More Insider Tips When Buying From Radioshack

There’s clearly no love lost between D. and D’s former employer, RadioShack. A little over a year ago, D. sent us some insider tips on what to watch out for when you shop at RS. Now here comes a follow-up, with more information on cell phone sales tricks, warranty pitches, and used merchandise.

If you recall, I wrote a confessions regarding RadioShack’s sales practices back in 2008. I feel an update is now in order. It may also have something to do with me going to college soon and no longer needing a job that requires deceiving the customer daily to pay the bills—but I digress.

Should you go to RadioShack for a purchase, here’s some tips to remember.

#1 — ALWAYS, ALWAYS, open the box and check the merchandise in store if possible.

RadioShack stores sell returned merchandise all the time. Sometimes it’s cordless phones that have sold and come back to the store 4 times, or it’s an antenna that’s missing a remote (not that the staff will tell you), or it’s a cell phone that a manager wants sold.

The main reason RadioShack hocks used merchandise as new is due to how the returned merchandise is sent to the RS refurb center. The returning store receives no credit if the product is damaged or missing an included part. Sending in distressed merchandise results in the loss being charged against the manager’s quarterly bonus—so a situation exists where store management has incentive to resell used products as new.

So, open the box and test the product in store before leaving. Be sure to check the bubble-packed product for taped corners or stapled ends.

#2 — Cell phone deals.

RadioShack has a price match policy for its corporate stores. Here’s the fine print, so when the manager/salesman tries to dodge the rebate you’ll be ready.

The actual ad must be present,and on paper. No photocopies or duplicates.

No mail in rebates can apply, although instant ones do.

Don’t be afraid to bring in several favorable ads. You can only use one per phone, but this way if one flier is disqualified you can still use “the backup.”

The way modern phone programming works, there’s no reason why the cell phone you just bought shouldn’t be making calls before you leave the store. While it’s normal for data programs to take longer to work, if your new phone isn’t making calls before you leave, ask why. Don’t buy the salesman’s stock line of 1-4 hours provisioning time. Phones I sold that didn’t work the day I sold them generally stayed broken until the customers returned them the next day.

Sometimes there are network outages, but confirm this by asking for the store’s Sprint/ATT demo to see.

#3 — Keep the receipt.

RS’s customer research system sucks. Plain and simple. Unless you bought a service plan (and I sure hope you didn’t fall for that hustle) or agreed to sign up for email registry with a name and address, the ticket is essentially lost after 90 days. Plan accordingly when filing the receipt.

And here’s some new sales hustles to watch for:

RSAP card

You don’t want a credit card with a 23% APR, do ya? And no, it’s really not free for 90 days or a year with purchase-that lovely APR is still charged against the balance,and if you’re one millisecond past 90 days or a year all that accrued interest charged over that timeframe is added to the balance.

Personal Data

A lot of stores are catching heat for not meeting credit metrics, so any request for your name, drivers license, or SS# should be qeuried immediately. Some stores have lied and ran customers credit info illegally to keep corporate off their back,so be aware.

E-mail capture

Pretty harmless, just make sure you use a spam box so you can get the occasional coupon for $10 off a purchase over $40.

Wireless Pitches

DO NOT HAND OVER YOUR PHONE. Headquarters was getting real crafty teaching psychology via a method about asking a question about your cell phone battery, and using that to twist the conversation into a cell phone discussion. If an associate asks about how your cordless phone,or cell phone battery works make it clear right there you’re not buying a phone from them. That’ll kill the pitch, and the look on the salesman’s face will be well worth the trip to the Rat Shack.

Service Plans

Very simple. MFR warranty on everything in the store usually lasts a year except on Apple products. It’s not smart to pay RadioShack an extra $3.99+ for something that came with the product. Even headphones are better off replaced at the mfr level than at RadioShack, because all the store does is send the broken product to.. drum roll please… the MFR! All the service plan pays for is the right to use RS’s glacially slow repair process.

DTV Antennas

Before going into the shack to buy an antenna, verify whether your old antenna works well first with the box. I’ve found that the indoor antennae sold by the shack with ‘amplifiers’ and ‘multi-gain’ switches suck so badly a set of 1982 era rabbit ears get better reception. Steer clear of indoor antennae period, and search elsewhere if your current set are broken. Outdoor antennae have worked a lot better, but again make sure to have your current set re-aimed to your DTV broadcast antennae in whatever major city is near you before spending $$ on new equipment.

Last tip—if you’re buying a big-ticket item, be sure to ask for the store’s district office direct line. If something goes sideways and the manager won’t fix the situation, asking for it then will tip the manager off that you mean business, so they’ll obviously play damage control—which won’t be in your favor. So request the number at the counter before there’s a problem, and if you run into problems call it directly. This will catch the moronic store staff off-guard, so there will be no time for lies or damage control on the part of the store staff.

This should help save some Consumerist readers any headaches on dealing with the rat shack. I’m glad that after more than a year I’m finally free of the joint.

We asked D. how you can identify whether a store is corporate owned or not:

Check the top of the receipt. A corporate store will have a store number printed at the top in 01-6XXX format,although the 6 can be a different number too. Products sold from corporate stores can be returned/exchanged at franchise side locations,and vice versa.

“6 Confessions Of A Former RadioShack Employee”
(Photo: strangelv)