Working with Bozz: The Radio Shack Years - Part 2

in esteem •  last year 

I took some time last post and explained how I came to work at Radio Shack.

This was the first long term job I ever had and those three years working there taught me a lot about human nature.

Sadly, the Radio Shack that I left was a far cry from the Radio Shack I had started at, even though it was the same store.

The town I lived in had two Radio Shacks. One was in a strip mall set between a furniture store and a dry cleaner. The other was in the mall right near the food court. I remember a statistic they used to throw out at sales meetings... When Radio Shack had 3300 stores across the country they would boast that everyone in the US lived or worked within five minutes of a Radio Shack store.

The strip mall store had been around much longer and was the one I had visited as a kid. This is the store I ended up working at.

Back in the day, Radio Shack was a place that you could go to for answers. As a matter of fact, that was their slogan: "You've got questions, we've got answers".

The first couple months of my training reflected that slogan. I had to read books and take tests on different products. There was a whole series on telephones, electronic components, stereo equipment, CB Radios, Antennas, you name it, they had a book and a test for it.

The goal for a new employee was to become certified in every product that the store carried. I soon completed all of my certifications and was ready to start answering questions.

Over time, Radio Shack moved away from those core certifications and it soon became all too common to go into a store and have a clueless teenager stare at you blankly when you asked a question.

The store I worked at was a corporate store (there were also some small franchise stores here and there). Being corporate meant that our layout had to stick closely to the guidelines. Landline telephones and TV/Stereo were at the front of the store, then car stereo and the cash registers, followed by all of the other components towards the back of the store.

Our store was one of the biggest in the area, because of that we had room for a large training area in our back room. Sales people would come from all of the other stores once a month to get a pep talk from the district manager and learn about all the new promotions being offered.

There are a couple of things that really stick out to me about my first month or so at Radio Shack:

SPIFFS were king

These were incentives that you got for signing people up for things. For example, say a person was buying a car stereo for $149.99 and there was a TSP(Tandy Service Plan) available for the stereo for $29.95. If you got them to buy the TSP, you automatically got an extra $3.00 in your next check.

If you got someone to sign up for a Radio Shack credit card, you automatically got $2.00 in your next check whether they were approved or not.

If you were really motivated, you could make a ton of money on top of your base pay just from SPIFF's. This was really helpful because most employees were paid a base salary + commision. If you were at a high volume store, it was pretty easy to make decent money. If you weren't though, those extra SPIFF's were really important.

As I mentioned, the store I worked at was a strip mall store near an industrial part of town. Many times workers would come in looking for a very specific component(like a $.69 resistor). There was no way you were going to talk them into something else, so you had to just sell them the item and settle for the low dollar per ticket (this was one of the things we were evaluated on).

Radio Shack Unlimited

I had never even heard of this awesome service until I started working at the store. Just beyond the cash registers were a set of six to eight binders that had all kinds of items you could buy that weren't carried in the store.

They had a whole binder just for cordless phone batteries. If the little rechargeable battery you needed wasn't available in the store, we could order it for you.

Soldering stations, telescopes, night vision bincoulars, you name it, we could get ahold of it. These binders opened a whole new realm of items that we were able to offer our customers.

Repair Depot

Finally, who knew that Radio Shack could repair your broken items... radios, tape players, CD players, you name it, we could send it in to the repair depot and in a week or two they would send it back good as new. If they couldn't fix it, they would replace it.

If you had bought a TSP, the cost was free, if you didn't, you had to pay for the repair on a fixed scale. For example, cordless phones were $50, stereo receivers were $75, answering machines were $30, etc.

I have so many more stories to tell about Radio Shack. I apologize if some of this feels like I am rambling. I am kind of just writing up things as they come back to mind. If you find it hard to follow along, please let me know, I will try to write an outline and organize my thoughts better.

Do you have any memories of visitng Radio Shack? Good or bad, let me hear them (you won't hurt my feelings)!

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Ha! Working with the public always teaches you a lot doesn't it? RadioShack was the place to go when you needed anything electronic back in the day!

I know right! It is sad that it is bankrupt now. The Internet has really changed things so much. Most of the stuff that was special order through Radio Shack Unlimited you can get within two days on Amazon now!

I miss Radio Shacks, I loved them and used to visit often, for bits and pieces, especially when I was still doing hands on techy work
but I did find the service that I initially got with well trained and knowledgeable staff slowly faded away and that really led people to start buying online and the eventual demise of the chain

Trust me, I know exactly what you are talking about and I don't blame you. There was a definite shift while I was working there.

Its sad really I would still be going there today if it had not changed

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FOR TSE: Radio Shack was never "my kind of place," but my first husband was simply crazy about electronics. There was also a mall where we lived that had a restaurant we liked, a Radio Shack and one of my favorite fabric stores.

So we'd have dinner, then split up -- and whoever finished shopping first would come find the other.

That worked out well, actually.

(P.S. The Weasel is the same way about computers. Or tools. And restaurants.)

Sounds like a solid plan! It was pretty rare that I ever visited one after I stopped working there. There are still things I need sometimes that it would be nice to run one and get them if they were still opened.

Four or five years ago is when I lost faith finally in Radio Shack. I needed a specific diode to fix the power board on my TV. I took the sample to my local RS and was told to try the one in town, it's corporate. OK then, 20 miles later I got the same blank look and a sneer when I asked if they could order. (I knew they could). So I got it in two days as mentioned.

I repeated the entire process about 3 months later with some cabling I needed. The entire process. That's when I decided that I was done supporting another local business. Sad but true. They can't compete with the internet, all they can compete at is personal service. When that went away....

Thanks Bozz! I'm really liking this series.

Thanks, I appreciate it. Like I said, I feel like I am all over the place, but it was a while ago that I worked there and lots of stuff happened in the three years that I was there. I am going to cover it in a future issue, but I feel their big downfall was going all in on cell phones and abandoning what they were built on. It's not surprising they went bankrupt.