6 Confessions Of A Former RadioShack Employee

Former RadioShack employee “D” chimes in with a few tips that may come in useful the next time you find that yourself in a RadioShack. We haven’t been in one for so long, we’re not even sure what they look like inside. Do they still ask for your phone number when you buy batteries?

Note: This is not a rant or venting session. I was laid off after the holidays, and I have no hard feelings about it ( Layoffs happen to everyone these days) . This is simply a guide to shopping at RadioShack ( henceforth known as RS) for any consumer who likes or buys electronics,written by someone who’s sold far too much of them.

This of course begs the question: Why would an informed consumer have anything to do with RadioShack? Well, for one, RS does have some pretty good deals on some items from time to time. You won’t find them in the circular or on some huge ad, but they do exist.

For example , we sell on clearance Ultimate Ears Super Fi pro 3 earbuds ( think iPod headphones on steroids) for the price of $49.97. Amazon and many other e-tailers sell them for about $60 before shipping. I use the above as a precise example that RS is not completely useless.

So, if you do find a good deal on something ,or if you’re an RC car nut, here’s how you shop at RadioShack with your wallet and mental health intact.

First: Know what you need and how it works.

This is crucial. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when a hapless soul comes in wanting a ‘thingy that works with my iPod’ .If you walk in the door knowing that you’re getting an FM transmitter, and that you need it to work on 88.5 FM will prevent you from getting bilked into taking home the auto-seek, kitchen sink edition $100 model + Service Plan.( More on that later)

Second: Ask a floor associate where something is right away.

I worked in my first store 1 year continuously, and I still didn’t know where some things were. Oh, it wasn’t because we sales guys were lazy: it’s because just when you got the whole store kinda-sorta mapped and memorized there was some new and unnecessary POP and merchandise rearrange that sent us floor guys back to square one every other week. So if us part and full time employees barely know where stuff is, chances are you won’t even be in the right side of the store of what you need.

Third: Cell phones and other pitches.

Because RS depends on an ancient business model , you will run into these sales pitches at least once no matter what you’re buying. The new plan from corporate before my departure was to ask every customer who purchased something what cell phone plan/company/phone/accessory/family plan/contract they used. And write down why they said no. So what do you do when you’re confronted with a seemingly silly cell phone pitch when you’re buying a $2 capacitor?

Don’t get angry. Don’t get defensive. Understand that as disgusting as it may be for you, savvy customer, to be pitched a cell phone, its doubly repulsive for us sales guys to have to ask over the span of 8 hours every senior citizen and high school kid what cell phone they use. And if you yell and complain to corporate, a DM might congratulate the store for “Persistently offering the Customer Wireless” . Bottom line: It’s nothing personal.

As far as service plans are concerned, this is where knowing what you buy counts. Since you know what you need and why , you’ll also know whether a service plan ( extended warranty) is a good idea or not. I don’t agree with the maxim that ” All Service Plans are Bad”. There are some things that need it, and some things that don’t . The bottom line: You should know about the service plan before the associate offers it. And since you have 30 Days from the date of purchase to decide to buy it, if you’re feeling pressured and you’re on the fence , grab a pamphlet and hoof it. If you still want the service plan after reading the pamphlet, well, at least you cant claim ignorance.

The NO-NO’s

Heres a list of things NOT to do at RS :

1. Buy a cell phone.
Unless you’re buying a mobile computer, there’s no reason why a consumer should pay anything more than $5 for a decent , midrange cell phone with a 2 year contract anywhere . Any retail establishment (online or brick and mortar) that charges cash+ mail in rebate should be cross shopped heavily. I recommend that ,if you’re in the market for a new cell phone, unless you have a relationship with an RS (for example, knowing an associate who is knowledgeable) employee , check the internet first.

2 Bringing a cell phone bill and demanding a fix:

While one detail of our duty at RS is customer service, cell phone problems are the type of issue that makes us look very awful.
This is because, of the companies we sell ( Sprint and AT&T) we control not one iota of anything besides selling and activating the phone. Which means if you break no-no #1 and buy/upgrade a cell phone and your bill is wrong( or worse) , you could be in for some aggravation. Believe me, at RS we will do whatever we can to fix your issue. Catch is, if ( strictly hypothetical) Sprint tells us they can’t help with a billing issue, then everybody’s hands are tied. And you’ll end up at the cell carriers corporate store anyways.
So if you got to an RS store and they say that there’s nothing that store can do, well, its not because RS likes to piss you off. Its cause they can’t do it.

3. Buying batteries.

If you have to choose between going without and buying batteries at RS, go Zen and do without. Otherwise youll blow your top when you go to Target and find name brand batteries that cost half of what you paid.

Final thoughts.

I hope this helps you consumers who are completely befuddled by RS. Believe it or not there are some good reasons to shop there. Just stay away from the parts drawer, the cell phone display, the satellite radio counter, the iPod accessories area, and the cable/ battery row , and you might even have a good time.

Former RS employee.


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