I Joked With Radio Shack Clerk About Livestronging, Still Got Livestronged

James went into Radio Shack determined to make a purchase without getting stung by the forced $1 Livestrong donation some customers say they’re finding on their receipts. He even joked with the clerk about the phenomenon. Then when he looked at his receipt, sure enough he found out he was an unwilling donor.

He writes:

As a long-time reader, I have seen both articles you ran recently about the Livestrong “scam” going on at RadioShack. I needed to buy a new coin battery for my car key remote, and when I checked out I was sure to pay attention to the prompts, even joked about it with the cashier about what I had read online. I am 100% positive I read the prompts and declined to make the $1 donation. I walked out the door and looked at my receipt before throwing it away, and sure enough there it was: a $1 donation to Livestrong on the receipt! I’m an informed, educated consumer who knew about a potential pitfall, intentionally declined the charge, and still got charged! I turned around, asked for a refund, and walked out with my reclaimed dollar. Everyone check your receipts, or just don’t shop at RadioShack anymore — that’s my plan.

Former Radio Shack employee Dwight came forward with some info that disputes a current employee’s assertion that Radio Shack workers can’t force the donation:

i used to work at RadioShack as a Store Manager for many stores. There is a way that an associate can add on the Livestrong donation without the customer’s knowledge, if they have not changed things since the last time I worked there which was in July. Anyways, everything that RadioShack carries is assigned a SKU, even the Livestrong donation has a SKU. All the associate has to do is type in the sku and the item is added to the ticket. When the electronic signature pad does not work, the menu prompting for the donation will appear in front of the associate. They in turn have to ASK the customer if they want to donate a dollar. If they don’t ask and hit the enter key, then they are in the wrong and could be fired for that offense. Usually this sort of thing happens with new employees, since it takes awhile to learn the register system.

The Livestrong donation is refundable, though most people do not refund donations. If the customer put their purchase on a credit card, the card has to be in store in order to do a refund, this is company policy. Although stores have the ability to refund to a credit card via manually punching it in, the receipt does not give the full credit card number, it only gives the last four digits.

The company sent us this statement to address the problem and solution:

Tens of thousands of customers have eagerly contributed to our point-of-sale collection for LIVESTRONG in just the first few weeks. As 100% of every $1 point-of-sale donation goes directly to LIVESTRONG, we believe it’s been tremendously successful so far. But RadioShack doesn’t intend for any customer to feel compelled to support the fight against cancer. It is a personal choice. We believe the directions are clear on the point-of-sale device, but we regret the few errors that apparently have occurred among the tens of thousands of contributions received so far. Customers who believe they’ve made the donation in error should simply contact us at customercare@radioshack.com or 1-800-THE-SHACK so that we can facilitate the refund process. And in the days ahead, we will use your feedback to remind our employees again about how to manage this process carefully and correctly. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

(Thanks, Matthew!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. NotYou007 says:

    Damn you UNO!

  2. CompyPaq says:

    I think its time for an official statement from Radio Shack about what’s going on here.

    • ben says:

      I bet they’ll take it seriously.

      • admiral_stabbin says:

        Even if they take it seriously, will you be able to take them seriously? They’re trying to transition into calling themselves, “The Shack”. Personally, when I think “The Shack”, two things come to mind:

        – The B-52’s singing “Love Shack”
        – The Unabomber living in a shack

        • qcgallus says:

          AND WHISKEY. Don’t forget whiskey!

          From a shack in the hills, that is.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          unfortunately, after watching the thanksgiving mythbusters marathon and not always being able to find the remote in time to fast forward, i now have their stupid ‘let’s all go to shack friiiiiday, let’s all go to shack friiiiday’ jingle stuck in my head.

  3. macoan says:

    I forgot to mention this to my wife (who normally skims through prompts on the credit card machine)

    This past weekend, she ended up getting something at Radio Shack, and..

