RadioShack: My Story

RadioShack-BAN

Hello everyone. Hope all is well with you today. I recently read an article by SB Nation called A Eulogy for RadioShack. Upon reading this article I started getting really weird flashbacks to a time long since past and felt the urge to tell my story in response. RadioShack is definitely an interesting company to work for. Although Jon’s (The author of the SB Nation article) story is different, and in some of the cases far more extreme than mine, the parallels were nearly across the board. Not to mention the recent news of Radio Shack’s bankruptcy announcement, I was feeling inspired.

MY CAREER:

My career with RadioShack started in 2002 at a strip mall location in the southeast section of Boise, ID. I was young, tech savvy, and fairly good with people. I had never worked sales before, but working for The Shack felt like an honor and thought it would be lots of fun. Little did I know of the realities that would be my very near future. The first year was great, but little did I know that RadioShack’s golden age was quickly coming to an ugly end. In a world where gigantic big box stores such as Best Buy and Circuit City were reigning supreme in electronic sales (but were also struggling) and online sales were on the rise, RadioShack as a company needed to be cornered and act fast.

Come 2004, corporate realizes, “Shit, we need to change our image and become new again!” The head office  initiates a retro-fit of its stores, one of many. At the time I was in the Assistant Manger training program and it was perfect timing for the retro-fit. The company wanted someone who was a leader to take a team of 3 people (whom had never worked for RadioShack before this) around to all of the different stores and reformat the entire location within a week. Corporate had hired marketing companies to help them layout their stores for product effectiveness and needed this team to get the stores setup to accommodate that plan in the best way possible. It was definitely a challenge, but I’ll be damned if we didn’t get it done and even got a bonus for finishing early. Here’s the scary part; when the retro-fit was over, they had no spot for me. My old spot had to be hired for otherwise the store would have been down one person for 7 weeks. A manger in training no less. They had no effing plan to get me back on the sales floor after I was done! So I basically got a week off, with no pay, while they tried to fit me into a store. Basically rendering the “bonus” I earned completely useless.

After that week had passed, they finally got me out to the Meridian, ID location. I would say overall, this is where I was happiest. The store was the cleanest in the district, sales weren’t the highest, but they were consistent, the manager had a 20 year tenure with the company, and not to mention he was super cool. I don’t have much to gripe about this time in my career. It was good…until the end. The manager pulled me into the back room and sat me down to give me a fair warning. A store just opened up for a management position and they were looking at me to fill the spot. The catch was that the store was in Burley, ID. Burley is 2 1/2 hours east of Boise and has a whopping population of 10,000 people. At that point in my life, I had no plans on moving that far from home. However, I was told that if I turned this opportunity down, another one may not come along and it could effect my career. So when the phone rang, it was all a flash. I just simply took it and prayed all would turn out ok. The bullshit of this part was that they gave me one week, that’s it, to pack my shit and get to Burley. RadioShack stated they would pick up the moving and living bills. In complete shock, I went home that night and contemplated my decision. That weekend, I had a going away gathering at our local IHOP that we hung out at regularly and bid all my friends goodbye. I was heart broken…

Enter Burley. It is late 2004 and I literally spent my first month living out the Best Western on the side of the freeway. Everything was shady as shit, but the plus was that it was literally right across the street from work. It wasn’t a bad setup since RadioShack fronted the bill. However, it did come out of my store’s profit and loss statement, and it wasn’t cheap. The Burley store itself was shanty and old looking. It shared residence with a local lawyer’s office out of what I believe was an old bank building. The plus to my new environment is that I had really cool co-workers. The stores traffic was generally slower and we made the best of it. We watched a LOT of Food Network and movies while were there. Overall, Burley was a good place, but it wasn’t home. I never felt 100% me there. I’m just glad I had good friends in my co-workers and they know who they are.

Toward the end of 2005 to early 2006, the opportunity to take up a store in Nampa came up. For those not in the know, Nampa was about 30-40 minutes west of Boise. I took residence back here in Boise and was glad to have all my old familiar faces back. However, this was probably the most interesting part of my career. The Nampa/Caldwell area RadioShacks were riddled with rumors, lies, back stabbings and some downright assholes. I did the best I could to make sure my store never ended up that way. I had four employees I could definitely trust and were my right hands when I couldn’t be there. However, there were a few employees I just could not stand. My assistant manager at the time even tried to have me fired for no reason by saying some rather heinous shit about me to the District Manager. Thankfully he was smarter than that. That was just on the sales floor. Let me pull back the curtains of the company for you.

