A fairly recent post was made on The Consumerist about how the new Radio Shack — er, excuse me: “RadioShack” — is effectively an entirely new corporate entity, separate from the version of the company/brand that went bankrupt last year.
That led my wife to point me to this article from a former employee of the company during what seems to have been its darkest period, and why the aforementioned would definitely be a good thing.
In a way, the latter is an almost painful read for me, and I’m not alone. Like others in the now-closed but near-endlessly fascinating comments section, I remember a better time for the company, and have some fond memories of the store and the wonders it once offered. Interestingly enough, though, the chain took a very different course up here in Canada. From those same comments, one Ryleyh explains:
The Most Telling Thing About RadioShack…
Another former employee here. Reading this almost makes me nostalgic… almost. Lots of memories of those dead days where you’d just watch TV and play with RC toys and throw pieces of candy across the store at your coworker and they’d try to catch it in their mouths. But also the memories of long hours at low pay to deal with s***ty customers and fix stupid problems made by some mouthbreathing idiot in Fort Worth making 10x more than you.
At any rate, the most telling thing about RadioShack’s utter failure is that the business model actually IS viable. Anyone around a decade ago remembers that once upon a time, there were RadioShack stores in Canada. Back when “Radio Shack” went from being a subsidiary of Tandy to “RadioShack Corporation”, Tandy’s international holdings, including Radio Shack Canada, were spun off into a separate company, which continued licensing the RadioShack brand for a few years, before being bought out by CircuitCity which changed the Canadian stores to be “The Source.” “The Source” changed hands again to Bell when CircuitCity went under. Bell took over The Source from CircuitCity because The Source was… and still is… quite profitable. Its still the same idea… lots and lots of smaller stores in malls and strip malls and plazas… but it’s still humming along and making a tidy profit just like RadioShack was 20 years ago.
This really underscores just how s***ty RadioShack’s leadership over the last decade has been. The idea that the business model isn’t viable in the internet age lets those idiots off the hook with an excuse. There is no excuse. They ran a successful, very profitable company into the ground. It’s not the internet’s fault. It’s not the fault of changing technologies. It’s piss-poor s***-tier leadership, plain and simple.
One minor detail there: I remember when they made the name change, it was actually “The Source by Circuit City” before Circuit City’s going out of business led to it simply becoming “The Source.” Incidentally, there’s a location just up the street from us. For an idea of its longevity, it outlasted the Blockbuster Video that was right next door.
This one is a personal favorite for obvious reasons, more for renown than ever having or seeing one. ToyCo’s Astro Magnum was brought over in two forms: the more common and well-known Shockwave of Hasbro’s Transformers line, and the above, which was sold as “Galactic Man” through Radio Shack and, as such, was affectionately given the name of “Shackwave” by some of those in the “Robots in Disguise” fandom.
This was a popular one, as I recall. A robot manufacturing-styled arm that you could control with two joysticks and do things with. According to Hokie in SBNation’s comments, it’s an “incredible little piece of engineering there -— there’s one motor for the whole thing and all the controls and linkages are mechanical (the ‘wires’ at the elbow are just hollow rubber tubes for show).”
I don’t know all the ins and outs of this one so well, but it certainly seems to spark memories in those familiar with it. A tinkerer’s dream, it would seem, as you could learn the ins and outs of circuitry and electronics, and even pick up radio signals if you did it right!
And here we have my sentimental favorite: Robie the robot bank. Much as I’ve always wanted one — even more now, as a keepsake of that bygone era — I only ever got to play with these in the stores. You’d place a coin on the “$” marked arm and press it down, to which it would respond by lifting the arm up, dropping the coin into its mouth, and “eating” it, crunching its jaws all the while. I’d wager that it was a nice way for some worker to pick up a small tip for a soda or something — at least with the money I liked to put in there.
Anyway, I hope this has drummed up some fond memories for some of you, or at least given you some interesting insight into the downward spiral of a company that had been around for longer than most any of us have been alive!
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.