    THERE WAS NOT DONATION on her receipt. She said she was never asked, and did not remember anything on the credit card machine.

    So apparently this is not at all Radio Shacks?

  4. enabler says:

    This is a good way to build negative feelings toward a charity. Boo, Radio Shack (Radio Shake-Down?).

    • Alvarez says:

      “Radio Shake-Down?” Haha, nice! This should be a tag on the article. I’m going to use this as well.

    • korybing says:

      That’s what I feel. It’s not Livestrong’s fault that Radio Shack is doing this (or is it?) but it makes me kinda dislike Livestrong because of it. Not the best effect, RShack.

  5. laffmakr says:

    Folks, 99% of what you find at Radio Shack can be found elsewhere and probably cheaper. Why do you insist on shopping there!

    I used to buy PRAM batteries there because they were the only source. At $20 each, mind you. One day while buying batteries at Walgreens I found the exact same item for $12.

    • CompyPaq says:

      The point of this story is not that people shop at Radio Shack. Therefore that comment is irrelevant.

      • laffmakr says:

        Your comment makes no sense at all. What are you trying to say?

        • ben says:

          He’s trying to say that regardless of where someone chooses to shop, they shouldn’t be charged for something they didn’t buy, including a charitable donation.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Yeah, I encountered that when troubleshooting my G3.

    • friday3 says:

      .Possibly you are closer to a radio shack and want something fast. Maybe it is the convenience of shopping there. Maybe you rather give your money to a company like Radio Shack than another company that doe snot support a specific charity.Why one shops where they choose is none of your business. Stick to the added donation issue.

      • laffmakr says:

        I am sticking to the issue. A number of people are complaining about being forced to donate to a charity because they shop at Radio Shack. If you don’t like their principles, don’t shop there.

        And you’re correct, where they shop is really none of my business, but as far as I can tell i am allowed to question why people shop at a store that operates this way. And the reason I ask that is none of your business.

  6. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I think I got hung up on the part where the OP says he was about to throw away his receipt. I never throw away receipts! I pulverize them into itty bitty bits with my shredder!

    What I don’t understand is how one cannot simply stop this in the bud. If your item is $5.99, and you know tax can’t amount to more than a certain amount, how can your item suddenly be $7.50? This should be a good warning to people to look at the amount they are paying before paying. If you are told that your item with tax will cost $6.50, there is no reason why you should have a $1 charge tacked on your card after the fact. And if you pay with cash, you better be paying attention to how much money you’re handing over! Yes, Radio Shack is scammily adding Livestrong donations to the total charge – but consumers need to pay attention!

    • IphtashuFitz says:

      I routinely throw away cash receipts for small purchases. A watch battery, like that described in the article, likely cost less than $5. If paid for with cash then why deal with the hassle of taking the receipt home to shred it? It’s not like it could be used to steal your identity or anything.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      There are now four different tax rates within my county depending on your geographic location and type of business. (And of course, more and more and more tax rates once you go to other counties.) Therefore, my brain has stopped accurately estimating tax … it ranges from a low of 6.25% to a high of, like, 10.5%? I’m not even sure what the high rate is, a little under 11%. And of course food and Rx drugs are 1% or 2% (depending on if I’m in a “home rule” area), so if I’m at the supermarket, I don’t even try to guess.

      I know I should be more aware of it, but it’s so complicated I’ve given up … I just check the receipt afterwards to try to make sure the correct rate was applied. (And if it’s not … it turns out there’s nothing you can do about it! A bunch of businesses were charging the incorrect rate because they were ALSO confused, and as long as they remitted the overage to the state, consumers were just SOL. And nobody every charges too little. :P)

      • ben says:

        I’m not sure your last point is true. If the customer is overcharged on tax, even if the company sends it all to the state, I would think the customer would still be able to get the extra money back. The state has no more right than the business to take money to which they’re not entitled.

