watch the video appeal from RadioShack’s brand manager, [Amy Shineman].

[Thanks komradebob]

[via ARRL.org]

344 thoughts on “Speak your mind and help RadioShack suck less

  1. I have misgivings about this, I see it as a marketing ploy too, I used to work there (my wife too, that’s were we met). I will be giving all the advise i can, but do not have high expectations.

  2. They can’t stock everything. However, they used to be good at stocking stuff that everyone needs from time to time. If they just had a big selection of switches, relays, connectors, resistors, capacitors, wire, enclosures, and prototyping tools I think they’d be back. Literature and kits would help too.

  3. the problem is that the Niche market Radio Shack once occupied is no longer present. they had three things going for them at the time:

    1: the popularity of HAM and CB radio as a hobby

    2: no internet to cut into their business share for parts, devices, and supplies

    3: knowledgeable staff (for the most part) that could help customers, and sell them stuff they needed. not push crap they didn’t.

    #1 is no longer large enough to support a nationwide chain business.

    2&3 can be found on the net, and shipping is cheap enough to be competitive.

    unless modern consumer devices take a turn for the self-repairable, I wish Radio Shack luck in its continued survival.

    1. All sentiment aside (John) — I think MRC has really struck the truth on points 2 and 3. But I think #1 needs to be expanded.

      The demographic of people needing components is not just HAM and CB hobbyists. I have never been in that demographic, but used to be in Radio Shack all the time. Anybody who likes to tinker with electronics needs components. From fixing electronics to building your own “toys”. This demographic is not large, nor has it ever been. But there are still geeks (like me ;-) looking for components. Old or young, they are out there.

      So I would have to disagree on point 1, I believe the demographic base is still large enough to support the “good-ol-days” of Radio Shack having a store full of components, wires, and various prototyping supplies.

      However, points 2 and 3 almost guarantee Radio Shack will never again be the go-to for us. I can not remember the last time I walked into a Radio Shack and spoke to an owner or staffer who would be able to tell the difference between a diode and a resister — let alone read the color code of a resister or suggest a MOSFET would be a better choice for the amplifier you are talking about building instead of bipolar in your hand! Nor do most of the staff seem to even care about such things. How could the store possibly stock the right components and other items we DIY nerds want when their staff are not even in this demographic?

      But even if they do manage to turn this problem around, Being price competitive with a store-full of components would be difficult. The only way I could see them doing it would be to treat their components stock as lost-leader with the goal of generating more business (thus selling bigger ticket items). More than that, stocking the bigger-ticket items as unique things the DIY electronic community (geeks) want.

      psst…Radio Shack execs….run-of-the-mill cell phones are not it…even though 1/4 of the store space is now dedicated to them.

      1. They need to follow the Amazon philosophy. Sell the real estate and send the inventory to a central ware house then go on line. IMHO that’s their only hope.

  4. It would be nice to be able to get parts locally, i think i’ll stop by there and ask them about this, see what their take is. the manager and i went to high school together, see if i can get any details on what’s in place for this.

  5. The markup on their components is crazy! Same thing with Fry’s. I guess that is the cost to pay for convenience.

  6. I’m surprised and pleased that they are even pretending to care about DIYers. I want to encourage this behavior.

    I think they could (re)make their niche in beginners’ electronics education. Some of the best starter’s books I have were written by Forest Mims III and published by Radio Shack in the early 80′s. Publish cool project plans and stock the parts to make them and they’ll make friends with a new crop of young hobbyists.

    At that point they’re adding value that is hard to find on the internet. Sure you can get parts cheaper on digikey but it will cost you $8 shipping and which one of their 10,000 switches do you actually want?

  7. I think that if they really want to make it, they are going to have to give a little. I think that it would be cool if they had more of the entry level electronic diy stuff, maybe some arduino’s. I would also suggest they get into doing free ‘classes’ or ‘workshops’ doing things like – ‘put together an static LED sign or ‘how to solder’.. something cheap that would engage people to come by, and buy the things they have learned how to do. One more thing – stop trying to sell me a router for $120 that i can buy at Best Buy down the street for $65.

  8. my $.02

    Sell more “development kits” and boards. Stock PIC, AVR, Propeller, Arduino, etc.

    Establish relationships with Adafruit, Sparkfun, Maker Shed, Seeed Studios, Parallax etc. Support these kits with DIY books that can get people started on these projects! (Example would be the 555 chip and the Forrest Mims Books that radioshack used to be famous for. They still sell Mim’s books, but they are harder and harder to find.)
    You could trial a few select products from the above vendors in your “DIY” section of the store.

