Radio Shack, You’ve Got Questions, Bully For You

Radio Shack bills itself as the happy place where if, “You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers.” Having gone there a few times to pick up audio supplies and the like, it seems the only question they’re equipped in answering is “Where are your audio converter cables?” Beyond that, don’t ask. Do your research online and buy there, even, only venturing into the retail store if you need your wares that day or the amount of gas costs less than shipping.

We once needed to convert RCA video signal to S-Video and they tried to sell us a whole multichannel video switch apparatchik. Thing was, the S-Video and RCA were on the same side. After pointing out there was no way to route the signal like they described, they finally produced the necessary $25 double-mouthed video connector.

And like a case wrapped inside a point, Jennifer’s letter is after the jump…

Jennifer writes:

“I just got back from the Radio Shack on Rochester Rd. in Rochester Hills, MI, and I wanted to share my experience with you.

I’ve been looking for a headset with microphone to use with TeamSpeak. Unfortunately for me, I’m rather on the small side and even the daintiest of PC headsets looked bulky in comparison to my head. Hoping to find something in the same size as the Bluetooth headsets for cell phones, I ended up at Radio Shack and inspected the Bluetooth headsets themselves.

There were hints that I might get exactly what I wanted if I was willing to shell out over double what I’d planned – one with a USB adapter for $100, a separate USB adapter for $50, both marked as Skype-compatible, and a cardboard display cutout advertising that the sales reps could tell me how to make the headsets work with things like an iPod. But I wanted to make sure, so I called over a rep and asked him whether it was the Skype software that handled the device, or Windows itself. He was completely dumbfounded. Neither of the Radio Shack employees in the store had heard of TeamSpeak or Ventrilo, so I started asking questions aimed at getting to the underlying mechanics. Would it work with Windows Media Player, Winamp, and the like, or only Skype and the iPod music drivers? The first rep started reading from the sign – while pointing to the bullet points he was reading – and stopped short of the iPod part to tell me that it was only VOIP, not any other computer-based application. I pointed out that the sign mentioned iPod too, and what I was really interested in was computer audio (sorta), and he referred me to his coworker the “iPod expert.”

I re-explained my interest in playing computer audio, prefacing the summary by saying that it wasn’t an iPod question per se. The iPod expert then proceeded to tell me that if I wanted to use a Bluetooth device with my iPod, I needed the stereo adapter kit and the headphones, not the little one-ear design. I asked him why I needed a device with jacks the iPod doesn’t even have, especially considering that this was not so much an iPod question as an audio question, and he said that I needed to play music from my stereo. After some further verbal probing, he finally came out with the verdict that I couldn’t use the single-ear devices with PC audio at all because they just don’t work with it.

Wishing to the furthest depths of my heart that Computer Builders Warehouse also handled cell phone paraphernalia, (If anyone knows anything about what works with TeamSpeak, it’s the staff at a store that seems to require its employees to be in a raiding guild on World of Warcraft.) I decided to drive across the strip mall to see if anyone at Best Buy could confirm or deny what the iPod expert told me…to find that I’d spent a full hour in Radio Shack and Best Buy was about to close in one minute. Not only were they ignorant, they took their time being ignorant rather than admitting that they really didn’t know how to answer the question even after I tried to restate it in more general terms. So my quest for a liliputian headset is put off, and I’m forced to wait long enough to do the research I probably should have done before going out to look in stores.

And also on the subject of Radio Shack, one of my friends is unfortunate enough to work there (not the same store as described) and I sent him a link to the original article on Sprint giving up customers’ billing addresses. He showed it to his store’s Sprint rep, who said it was just an Internet rumor. Guess somebody doesn’t watch Nightline.”

Maybe the new CEO can reinstill his staff with of the importance of actually knowing what the fuck they’re talking about.

By the way, we think you should be able to use the USB headsets you found just fine. We own a Skype compatible Logitech headset and to employ it we just plug it in, go to the advanced audio settings, and change the audio recording and playback device to the Logitech. Yeah, we know, plug and play should do all that for us but we’re impatient to get our Counterstrike frag on and don’t feel like waiting around until XP decides to activate the device.


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  1. DeeJayQueue says:

    Back in the day, when Radioshack used to employ adults, and was actually in the business of being an electronics and hobbyist retailer, instead of a low-rent Sharper Image clone, you used to be able to get decent service there. Even when their service took a shit (I attribute it to the backlash of people constantly saying NO to being asked their phone number and the bigwigs at RS acting impetuous about it) they were still the only game in town for a/v connectors. Now you walk into a “new” radio shack and the connectors section is a 4′ strip of pegwall in the back, most poorly lit dingy corner adjoined to the break room and bathroom in the store. When they’re not busy trying to peddle Spring or Verizon phones to you or trying to explain why their rebadged low-budget RCA knock off Home-theatre-in-a-box is worth the $50 premium over the Klipsch unit at best buy, the only thing they can tell you about your audio connection needs is “It needs to be the gold plated one, that’s the best one”. Never mind that their gold plating comes off after 4 or 5 uses, and that once it’s gone you get a worse connection than if you’d just bought the regular one in the first place.

    God i Fucking Hate Radio Shack.

  2. SpecialK says:

    Is this where Apple’s Geniuses get their training?

