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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