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          It got extensive local coverage. The purchaser *does* have a right to get the tax refunded, but there’s not really any provision to make that possible, or any procedure, and the merchant typically has already remitted the overage to the state, and the state (of course) doesn’t want to give it back. The state’s answer was basically, “It’s only a few dollars, you should relax.” (A billion here, a billion there ….)

  7. dragonfire81 says:

    I wonder if “Shack” corporate is pressuring their associates to meet some kind of donations goal or something, that’s the only explanation I can come up with to explain this phenomenon. Either that or there’s a lot of employees at Radio Shack that are not well trained on the register.

    And on a side note, that Ad in the picture for this article has to be one of the STUPIDEST things I’ve ever seen.

  8. MMD says:

    Obviously, something odd is going on here…but is it necessarily the intentional action of the cashier? In this case, the cashier would have to be pretty brazen to deliberately add the donation after the OP brought up the issue. Are there other possible explanations for this? (I’m asking you, Radio Shack!)

  9. theSuperman says:

    I am so tempted to go to my local Radio Shack just to see if I get “Livestronged.”

    • kaceetheconsumer says:

      Hey, maybe that’s their evil plan all along, to get those of us who don’t shop there to come by out of consumer curiosity!

  10. NotYou007 says:

    I love it when the comments and stories don’t load. This new layout is just so wonderful and works so damn great.

  11. Smashville says:

    I’m starting to think this may be a major glitch somewhere.

  12. whosurdaddy says:

    its a donation to keep THE SHACK alive, so sad that they have to resoprt to scamming customers inorder to stay alive.

    Wow the economy must be bad.

  13. Wang_Chung_Tonight says:

    ha, you got punked.

  14. jimv2000 says:

    Where do Consumerists shop? I’ve read four articles today and so far I’ve seen that people aren’t going to shop at NewEgg, RadioShack, and Toys-R-Us.

    • MMD says:

      Based on my highly scientific research, I’m thinking Consumerists shop exclusively at Zappos.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i see you haven’t been here long enough to know that we all actually make our own everything at home. hehe

    • kaceetheconsumer says:

      Fry’s for what I used to think of Radio Shack for. Except watch-style batteries are available at Walgreens.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      I don’t think any of those stores get the same hate that Wal-mart and Best Buy do and there are still Consumerists who shop in those stores too.

  15. Bohemian says:

    Maybe they are using a Diebold voting system in their cash register prompts? I want to know if there is either pressure or incentive for employees to gather than dollar donation. If there is then it is likely to be actions by employees rather than a glitch.

  16. NYGuy1976 says:

    I am sure the employees are given a goal for donations. There is no way employees are doing that just for the hell of it.

    It is a shady business practice to do that without consent. I don’t know if its that big of a deal to go back and get a refund of 1.00 that goes to cancer research.

  17. Jalh says:

    the shack , better be call the shark !

  18. savdavid says:

    See? We are all imaging things. The “Shack” employees say there is no way that could happen. Of course, we are all idiots and can’t read our receipts.

  19. dreamfish says:

    I wonder if it’s worth asking how much of the $1 actually goes the the charity.

    I hope this isn’t a sneaky extra revenue stream for Radio Shack.

  20. osiris73 says:

    Shouldn’t we be calling it “Live Strong-armed?”

  21. RonYnz says:

    Maybe the Shack is probing/checking you for prostate cancer while getting you testicular cancer donation…

  22. d says:

    Three words that will put an end to this foolishness:


    As soon as the benefit to Radio Shack evaporates and it becomes too much of a cost to them, it’ll end. Get the Attorney Generals of every State that this happened in to start investigating too – that alone will cost millions.

    I donate to charities I decide to donate to. That some company believes a charity is a worthy cause is nice, but I really don’t care. Strong-arming me into donating only pisses me off. FWIW, I wouldn’t just ask for the ‘donation’ to be refunded, I’d return every damn thing I’d purchased, go elsewhere, and never come back.