    Don’t charge too much of a mark-up, or no one will buy them! See it as an opportunity to restore the radioshack name… Right now I think of radioshack as “BatteryShack” or “PhoneShack”.

  9. I call bullshit.

    I think it’s just a way to get folks in there to sell them a cell phone.

    Radio Shack HATES the parts section, folks HATES IT.
    I worked for that company for five years up until a year ago and I’m confident that there is no love for the parts folks because parts isn’t a viable revenue stream anymore.

    While they are shaking your right hand you’d best keep any eye on their left hand.

    I don’t trust ‘em, and I don’t love ‘em.

  10. another $.02 – Sparkfun had a awesome PCB vending machine at the San Francisco Bay Area Maker Faire this past weekend. It was stocked with common Sparkfun products like Arduino, Xbee, Lithium ion batteries, small kits and breakout boards. Granted it was a cash-only machine, it would get people into the radioshack store. Support the vending machine with knowledgeable staff and resources (books or even an online presence) and it would be gold.

  11. Being that I work for Radio Shack….and a tech head…I don’t like it. I find myself pointing out other places for pieces and parts mostly because the stuff we generally sell suck, and its way overpriced. Generally it is a 50%-75% markup. We are focused on getting sales regarding cell phones and accessories i.e. Someone comes in, our DM wants us to say “Welcome to radioshack, what did you bring to trade in?” and they look at us like we are retarded when we say it but if we don’t we get in trouble. Then we are required to get *at least* 2 accessories with phones and a warranty with the phones *and* accessories. Again…when we don’t we get yelled at because our numbers are low and our hours get cut because our sales aren’t high enough to justify the hours. It’s ridiculous. I’ll probably get fired for this comment since they track everything we employees do online (notified of this during last security and loss prevention training) as not to “skew” the Radio Shack name. I know most people don’t care about things like this but it really turns me off from buying things from a company like this, and I work there and get an at cost discount. *end rant*

  12. All of these ideas have to do with building a community. Not just attracting electronic component consumers, but creating them as well:

    1) workshops.

    Have free/cheap classes teaching my kids to solder and we’re probably going to by a few components for them on the way out.

    2) Hardware mods for the non-technical public.

    Offer small fees to upgrade cheap capacitors in Samsung LCD TVs, or to add usb ports to routers.

    3) Maker contests

    Be the kind of place where people go to show off what they’re building, or to get ideas.

    4) Facilitate electronic clubs

    Volunteer a back room and a few breadboards for people to meet one evening a month to work on stuff.

    Help the community learn to appreciate the art of electronics. Do that and you’ll get people to eventually buy electronic parts.

  13. The last time I ever set foot in a radio shack I was looking for a quick ‘cheap’ hdmi cable (expecting to spend around $15-$20). They tried to upsell me on their brand name special hdmi cables for $70 and when I told them I didn’t want to spend $70 on an hdmi cable they offered me to ‘finance it for $7 a month’. I felt so insulted I didn’t even respond I just walked out. I wouldn’t give them another cent of my money no matter what they do.

  14. As a former RadioShack employee who was “asked to quit” because of my refusal to sell cell phones, I say to hell with you. I would never step foot in a Shack again, and I advise my friends to steer clear of your stores on a regular basis.

    Obviously RadioShack exists to shove overpriced and under-performing technology on to ignorants consumers. They hire ex-Sprint and ex-Verison kiosk drones over tech-savvy people for a reason: they want everyone that walks in the door to buy a cell phone contract.

    Use an online retailer or support your local small business. Don’t shop at The Shack.

  15. I wonder if they even employ anyone who can go through the mass of responses and pick out the ones that make sense to do.

  16. I call BS as well. “What are the three things…” THREE!?? Are you kidding me?? Three things??? HAHAHAHA!!

    Just look at the video! It’s a metaphor of their current attitude.. first you see her looking directly at you, then, you get a close up of her from the side, as if she’s talking to someone else. Feel alienated? HELL YES!

    This is a very poor attempt at addressing the total lack of real electronic parts and supplies for the DIY community. It used to be the whole store, now it’s down to a few cabinets with drawers that are usually poorly stocked.

    I wonder just how many real projects she has built??

