back to article As bankruptcy looms for RadioShack, we ask its chief financial officer... oh. He's quit

The chief financial officer of struggling US electronics retailer RadioShack has resigned – as the company faces a fiscal crisis from which it has warned it may not be able to recover. John Feray, who had served as RadioShack's CFO for nine months, stepped down on September 12, a new filing with the Securities and Exchange …

Vic

Another one bites the dust...

Radio Shack was a useful shop 40 years ago...

Vic.

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Re: Another one bites the dust...

Naw, it's still kinda useful.

I go to Radio Shack for parts (switches, jack, cables, etc), which means I go there less and less.

They had a niche but weren't satisfied to stay in it.

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Re: Another one bites the dust...

I haven't been in a Radio Shack in 10 years due to their refocus on phones, which meant less transistors, circuit boards, relays, speakers, etc etc that I went into Radio Shack for. I'll miss the the old Radio Shack, but I won't miss the new/improved Radio Shack... Luckily Fry's Electronics and Altex have the electronics stuff I want/need that I used to go into Radio Shack for.

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Re: Another one bites the dust...

Yep, their biggest problem for me was the fact that the electronics parts bins either didn't have what I wanted or weren't maintained in any semblance of order. Nobody wants to pull out a drawer labeled "transistors & relays" and find it's full of leds and photodiodes. Sure there might be one transistor mixed in with some 33k Ohm resistors somewhere but who wants to swirl and poke their way through every drawer when exactly the right part is just a click away online?

It's a pity though, I was recently in the local RadioShack picking up an SD card which I had forgotten to order with a Raspberry Pi and wouldn't you know they actually had Raspberry Pis and BeagleBone Blacks on the shelf. Oh well it's probably too late now. I think they could have hung on longer if they had gone the maker route earlier and maybe offered 3D printing services along with Pis and such.

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Re: Another one bites the dust...

They had a niche but weren't satisfied to stay in it.

agreed hugely... they really screwed the pooch when they got greedy and started chasing everything else... i used to go to them to purchase chips and electronics parts for building projects but one can barely get any of the good stuff they used to have yesteryear... they need to return to their roots if they truly want to stay around...

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Re: Another one bites the dust...

Pooch screwing happened a very long time ago, because they've been making most of their money from overpriced, overmarketed, mediocre consumer electronics since the 1950s.

I'd guess the component side was always a footnote.

I remember being appalled when I discovered them in the late 70s because the catalogues seemed brash, aggressive, and patronising. If you wanted something like a 555 timer you had to buy a multipack, while all the other UK electronics stores at the time would let you buy one-offs - and their catalogs and literature treated you like an engineer, not a gullible fool in need of upsell. (Maplin will still sell you a single resistor.)

To be fair they did give the world the TRS-80, which wasn't a total rip-off for the time.

For nostalgia fans there's an almost complete collection of old catalog(ue)s at http://www.radioshackcatalogs.com.

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Re: Another one bites the dust...

Or Tandy as they were known in the UK.

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Re: Another one bites the dust...

Wont ever happen.

Old style electronics hobbyists are a rare breed. Open any modern device, see a 0.6w 100k metal film resistor anywhere labelled brown black yellow??? No...

Everything these days is SMD or SOC.

Its a shame cos i enjoy building circuits but without specialist tools and parts its a dying hobby...

Look at maplins. headed down the same path..

You have to order a resistor now as they dont stock em...

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Re: Another one bites the dust...

Same here. Years ago I went into a store for some parts. I stood behind a guy who was waiting for the salesdroid to finish activating some other person's cell phone. After ten minutes, the guy ahead of me got fed up, dumped the items on the counter and walked out in a huff. I was kind enough to go back to the shelves and put mine back on the pegs, then I walked out. After that I didn't go into another RS store for years.

I did go in recently to buy a battery holder. Then I recently went into a RS store and walked out when I saw they wanted $20 to $25 for a USB cable. I walked across the parking lot to the dollar store and bought one.. for a dollar.

I have no sympathy for them, because they once served the customer, but now have lost that service. I think if they drastically cut the number of stores - there are far too many in the metro area where I live - then they might survive. If they liquidate, I don't think I would go out of my way to buy stuff marked down 80 percent, because it would still be overpriced.

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Re: Another one bites the dust...

My friend called me from the RS store and said they had 16 GB SD cards on sale, and asked if he should buy one. I looked online and found that the local Micro Center store had 32 GB SD cards, for a dollar cheaper!

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Re: Another one bites the dust...

Long ago, Tandy bought Radio Shaft and they also had Tandy Leather stores in bigger cities. Anyone could buy an unfinished leather belt and with a few tools make it into a nice custom present for one's kid's birthday. But Do it yourself stuff, just like Heathkit, just couldn't compete with cheap imports.

But they do have a choice, to do what Blockbuster did - close the stores and sell online.

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Pint

eBay is the replacement, if you can wait a month for delivery

Search on "kit" or "diy kit" under the category 'electronics' (adjust as required) and you can order up all sorts of cute solder-it-yourself building blocks kits. These wee kits can be adapted and integrated with Arduino to do almost anything. And everything is like $3 shipped. I think I could build a digital SW receiver out of such blocks for about $100.