  3. slinky22 says:

    How appropos that you post this RS and Sprint-related post on the very next day after I went to a local RS to upgrade my 3 year old Sprint phone. The RS guy was very helpful in my decision to pick out a phone. He had to call Sprint to activate the phone (normally they are able to do this on the computer, but I have my phone through a business account). After spending about 30 minutes in the “choosing” mode, and waiting about 15 minutes on the “activating” phone call, the Sprint operator told him that they couldn’t activate the phone, as it had been reported “stolen or lost.” He told the Sprint tech that it was a new, out of the box phone at RS, but she couldn’t do anything further. It was, of course, the last such phone they had in stock at that store.

    Maybe today I’ll have better luck. I’m going to yet another RS store to try to get the same phone.

  4. sixtoe says:

    The simple explanation is that Radio Shack employees get paid on commission (6.75% when I worked there in high school in 1991). Not a bad living for a high school senior, but only if you convinced people to buy a $1500 Tandy Computer during their stop in for their free battery of the month.

  5. TedSez says:

    I got completely scammed by RS recently… As in, Three-Card-Monte scammed.

    A couple of months ago they were having a huge clearance sale on certain items. I saw that a high-quality S-video cable from Monster (the good but extremely overpriced brand) that usually cost $40 was marked down to $10. I went in a store and couldn’t find one on the shelves, so told a sales dude exactly what I was looking for. He went into the back, came out and said “Here, we’ve got one left.” I said “Great” and paid for it without looking at it carefully.

    When I got home and looked in the bag, I discovered that what I had actually purchased was a p-o-s Radio Shack store-brand cable (whose packaging looks exactly like Monster’s), at full price.

    Good job, RS employee! You made me into a sucker… though I’m not enough of one ever to shop there again.

  6. I have a powerful disdain for Radio Shack.

    Tiny, cramped, cluttered spaces. Retarded staff. Overpriced crap. Awful, awful, awful marketing and brand image.

    Were you to offer me a choice between the death of AOL and the death of Radio Shack, I could be entertained for weeks as I fantasized about either delicious outcome.

  7. Gunnar says:

    from the point of view of trying to solve your problem. I recently picked up a cheap ($15) bluetooth headset for my PC. I have a bluetooth dongle on the PC so that it can talk to my phone for dial-up and moving files, but I wanted to skype my family/friends in England. I can connect the headset to the PC and use skype just fine. All the rest of my sounds come from my PC speaker only the skype calls have the voice and audio routed through the bluetooth headset. I know the software you are using is not skype – but you should be able to choose what audio device TeamSpeak uses somewhere in it’s options. Check TeamSpeak’s options first and verify that you can pick your audio device, then go ahead and pick up a cheap BT headset and dongle online for $30-$40 inc shipping (try that’s where I got mine)

  8. Rick Dobbs says:

    “What, you want batteries? I’ll have to get the manager.”

  9. Falconfire says:

    Bluetooth headsets work fine. I use my Bluetooth Motorola one (that funny enough I bought from a deals thing on this site) to run Vent and route the audio from vent to that speaker while FFXI plays through the normal speakers.

  10. Dustbunny says:

    I haven’t been inside a RS in years, after I went in to buy batteries and the salesguy tried to sell me a satellite dish. Grrrr.

  11. MrBartokomous says:

    Well, occasionally when I need spare audio bits(adapters and such) I
    like going there. They’ve usually got what I’m looking for and it’s not
    atrociously difficult to find. But I wouldn’t be caught dead getting
    anything else from them.

  12. comedian says:

    You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. They’re wrong answers, but we got ’em.

  13. buck09 says:

    Radioshack: You’ve got questions, we’ve got blank stares.

  14. Ben Popken says:

    Jim writes:

    “Their motto should be “You have questions, we have blank stares”.

    They are a useless store. They once tried to convince me to buy a FRS radio to replace the HAM radio I had on my hip saying that the FRS is a lot smaller and has more power….

    They didn’t even know what a HAM radio was… nor did they know it was 100x more powerful than any stupid FRS radio.”

  15. Fuzzyman says:

    On the good side… My wife wanted to upgrade her Verizon phone something from this century. We were going to upgrade online at Verizon, but stopped in at the local RS to take a good look at the phones themselves.

    Suprisingly, they had a better deal than Verizon was offering online — $100 off the phone and good discounts on the accesories we wanted.

    Otherwise I don’t step into a Shack without knowing exactly what I want and calling ahead to see if it is in stock.

    A friend of mine managed a RS for a few years. It really is all about the phones. That’s where the salespeople make their money. Oh, they get comission on everything else, but a good sales person can sell 3 or 4 phones a day + accessories and more than double their take-home pay.

  16. Craig1394 says:

    “You’ve got questions, we’ve got Phones” Seriously, RS needs to be renamed, or shut down completely. I do not need to go to them for Cell Phones as there are four other Cell phone stores, five including Sears, in my local Mall. Radio Shack is supposed to be an electronics components store. When I was a kid in the early 80’s, getting into the electronics hobbyist world, Radio Shack was freakin’ great! It was staffed by fellow electronics hobbyists or retired engineers looking to stay busy.Now, it is a freaking disaster. Did anyone see the “Trekkies” documentary? There was a guy featured who was building Captain Pike life support chair. He went in to RS and asked advice on what resistor he needed to use with a certain L.E.D. The Radio Shack employee stared at him like he was speaking Tagalog to a group of Rednecks! Even 10 years ago, RS had slipped severely. They are selling stuff they have have no business of messing with now. Why are they selling Thermaltake computer components when they cannot possibly compete with’s and Fry’s service or pricing?

  17. Craig1394 says:

    In all my above ranting, I forgot to mention one thing I like about Radio Shack: The Xmods RC Cars. I find them to be quite fun, and there is a decent sized Mod community for them.