Radio Shack Takes Selling Used Digital Recorder Containing Personal Information As New Seriously

WHO: Radio Shack
WHAT: Sold as new a personal recorder full of the previous owner’s intimate conversations and bank account information. Bonus points for blaming the original customer.
WHERE: Digital Recorder’s Second Owner Learns Too Much About Another Family [ABC]
THE QUOTE: “RadioShack takes seriously its obligation to safeguard the privacy of our customers. In this isolated instance, our records indicate a customer returned a digital recording device and said it did not work. Unknown to us, it actually did work and apparently contained recordings of personal conversations the customer failed to erase from the memory before returning the product.”

“Taking it seriously” is a phrase companies use over and over again in public statements whenever they have bad PR. Our series of posts on occurrences of the phrase is our attempt to question how seriously companies are really taking these matters if every time they trot out this phrase by rote.

(Thanks to Michael!)
(Photo: cmorran123)


Edit Your Comment

  1. MrsLopsided says:

    Radio Shack made 2 mistakes
    1) not erasing the recorder and
    2) the 2nd purchaser.. “paid $100 for what was billed as a brand new device”.

  2. My keyboard has a typo key says:

    The recorder was returned under the premise it did not work. Yet somehow it was sold as new?

    This is just full of turds. They don’t even hit on they sold something as new, when in fact it was not. Did they intend to defraud the next customer with the same defective device. Or did they test it and find out in fact it was functional. Without erasing it.
    They are full of crap in any case. Taking it serious my left foot.

  3. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    “a customer returned a digital recording device and said it did not work. Unknown to us, it actually did work”

    So if Radio Shack believed the device to be broken, why the hell did they resell it?!? Maybe they should take the selling of damaged merchandise seriously, regardless of what media the merchandise may contain.

    [sarcasm] Either way, I have to blame the victim here. It’s radio shack. What were you thinking, really? [/sarcasm]

  4. brettt says:

    haha. don’t you love it when the explanation-lie contradicts itself?

  5. Sherryness says:

    This confirms what I’ve always suspected – That companies will re-sell returned merchandise, even if it’s been returned as “defective.” Thank you, Radio Shack, for confirming and affirming my suspiciouns. And for not making me feel so stupid for sifting through merchandise to look for a box that looks like it has never, ever been opened before.

  6. @twiddling_my_thumbs: I shall refer you to the article, which answers alllll your questions.

  7. coren says:

    “Then I heard this female’s voice, with an intimate conversation,” said Steve Davis, a retired police officer. “I knew that I’d probably stumbled across something I shouldn’t have.”

    Man, that is one crack detective right there.

  8. My keyboard has a typo key says:

    My question was rhetorical. I read the article (entirely). Nice touch to blame the customer.

    It might of worked if it was not for them pesky kids poking around asking questions. ;)
    (Just watched Scooby Doo)

  9. Preyfar says:

    Yeah, that’s… heh. I feel bad for the Radioshack PR folk who have to clean up messes like this that their co-workers make. That’s the problem with situations like this. Too many people speak before thinking and they end up contradicting themselves.

  10. booleyhitt says:

    I used to work for the Shack and this is something we did all the time. Customer returned something, back on the shelf it went. But usually with a “premium warranty.”

  11. krunk4ever says:

    The only thing they did wrong here was sell an “used” item as new.

    I don’t think stores have any obligations to safeguard data that customers carelessly put onto a device and return it w/o deleting.

    If I purchased a hard drive or a mp3 player and put a bunch of sensitive data onto the device and decide to return it, is it the store’s responsibility for deleting all that data or is it my responsibility?

    Stores often do some test to see if returned items are working properly (as many customers make up reasons to return items) and if it’s fine, they turn around and sell it as open box items.

    Once again, the only thing Radio Shack did wrong here was defraud a customer by selling an item as “new” when it was really “used”. Any allegations in regards to not protecting customer’s data is just silly in my opinion.

  12. nicless says:

    This sort of reminds me of when I worked for Best Buy. If someone returned something and said a part was missing, a receipt was printed that said “Returned: Parts Missing” and then a little lower down “All Parts Accounted for”.

  13. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    As a former Radio Shack employee, I can tell you that if a recorder was returned as defective, this is what SHOULD have happened:

    1) The item and its packaging should have been left in the back room to be inspected.

    2) The manager should have tested the device to see if it was working or not.

    3a) If it was working, any data should have been erased.

    3b) If it wasn’t working, it should have been shipped to Radio Shack’s in-house repair center, refurbished, and then shipped back and sold.

    Why this didn’t happen? I don’t know. I can’t speak for this store, but the couple I worked at or knew employees from were good at following policy, for the most part.