The Good Old Days are actually right about... ...now.

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Headmaster

Re: Another one bites the dust...

I don't know the details, but I'm guessing this was a massive management failure at RS. Look, with the electronics revolution of the past 20 years RS was in a perfect position to capture market share. They blew it. Years ago they had trained, experienced salespeople. Now RS stores are staffed by people that can't even insert a battery the right way.

They could have addressed the makers market. More important, they should have FOCUSED on immediate need, get-it-now items that people can't wait until tomorrow to get, like batteries, cables, memory.

Instead they tried to sell broad appeal items (you can't undersell eBay). They tried to sell mobile phones with salespeople that were pathetically inexperienced.

In a nutshell, they didn't know what they should sell. And now, in the final irony the whole company is for sale.

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Re: weren't maintained in any semblance of order.

I never grokked that end of electronics so I haven't experienced that. But even from my perspective, when I was a kid and you went to Radio Shack for something, the sales guy knew what you wanted, (even if you thought it was something else), knew where it was, and could give you advice on installing/using it if you needed help. Somewhere along the line the bean counters replaced those guys with minimum wage merch shifters who can't help you with anything. Not only does that annoy customers directly, it probably accounts for the mess in the bins.

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Anonymous Coward

Reminds me of Maplins

Also shit and not really sure what it's meant to be selling.

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Re: Reminds me of Maplins

They shot themselves when they stopped selling in europe. Sales went down and they started stocking crap products to try and make up the shortfall.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of Maplins

Europe has as much to do with it as any other country. When they started booming children's toys in the 80's, they made an approach to landing where they are now. Now, they still sell children's toys, but mainly focus on adult toys. In particular the 1 toy they focus on...the mobile phone.

In my opinion, if they would of stayed true to their name (RadioShack), they could of been at the epicenter of all things WiFi. Hell, they still could. I see no reason why a consumer franchise of dealing with all things WiFi couldn't exist. Right now it is divided amongst things like BestBuy's NerdSquad, Mobile stores, internet websites, "the grandchildren". No one has yet to make a WiFi solution at a consumer level. In my imagination alone, I see at least a dozen services it could provide. Everyone keeps focusing on adding new gadgets to the WiFi pool, but not 1 franchise is managing the pool itself.

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FAIL

Re: Reminds me of Maplins

They shot themselves when they stopped selling in europe.

They never really started selling in Europe in the first place.

Where I lived, I had three electronics parts stores within cycling distance, fairly well stocked and with decent prices. RatShack tried to enter that market by having a shop full of tat, with prices as if every component was individually handled and sent first-class mail from wherever they were manufactured via their US HQ to the shop, which was in a prime shopping street. A shop which was staffed by at least twice the number of zit-faced shop assistants that the customer density warranted, but whose collective IQ still didn't exceed their smallest shoe size (in US units).

They went under within a year. Their bizarre selection of blister-packed components turned up at one of the electronics parts stores, but even in their clearance bin they didn't shift.

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Re: Reminds me of Maplins

"not really sure what it's meant to be selling"

Add to that "over expanded into too many large shops that don't do enough trade to keep the lights on"

According to Experian data, Maplin made a loss of £180m last year, and that was up year on year from losses of a "mere" £26m back in 2009, and have negative net worth to the tune of £100m, despite an apparent £440m equity-for-debt swap the previous year. I expect Maplin to join Radio Shack in the great retail park in the sky anyday soon.

I suggest unlucky Phones 4U employees don't apply to Maplin. Don't forget you heard it here first.

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Coat

Re: Reminds me of Maplins

Maplins is a fictional holiday camp, based on Hi-de-Hi co-writer Jimmy Perry's own experiences as a Redcoat at Pwllheli Butlins in the 60s.

Maplin is a retailer of electronic component supplies, founded in 1972.

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Re: Reminds me of Maplins

"Maplins is a fictional holiday camp,"

Not if the OP was referring to the individual Maplin shops collectively?

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Re: Reminds me of Maplins

like sheeps???

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i heard recently

that Radio shack had something like $65M in the bank left, and they wanted to close 2,000 stores but that would require ~$75M - more than they had available.

I grew up just a few years after Radio shack hit what probably it's hay days in the late 70s/early 80s (I assume) so was never really a customer of theirs.

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As they tried to become relevant to today's youth, they eliminated everything that made them actually useful. I've been there a few times in recent years to try and pick up things like LEDs, connectors, fuses, etc. Most of the time I couldn't find anything close and had to order from Digikey or the like. Sad.

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Ditto. Went in so many times looking for something simple like a simple SPST switch, a common resistor, or a capacitor just to walk out empty handed as they reduced all their electronic parts to 1 drawer system that is mostly empty, or had 1 of anything in it.

Then IF you find any parts you have to get bothered why they try and sell you a cell phone during check out...

I found ebay very nice for parts, and usually 1000% cheaper for almost anything. I remember when I needed a single white LED Radio shack wanted $5... I got 100 from china for $10 WITH 100 resistors shipped...

