They haven't been to RadioShack in years, but they're wistful nonetheless. Our Dana Blankenhorn lamented the long-dead Tandy RadioShack personal computers and the store's devolution from a "makerspace" to a lifeless mobile retailer that wouldn't recognize a 3D printer if it extruded a model of a dying mall right onto its sales floor. Herb Greenberg detailed his "hate affair" with a retailer that had thousands of convenient locations, but lacked simple conveniences like inventory and customer service.
Even our Brian Sozzi, the retail industry's lead photo essayist and obituary writer, notes that a chain once committed to technological progress is now a series of tiny, glossy shops filled with low-margin products and short on actual gear.
I wondered when the last time I'd actually stepped into a RadioShack was. Five years ago. A few weeks after I'd started working at TheStreet, I'd already crushed two pairs of Apple earbuds with my desk chair thanks to a tower PC setup that kept the headphone jack close to the floor.
I went looking for headphones and, just across the street from a Borders (rapidly becoming a relic in its own right at the time), I found them at a RadioShack. They were a whopping $40 and a whole lot more costly than a few pairs I'd found online, but I didn't have time to hold out and RadioShack had them in stock.
But during a time when Radio Shack was trying to rebrand itself TheShack and facing increasing pressure from both online and bricks-and-mortar retailers, there was no such thing as a quick visit to their stores. The store's lone employee, whom I neither blamed nor envied, held me at the counter in an attempt to upsell me on batteries, a new smartphone and a new mobile plan. I declined each offer and lost about 10 minutes to the entire exchange.
The experience reminded me that it had been a number of years since my previous trip to a RadioShack, another memorably awful experience. In early 2007, my old cassette-tape voice recorder from college finally breathed its last and prompted me to pick up a digital version on the way to an interview in Manhattan. Short on time, I popped out of the subway at the Port Authority and stopped into their RadioShack to pick up the digital recorder I still use today. It wasn't easy to locate, its accessories were in another area entirely and, when I tried to purchase it, I was treated to a scripted pitch about the merits of a Microsoft (MSFT) Zune.