    This will be interesting to follow up on…

  17. Sell development kits, microcontrollers and ICs from the 74HC logic family.

    Also, $2 for an op-amp is ridiculous. Stop marking your stuff up so much. RadioShack has become a highway robbery for parts compared to other suppliers.

    Partner up with a semiconductor company (like TI or Parallax) to provide cheap access to dev kits and ICs.

  18. Knowledgeable staff would be a great addition. I called all 5 of our local radio shack stores last long weekend. I was looking for a crystal, and a npn transistor (very common).
    Not one person who answered the phone knew what a crystal was, one guy actually suggested I that I call the glass sculpture gift store in the same mall.
    Only one guy knew what a transistor was, but didn’t bother to check if they were in stock. I found out the hard way after a drive across town. Then he tried to sell me batteries.
    I stopped into another store on the way back, who also tried to sell me batteries and found the transistor myself despite the employee insisting they had nothing of the sort. Then he tried to sell me batteries.

    As far as picking a major product that DIYers would love to pick up locally, I think Arduino boards and proto kits would be a hands down favourite.

  19. Ugh… I miss Radio Shack. I used to be able to walk down around the corner, grab some parts and walk out. Now and then i pop in to grab a switch or some small part and i spend half of my time there shooting down battery and cell phone up sales. It makes it easy to not wanna go back.

  20. @j_jwalrus
    Exactly what I was going to say!

    and @Mark
    It’s iCrap! The punctuation matters. ;)

  21. I’ll bite:
    Arduinos and kits that include loads of projects.
    Repair kits for common mishaps (eg. mangled cat 5 plugs; broken jack plugs) with associated web links to “how-to” from a video.
    Project demos, like home improvement store do for specific tasks.

  22. I think it’s a marketing scheme as well, but they’re asking, so I may as well say something.

    1. More knowledgeable salespeople. I’ve gone in there, asking for this or that, and in the 5+ RadioShacks I’ve been to, only one guy actually knew where what I wanted (LEDs, caps, ect.) was. And he wasn’t even wearing RadioShack branded clothing. Of course, he was the only person I’ve ever seen in RadioShack that actually was using a soldering iron when I walked in!

    2. More starter kits. Starter kits can really get people interested in things fast, if done right. A Arduino starter kit would really sell well, if done right, because of the wealth of information online. They could buy the Arduinos from a distributer, and sell them at a decent price (say $70 US) along with the basics needed to get started like two motors, a driver shield, a servo, distance sensor and a couple odds and ends. Just enough to build something like the “Start Here Robot” on LMR.

    3. Just a better assortment of pieces, period. Oh, and decent prices on them too. I’m not gonna pay three dollars for an LED, it’d be cheaper to get one from Digikey and pay $2.50 US shipping (which is an option).

  23. I said it before and I’ll say it again: I think RadioShack should start a one-day PCB service. Email or post your PCB design one day, pick them up at the Shack the next day.

  24. Is it just me, or is there no place to actually voice my opinion on the “3 things” ? No poll or anything on the blog. Are we supposed to just comment on their Facebook?

  25. Taking them at their word, and ignoring the cynical “it’s all a ploy” attitude, what I think we as DIY’ers want would be pretty simple:
    As others have noted, a good stock of common parts and tools. Lead-free solder. Beyond just caps and resistors, let’s see a better selection of some common logic chips – HC and HCT series gates, shift registers, motor drivers, more in the sensors drawer, microcontrollers of a few flavors and programming tools (AVR, Parallax, Microchip)… breadboards, power supplies, maybe some of the low-end scopes from Rigol or Velleman or USB scopes. The cheap but useful LOGIC analyzer from Saleae… I wind up buying tons of one offs on parts from digikey now because the stuff just isn’t available locally.

  26. PCB vending machine… now that would be an idea to explore. Completely automated, holds 5-6 different stock board sizes, takes gerber files as an input and spits out a finished, plated, silkscreened PCB some time later. Since the waiting time would be somewhat long-ish I could see a magnetic card / barcode + PIN authentification system for the customer to pick up his board a few hours later / the next day.

  27. I dislike Radio Shack, their prices are too high. I can buy many, many resistors and a storage bin for them and still save money and have resistor values that I’ll never use. I’m usually up late tinkering and RS is already closed by then, and if I order from Mouser by 8 PM, I’ll have it the next day, and it’s much cheaper….I’ve given up on RS.