    Come to think of it – the whole “can we have your phone number please?” is why I stopped going to Radio Shack in the first place… Digikey and Mouser Electronics have been my new electronics friends since oh… 1984?

  23. 2Legit2Quit says:

    I said this in the other thread…

    the cashier is not adding the Livestrong donation to your purchase. You have either hit the Accept button, or something is actually glitching in the system. The way the donation works is like this. It shows up on the keypad if you want to donate. On the POS screen it states “Customer is being prompted to donate, click ESC to cancel.” That’s it. You can by-pass (which I’ll do with irate customers or small purchases) or wait for the customer to make their selection. I highly doubt that the employee is manually putting in the SKU, since it’s not even as if the Livestrong is tallied or pushed for quota.

    Dwight’s incorrect. Hitting the enter key will do nothing. It’s the ESC key that by-passes the system, and unless you have Adolph Hitler as a manager, you’re not getting fired or in trouble anytime soon. A bigger problem is not offering the service plan.

    • Psyko says:

      Full disclosure: Yes, they are running contests for collections and so staff may be more aggressive about it.

      However, I can second this. I just tried it in the POS and it WILL NOT LET YOU ADD THAT SKU MANUALLY. There is no way that I can see to add the service SKU for the donation without keypad interaction or a software glitch. I’ve been working here for three years(yay part-time jobs in college…) and I know all kinds of ways to do things with the POS.

  24. BenChatt says:

    These donations are going to Lance Armstrong’s burgeoning robot army. I, for one, welcome our new cyber-cycling overlords.

  25. Mr. TheShack says:

    Yes I have to rescind on what I posted about it being impossible, you can add the SKU by hand. The problem is they made a competetion out of how many you can sell, and it was more or less just an encouragement, not a real “contest”. But some employees here are so brainlessly gung-ho over everything corporate says, they percieved this as “DO IT OR YOU ARE FIRED!”.

    In response to the “Don’t shop at radioshack anymore” comment: I work here, at RS, where I’m posting this very post from. The problem is, you will never stop needing RadioShack. You all say you won’t shop here, and lo and behold, you’ll be in for your $5 battery, or your home phone problem, or your cellphone charger, or your case, or your TV cable, or whatever. And you’ll always come back. I guarantee it. We’ve been in business for 90 years, and people have always bashed radioshack, and we’ve always stayed profitable.

    So please, by all means, don’t shop here, I encourage that. Problem is, you always will.

    • Mr. TheShack says:

      Also, I forgot to mention this, they put out an update on this past wed. called “Donation Etiquette”, talking about this very issue (probably brought on from Consumerist itself!). I don’t have a printout, but I took a distorted pic on my BlackBerry. If someone from Consumerist staff is interested in said photo let me know and I can provide that to you. (I’ll try to transcribe what is written before hand).

    • kaceetheconsumer says:

      No offense, but we haven’t been to Radio Shack in almost a decade, ever since a Fry’s opened near us. Fry’s has all of the cables and components we’re likely to ever need, and if not, there are plenty of stores online that do.

      I bought two types of watch-style batteries at Walgreens last week, one for my daughter’s watch, one for my Prius keyfob.

      I stopped shopping at Radio Shack after being constantly harassed to buy a cellphone by a really creepy guy in the one near us. I haven’t been back since, haven’t needed to.

    • Mr. TheShack says:

      No offense taken, good for you. The mere fact that I’ve never heard of Fry’s tells me they aren’t a tangible threat to our business. But I still encourage people to not come into my store and ask me dumb questions (not calling you dumb, just saying in general). I always try to encourage people to go somewhere else with their complicated questions that won’t get answered, anywhere else. Less explaining I have to do.

      I would say a good 80% of our customers could avoid a stop in RS by doing a google search, having common sense, or simply being savvy.