  14. shockwaver says:

    I had once purchased a Samsung mp3/video player from Futureshop (Cananda arm of Best Buy), only to find to my delight that when I got it home, it had 7 or 8 pirated movies on it! I knew it was open box when I got it, but it saved me some effort :)

    Of course, working there, I saw many laptops that had been “wiped” that still containing folders on the desktop full of personal information – things like resumes and bank account info.

  15. DubbleB17 says:

    I will give some insight to everyone who has not worked at a Radioshack in their lives, people will return items and say they do not work. As sales reps, we dont care why you are returning it so we allow it. But as soon as you leave we will test it to make sure it works and if it does (75% of the time or higher) we put it back on the floor. It is not suppose to be in the same packaging and that is to ensure that a customer does not think this is brand new but there is no markdown.

  16. Televiper says:

    @WiglyWorm: Who’s to say 1 and 2 didn’t happen in some way? Who’s to say that 3a and 3b were an over site? The original owner returned it as defective. So the employees cut corners and assumed it was already blank.

  17. Bagels says:

    @DubbleB17: So you put a used, returned item back on the floor in different packaging but with no markdown? Who would be a used product at a new, full price?

  18. savvy9999 says:

    what we really want to know is EXACTLY what was said on the recorder. If it’s not as juicy as insinuated (“personal”, “intimate”, like that forbidden part of the department store), then this post is a total scam.

  19. evslin says:

    @aaron8301: Answer’s in the article.

    The store sent the product to our repair center for evaluation, and based on their examination, the repair center determined the product did, in fact, work properly and returned it to the store for resale.

    Doesn’t explain why the recording went “undetected” but it’s not like the recorder went straight from being a defective item to being a “new” item.

  20. Jesse says:

    I was excited that this could be a refreshing departure from the multi-page stories laden with unecessary details from readers, but I was wrong.

  21. SacraBos says:

    Intimate conversations? Audio or it didn’t happen… ;-)

  22. ColoradoShark says:

    @WiglyWorm: After step 3b, when it was refurisshed, should it have been sold as “new”?

  23. Munsoned says:

    I hope Radio Shack takes their awful PR response “seriously.” This statement is so bad on so many levels that it makes my brain hurt.

  24. coren says:

    @WiglyWorm: Other than formatting, it seems that was done. Boo on them not selling it as a recert though

  25. JohnMc says:

    There is a bigger issue here that a turn of phrase — “Unknown to us, it actually did work and apparently contained recordings of personal conversations the customer failed to erase from the memory before returning the product.”

    So this is an admission by Radio Shack that they were willing to shove a damaged (but not really) on some other poor customer. Why was this product either tested first or pulled for return to the MFR?

    That’s the money quote.

  26. TheUncleBob says:

    And yet, no one has pointed out that the initial customer apparently recorded their bank account information and such, then returned the recorder and lied, saying the device didn’t work… and waited for someone else to buy the recorder.

    While none of this clears this particular Radio Shack of their dirty deed (reselling open merchandise as new), it really almost does sound as if they’ve been set up.

    Second, to all those who feel Radio Shack (or other retailers) shouldn’t see returned (“Open Box”) items as new, do you feel that retailers are justified in charging a “restocking fee” to cover their loss when they have to discount/return the merchandise?

  27. HOP says:

    ole rip shack has become a costly place to pick up stuff….at one time they were the place to go for parts ,and had knowledgeble employees…i don’t go there much….they seem to be more interested in cell phones now….

  28. u1itn0w2day says:

    It’s sounds 2 of the 3 parties dserve each other.First you potentially have a customer that apparently LIED,was an idiot or basically RENTED the device.Second we have Radio Shack who’s quality control is worthless and wanting to RESELL USED merchandise.

    But the whole situation seemed to be salvaged by someone with ethics and USED a device.Shame on the original customer and Radio Shack.

  29. Silversmok3 says:

    As a RadioShack employee, let me clarify what may have taken place:

    Customer returns personal recorder (with their private info on it, no less) and wants to exchange/return it for the next model up.Store employees comply in the name of customer service.

    Now this is where things get weird.Whats ‘supposed’ to happen is the old recorder is either returned to the vendor via FedEx, or scrapped W/authorization.

    Ill bet what really happened is that the manager/assistant manager got lazy and instead of processing it AS PER RADIOSHACK POLICY,the just threw it back on the shelf.


    The only safeguard against this kind of incompetence anywhere is to open the merchandise before you leave the store.I request that when I buy items ,and I dont mind when a customer asks me to do the same.