RADIOSHACK BEHIND THE VEIL:

RadioShack’s politics were that of legend. In my time there I believe we went through 3 CEO’s who could care less about the store’s legacy and making it a better place to be for its employees and its customers. One of the CEO’s we brought in was a former executive from McDonald’s for fuck’s sake. What is she going to know about anything of RadiShack?

Inventories were complete bullshit and I’m pretty sure violated particular labor laws across the boards. Because the powers at hand could give two shits about efficiency. You would get teamed up with two buddy stores and you would start your inventory toward the end of the shift and break out the scanners. As your buddy stores ended their day, the employee’s would show up and help you out. Sounds good and all until you realize an inventory takes you HOURS! There would be nights we wouldn’t leave until 1:00am due to reconciliation issues. This also meant you were pretty much guaranteed that 3 out of every 4 months you were going to be working late. And as a manager, guess who opens the next day? Yup. On a side note, my last district manager was pretty cool and took everyone out to drinks on my final inventory before I left the company. It was a fun night.

The proverbial carrot. Radio Shack had a really jacked up bonus system. There were three tiers of bonuses you could achieve based on how your store performed…unfortunately that was all I knew about it. The bonus structure was so convoluted you needed to be a math major to figure it out. You could tell yourself you did fantastic one month, but if even one of the criteria to meet was off, no bonus for you. The carrot was always out in front of the horse, but you know what happens to the horse if you don’t feed it to him? He either dies or retaliates. Don’t believe me? Read about one of many class-action lawsuits again RadioShack for violating minimum wage laws.

The polished turd. Radio Shack has the unfortunate image of being the electronics store of yesteryear. Your parts, batteries and poorly built remote control cars were always there. Remember the retro-fit I told you about in the prior section? Well that’s all it was. They’d polish a turd and hoped it would work. They’d hope a new color scheme and clothes for the employees would distract from the same old bullshit still lining their shelves and walls. I remember specifically that none of the stores (to my knowledge) ever carried a flat panel TV until about 5 years after they started becoming mainstream. And thus was the tone that was set company wide. Video games? I don’t think they started carrying those until the middle of the PS3’s run. Accessories, yes, but it was almost never name brand. It was always 3rd party carriers.

Upper management hell. This is pretty much what tied every issue together. Anyone who was Regional Manager and above all seemed to have their heads up their asses. ESPECIALLY the Fort Worth, TX corporate office. They were so far out of touch with what was happening at their own stores that they couldn’t foresee their own demise. Keep polishing that turd and hope it works.

THE SHORT OF IT:

In the end, there definitely could have been far worse places to work for. I got to play with tech every day, I met good friends that I still talk to to this day, and it was a learning experience that I would never trade for anything. The biggest failure here is that the corporate structure let down its employees and its shareholders by not being innovative and forward thinking. They didn’t just need to “polish the turd,” they needed to flush the old turd and completely re-brand. Which I THOUGHT was happening during their epic 2014 Superbowl commercial. But nope, that was the brightest polish on the turd yet! They basically tried to make it look like an apple store and gave the employees t-shirts and lanyards instead of button-up shirts, name tags, and slacks.

My one thought was that they could have ditched the “Radio” out of the name all together and just call it what the nickname has been all along, “The Shack.” Close a few stores down and expand on their best sellers, hire more employees, and offer side services in-store that they never had done before. It would have taken time, but more creditors, employees, and shareholders may have had a little more faith in the change. But alas, here we are in mid February and RadioShack’s legacy is in the the shitter. Just know that my gripes only come from the last 10 years or so. RadioShack has a solid legacy behind it, but the current higher-ups just buried the company in its grave.

To Radio Shack, there is a part of me that will miss you. A big part of my life was spent with you. Then again, there is a part of me that hopes your poorly lead corpse gets salted and burned. RIP RadioShack.

 

 

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