  26. ninjatoddler says:

    Maybe I got lucky or something because I bought 2 PS3 controllers on Black Friday at the Radio Shack on University and Snelling (St Paul MN) and I didn’t get the extra $1 tacked on my receipt. The staff were exceptionally nice and very helpful. Very odd compared to the Best Buy store I had just left but maybe that has to do with the extremely heavy traffic at the BBUY location.

  27. BoredOOMM says:

    After reviewing this Sunday’s ad for “The Shack” it is is apparent that they are not going to survive much longer. Automatically adding a buck a receipt is not the way to bring in extra funding….

  28. cptkincaid says:

    Yea like I’m going to hand type a SKU, risk the customer seeing it being manually added on the debit pad, getting chewed out by said customer and risk getting fired over a lousy $1 donation. My boss has maybe said 4 words about this program since it started.

  29. smr13 says:

    You know, I don’t blame the Radioshack employees at all for doing it. The reason this kind of stuff happens is because these companies are pushing these employees to do ridiculous stuff like sell add-ons and accessories. If the employees don’t do it, they won’t have a job. These people are only doing what is required to keep their job… whether they should be doing it or not. If these companies would just calm down and stop worrying about these other dumb agendas, everything would be fine.

  30. PartTimer says:

    I started a part-time job with “The Shack” to earn some extra money this Christmas season. The screen prompts the customer to see if they want to donate to the Charity. I inform them what the screen is telling them and tell them to press accept or decline. No one has ever showed me, or advised me, that I have to collect a donation. It is just an option for the consumer, and I think it is a good cause. In fact, I am not pressured to sell anything at “The Shack”, unlike I have been at a previous Bigger Box retailer. Take Service Plans for example. There are a lot of venues out there telling you not to buy them. It has always been my perspective that you should if it is something that is easy to break or has small parts or is expensive. But you do not have to buy them. If you do buy something, without a service plan, and it breaks I suggest you go to all those places that have your best interest in mind that advised you not to buy them and ask them to replace your item. Get back to me on how that goes…Anyway, the store I work at is high volume compared to it’s size, and nobody there is concerned if you do or do not dontate to the Livestrong foundation, nor are our jobs threatened if you don’t. If you hit accept, you get charged the dollar. I will just assume here that you weren’t paying attention and hit accept. But it’s easier to blame business than to admit ignorance, isn’t it?

  31. atomoverride says:

    I dont know why radio shack is trying to call themselves THE SHACK. I’ve always known them as RAT SHACK. As there is nothing worth getting there that you cant get somewhere else cheaper. Don’t shop there, take your money elsewhere.

  32. baristabrawl says:

    Yes…because there are so many things that Radio Shack is known for having the best deal on. Really? Everyone knows you go to Radio Shack to buy a TRS80-HDMI hook-up cable.

    • Bix says:

      Their clearance deals are often excellent, and they have some good items for reasonable prices, like their well regarded “UFO” TV antenna. For cables and the like, of course not.

  33. Clayton says:

    I used to work at Radio Shack, and we continually had new things changed in the computer, after a while you just hit a button to get to the final screen and the customer was supposed to have the option on their keypad, but I wouldn’t doubt that some coding was wrong somewhere and it just got added. seriously I’ve seen new things show up in the sale register 2 or 3 times in a week for prompts

  34. brawlermein says:

    i work for radioshack. first off there is no goal for these donations. we have been doing them since about right before the tour de france and they have never once mentioned it except to say to not skip over it like we usually do. there is no reason that employees would intentionally do it because it in no way benefits them personally or even their store. it is probably some zealous manager or a couple localized incidents. i suggest if it happens call the number at the bottom of the receipt or go online and file a complaint. if anyone would post their store location where it happened im sure we could narrow this down to a few people. i know some people hate the shack but u will hate it even more when were gone. yea u can get stuff somewhere else but theres a reason virtually every home in america has atleast one of our products. all ull be left with is best buy if were gone. people come to us for knowledge and service u will not find anywhere else. the number one comment we get all day is “wow that was way easier then i thought it would be”. but alas there will always be haters i suppose…