  30. mac-phisto says:

    this is nothing. about two years back, a local radioshack sold a phone to a woman (who subsequently gave it to her young daughter), but this phone was pre-loaded with cellphone pr0n.

    evidently, the phone had been returned, sent to the remanufacturing division (where they are supposed to flash the bios & ensure any private data is erased). either it wasn’t sent out or it wasn’t repaired – either way, mom wasn’t too happy.

    i wish i could find a link to the story, but nothing yet…

  31. Pro-Pain says:

    Par for the course @ Radio Shack. That’s why nobody shops there unless the have to. Move along.

  32. AmandaAC1 says:

    Long time lurker, first time commenter. I managed a Radioshack for a couple years and this sort of occurence is definitely common. Customer brings it back, tells you it works, you put it right back out on the shelf as soon as they leave. If they say it doesn’t work, you mess with it, if you do get it working, back to the shelf it goes.

    Similarly, I had an associate sell a cordless phone with an answering machine. The customer brought it back because they didn’t like it. We put it back on the shelf and it was resold. Second customer comes back in irate because their “new” phone already had an answering machine greeting on it. :)

    I don’t work for RS anymore. The pressure to sell cell phones was just ridiculous. If you find the right store, yes, their associates are more knowledgeable than any Walmart worker and usually than a CC or Best Buy worker. However RS’s prices will always, always be higher. Espically on accessories! (cables, tapes, dvd’s, cell phone chargers etc) Do not buy a shelf item from them and never buy anything without checking to make sure the packaging is still sealed.

  33. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    @ColoradoShark: @coren: If the item went out to be refurbished (“recertified”) or if it had been working, it should have been labeled with a sticker saying that this particular item had “been sold and returned or used as an in store display”, it would be shelved along side the “new” items, but when sold the purchaser should have been informed of the items condition (i.e. “not ‘new'”) and sold with a “premium warranty”. Essentially Radioshack will personally honor the manufacturer’s warranty with free repairs and labor for double the length of the actual manufacturers warranty.

    @Silversmok3: Yeah… that’s not Radioshack policy. At least, not in my district.

    I think it should be noted that Radioshack is by far not the only company that resells returned merchandise, and in fact is one of the seemingly few that informs customers. I bought a shelving unit from Target that had mising pieces and all the screws were wrapped in a torn plastic bag that was sealed with a bit of masking tape. I can’t give you any other specific examples, but if you pay attention to the packaging, you’ll see it probably happens pretty often.

    I’m not defending Radio Shack here. They have some questionable policies, the upper level management seems torn between driving down the stock price in order to get aquired by a big company and staying independent (resulting in them refusing to be aquired while driving down their stock price), it’s just generally a mess… however, they do have a policy and this should not have happened.

  34. thalia says:

    I love how RadioShack is all, “But the customer said it was defective, we thought it was broken, we didn’t know there was stuff on it!” and yet they put it back on the shelf as new even when they thought it wouldn’t work.

    Riiiiiight. Nice one, RadioShack…I think I’ll add you to the growing list of “Places to Never EVER Shop”.

  35. rshmgr says:

    At radioshack, returned products that are in new condition and fully functional are sold at the regular price. A premium warranty sticker is placed on the product letting the customer know that it is not new but that they will receive a premium warranty if they purchase the product. A premium warranty doubles the manufacture’s warranty.

    If the product returned was indeed defective, it should have been sent to the repair center where the product would be refurbished. Or the product should have been sent back to the manufaturer. It depends on the products disposition. Assuming it was sent to the repair center, once complete the product will be sent back to the store. The product will be marked as refurbished and sold at a discounted price.

    In any case it is not the responsibility of RadioShack or its employees to erase sensitive material on the returned product. That responsibility falls to the customer.

    What if the customer had sold the camcorder on ebay? Would he then blame ebay if he forgot to erase information on the camcorder before he sold it?

  36. Ghosx says:

    I worked at Rat-shaft for four years and at more than five stores. It was common practice at all of them to repackage returned merchandise and sell it at full price.

    You weren’t “technically” supposed to be sold it as new per-se, rather we were supposed to put a little sticker on it that said it has a “premium warranty” (basically, 90 days became 180, 1 yr became 2 yrs).

    For cheap trinkets with one button that last forever, this was a joke. For phones and expensive devices, NO customer would buy a used product when they can buy new for the same price. Discounting was also a strict no-no without explicit manager permission too.

    So, we’d try to pretty them up as much as possible and sell it for new, or else we’d end up stuck with. Ones that we couldn’t pretty up were doomed to sit on our backroom shelves for months until it hit the devalued/discontinued list. The items worked fine, they just looked ugly or were missing the pretty packaging.

  37. dizavin says:


    heh, no Radio Shack made only one mistake: accepted a return from a customer that was either A) dishonest and simply wanted to return an item after it’s use was worn out, or B) too much of an idiot to figure out that his recorder was actually working properly.