  28. 1 Get rid of the RC cars / cheap toys with movie tie ins
    2 Hire people who have a passion for electronics / DIY or something other than watching ESPN on the TVs. We’ve all heard the unofficial Radio Shack motto “You’ve got questions, we’ve got dumb looks”
    3 Get rid of the TVs and consumer crap that we can (and do) get a Best Buy for cheaper.
    4 No, I don’t want a new cell phone or DirectTV. We’ll go to the AT&T or Verizon store for a phone or order it online.
    5 Carry something other than cheap tools – We’d pay for a better soldering iron if you sold one.

  29. I agree that it would be great to have a decent selection of parts at the local Radio Shack, like they used to have. However, I don’t think the market can sustain this.

    Most consumers are just that. They consume and don’t know how anything works, or care to fix it. Throw it out and buy another one is the attitude.

    As for my three local Radio Shack stores, something has happened in recent months, but I don’t know why. At least two of the managers who have been there for many years are suddenly gone. It makes me think that Corporate forced them out for some reason. Now, one of those managers was a real jerk, but the other was knowledgeable and helpful.

    Radio Shack was an institution and a favorite place to go when I was growing up. Now I seldom go there, because they have almost nothing I want. I frankly don’t hold out much hope that they will survive another ten years.

  30. Being outside of the US I can’t comment on Radio Shack, but if they’re going the same line as other electronics stuff retailers in other countries then it’s normal. MRC nailed it: a shrinking market and the Internet killed what made those sellers competitive. Why stocking thousands of components that will become obsolete before someone buys them or hire knowledgeable salespeople when one can ask for directions in a forum and buy online?
    It’s not just Radio Shack, all good old electronics sellers recycled themselves into cellphone shops because not doing so would have killed them even before 2000.

    The PCB service can be a killer idea but don’t expect them to even consider it unless they smell a hundred customers/shop or more per month, so just forget it. I’m not sure if today PCB milling/engraving/cutting/whatever machines can work completely unattended; adding a guy who can operate such a machine, which costs a lot more than the average drone, could discourage them.
    Anyway submitting a good idea is still free, so why not?

  31. Nothing short of an extremely wide and well stocked selection of electronic parts would ever make me want to step foot inside a Radio Shack ever again.

  32. Poor quality electronics selling for more than the better ones at other retailers..That’s been their MO for 2 decades now.

    My 0.02: Get with these popular bloggers and vendors and use their marketing before you tank..

    Also is it me or do they only hires burnouts and child support daddies there? I couldn’t get a job there as a teen but a bunch of morons on the interstate to nowhere can..

  33. also the lady in the video is soo PR department..and look at the staged store set..

    nobody is going to buy that stuff for reasons other than that it’s chinese garbage at 2x the cost of quality brands..lol

  34. A good start would be training their employees to NOT joke around, asking if i’m making a bomb every time i walk up to the counter with a handful of parts.

  35. RS used to carry (maybe they still do?) project lab boards that had an assortment of resistors, transistors, etc. that had little springs for connectors and a book with projects that someone who wanted to learn about electronics could purchase. Maybe they could collaborate with Sparkfun, Adafruit, etc. to come up with some newer project “kits” or “labs” with Arduino, Parallax, etc. that have instructions that could help people with an interest in electronics get started?

    In addition to some of the above comments, more pieces parts, the vending machine,

  36. How timely. This happened just this week:

    Mrs Dibbly has a little LED light with fiber optic strands sticking out of the top. She uses it at her desk. It burns 3 AAs, but who wants to use batteries when it would be easy enough to solder a couple of wires to the contacts and use the wall, right? I have an old wall wart, 5V, so I decide that I’ll buy the opposite connector & wire it to the light. No problem. Send Mrs Dibbly to the Radio Shack. Guy there is absolutely unhelpful. “What’s it for? What’s he making?” etc, etc. After 10 minutes of this it turns out he doesn’t have the part anyway, suggests another RS across town. Forget that. I ordered from Lady Ada and had it in 3 days.

    It *would* be really good to have a decent selection in-store, but I’m not convinced that this is sincere. I’m not saying I’ll never to in the store ever again, but RS has some work to do.

    And quit asking for my name, address, etc, all the time. What do I look like, the Unabomber?

  37. Get rid of the phones. We’ll go to a…wait for it…phone store. I don’t know a single person who would go to Radio Shack for a TV or phone, period.

    Get rid of the low quality toys. Any toys you sell should be 100% hacker friendly or build-from-kit.

    Get rid of the useless employees, as previous posters have said.

  38. the problem is they sell the same crap electronics as evry big box store but at an inflated price. i went there to get things i could not get else where locally. i drive to st louis now 30 miles to get what i got at my local r.s. if i want a cell phone i go to sprint. if i want a tv i go to walmart. a computer best buy. what do i go to r.s. for nothing anymore.

  39. I’d be happy to buy at Radio Shack if they stocked anything I needed and did so at a reasonable price.

    Brick-and-mortar parts sellers are awesome for the prototyping phase because time is costly and I am guessing from day to day what parts I’ll need. A local source is very helpful.

    There are a few stores around that “get it” while Radio Shack has not for quite some time.

  40. “Would you like to buy a cellphone with this 4 pack of batteries ?”
    (This really happened!)

    I don’t mind the mark up, if only they had a selection worth browsing. Cooperating with sparkfun sounds like a pretty good idea. Or at least stock similar products and get rid of the cell phones.

  41. Reading some of these comments is hilarious. Stop selling cell phones and consumer electronics? Only hire people with electronics/DIY knowledge? Are you serious?

    Like already said above, the VAST majority of people are simple consumers. They have zero technical knowledge and have no interest in even replacement parts, let alone actually building something from scratch.

    Thinking that refocusing Radio Shack on an extreme minority of the customer base is somehow going to make them more relevant than playing to the majority of American consumers is ludicrous.

    As much as we would like it, there simply isn’t enough demand for a large chain of electronic component/equipment retailers in the 21st century.

  42. As a current store manager, I whole heartedly concur with you guys spreading this like wildfire.

    We now have an accountant CEO instead of the solid stream of Marketing CEO’s, and dollars make sense to this man, Jim Gooch.

    We were told to reset our stores in anticipation to this influx, so it is the real deal.

    But please be kind… Help the stores that are there to help you. It is all well and good to add 3000 SKU’s to the stores, but you need to buy locally. Also drop a line about outdoor signage… From cellular to HaD emblems, I would love some kind of outside presence…

    Be specific as possible. Exact components, manufacturers, parts, small assemblies, everything. If you will shop at RS instead of mail order, you can have it all for a very long time.

    If anyone is near Turkey Creek in Knoxville, stop by and say HI!

    1. I stopped by the Turkey Creek store yesterday and was not particularly impressed but I guess it wasn’t terrible. I was asked for assistance and out of habit I said “No, thank you. I’m just looking.” I wonder over to the parts section to search for an Arduino. To my amazement there was a spot for it. To my horror there was not one there. I asked the employees there if may be an Arduino in the back and one replied “No, we keep all of our stock up front…”

      Ok, fine. I go to the Clinton Highway store. The store manager there asks if I need help and I say “I’m looking for an Arduino Uno.” To which she replies, “What is that?” I said “nevermind” and found one myself. She did ask me how I liked my cell phone plan which I guess was nice….??? (lady I’m buying an Arduino. If you knew what that was you’d know the buyer probably has a basic understanding of cutting edge technology and most likely A) has a phone and plan they like and B) wouldn’t buy it from RadioShack)

      I’m not sure if the employee at the Turkey Creek store knew what I was talking about or not but he did seem more pleasant than the manager at Clinton Highway. I wasn’t looking forward to the trip and I hope I don’t really ever have to go again. I usually get my small parts from Shields over off of Middlebrook and will probably continue to do that from now on as they have always had impeccable customer service.

      Really, who doesn’t know what an Arduino is?

  43. RadioShack operated in Australia as Tandy. They sold grossly overpriced worst quality components from day one, were staffed by people who didn’t know their arse from their elbow, and are thankfully now a rapidly fading (bad) memory.

  44. The last time I went to the local RS the asked if I needed help, I said I was looking for a PIR module; they responded, “is that a new IPhone add-on or something?” Then proceeded to ask me 7 times to buy batteries. Literally 7 times. I cursed the idiot, who by the way kept glancing at the TV that had some basketball game playing. I will never ever go back to a RS again. The manager didn’t even know what a transistor was…..

    As for what I would like to see sold there, I would like to see them sell ice cream. At least they might know what ice cream is, and would be the only reason I ever step foot in the shit hole they run.

    1. It’s kinda hard to blame the employees, since RS just hires drones now–they know nuth’n else BUT to sell phones and batteries. Altho it doesn’t surprise me that they pestered you that much just to sell you batteries. I’ll bet that sales guy won’t be there next time you go. RS has a BIG turnover of staff these days. It’s daunting to go in RS now. They’ll NEVER change.

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