Needed a soldering iron as my old one(which was a radio shack brand) crapped out after 13 years of service they had one damaged one on the shelf that looked like someone stepped on it...

It also drove me nuts how they would tape up parts people opened or returned.

Wish I could say its sad to see them go, but they pretty much been trying their best to go under

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What's in a name?

Maybe Allied Electronics or the Tandy Leather Factory would be interested in a reconciliation...

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Re: What's in a name?

When I was a kid the local store was half Tandy Leather, half Radioshack.

As a student I worked part time in Radioshack (TRS-80 days)

Radioshack was a place I would go to buy wire, batteries, the odd electronic part. Still have some Radioshack speakers connected to the TV.

Then they sold Radioshack Canada to Circuit City. Then renamed it The Source. Now it's owned by Bell Canada and pushing phones and TV. Lots of RC toys.

Now I drive 10 km to get to a place that sells the type of stuff Radioshack used to sell (without the shrinkwrap onto cardboard packaging).

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Retail bankruptcies are never fun

I remember when Circuit City went belly up last decade. Admittedly, their strategy of "Let's fire our experienced salespeople because they're too expensive" was one of a string of failures on their part, but they left behind a big footprint. There are still old Circuit City stores in my neck of the woods that haven't been rented by anyone else, leaving a blighted empty big box store that really can't be used for anything other than another big box. All the brick and mortar chains are going to be releasing lots of real estate onto the market when Amazon finally brings the hammer down. Home Depot is built right across the street from Lowe's. 4 supermarket chains all coexist basically right next to each other in some spots. I've seen street corners with a Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid all on the same intersection. Best Buy is right next to....oh wait, there's no other large electronics retailers anymore and they're still on the verge of going under. I remember reading that the reason Sears is still in OK shape is because they either own or have ultra-long term leases on their stores, which is apparently a rare thing nowadays.

Radio Shack is just in a bad spot. Fewer people are learning about amateur radio, analogue electronics outside of audio is just not the thing to tinker with anymore, and it's not really possible to do board-level repair on gadgets. I do remember growing up in the 80s, and seeing them selling lots of stereo equipment, electronic gizmos like clocks, CB radios and radar detectors, and of course the Trash 80 and Tandy PC clones. Since anyone can buy a cell phone cheaper from Amazon or a carrier's store, there's really not much left for them to sell to people. I go there very occasionally when I need a cable or something that I can't wait for, and they're always very expensive with a limited selection.

The funny thing is that I do remember when they were at least a reliable choice when you wanted something electronic, and they even had their own factories making components back before that got offshored. That's kind of the only reason they're not bankrupt yet...those early years let them build up huge reserves. Kind of like Dell, or to a lesser extent, IBM...still plugging along but a shadow of their size and influence during their "golden age."

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Re: Retail bankruptcies are never fun

Radio Shack has been virtually irrelevant to Amateur Radio for decades. Their stock of parts is down to a couple of cabinets which may or may not have half the bins filled. In years past they used to have walls of parts that could be viewed when searching for a match or solution rather than dig through the drawers.

In the past 5 years or so the only things I have used Radio Shack was for a CR2032 battery holder and a couple white LEDs that I had to have fairly quickly. The battery holder was something I needed to fondle before purchase because it was going in a tight space where one didn't exist before. I shaved a lot of its back off and re-routed one of terminals.

Edison said, "To invent one needs an active imagination and a pile of junk." Radio Shack was a poor substitute for the real radio stores we once had, but to Radio Shack's credit they stuck around longer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Retail bankruptcies are never fun

"I remember when Circuit City went belly up last decade. Admittedly, their strategy of "Let's fire our experienced salespeople because they're too expensive" was one of a string of failures on their part,"

Just a "String of failures"? Not even close: in reality, the typical modern-America business attitude of "the line workers are overpaid but let's not touch management", the same attitude that is collapsing many industries around the United States.

Catch this article?

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-09-12/europe-s-weak-because-it-s-uncompetitive

European workers are paid too much! Yes! The best way to become more competitive is to cut your worker's pay without touching anything else in the structure - note how every "analysis" of cost/benefit always carefully examines the worker's pay but NEVER the management? Also, in case you missed it:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-10/chipotle-near-penn-state-closes-after-workers-quit.html

"Workers paid too much"...while the stockholder vote 77% that CEO pay scale is too high. As if their vote actually counted.

Anyway, Radio Shack could reinvent itself by making it a mini/micro big box store of brands and goods that people actually WANT. Radio Shack has thousands of stores, imagine if they sold cameras and laptops, tablets as well as phones, name brand TV's plus home entertainment systems. But, as always, their management is too entrenched in a single thought, that the Radio Shack "brand" can sustain itself and is worth something in today's world. When they discontinued PC's, when they discontinued useful small electronics parts, when they became a seller of tawdry low-quality private label merchandise, they lost that good will and that was probably 2 decades ago.

Maybe it IS too late for Radio Shack, but as usual the only people to blame is the management...as they work hard to pass the buck while they play Musical Deck Chairs on their little Titanic.

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Pint

Re: Retail bankruptcies are never fun

The funny thing is that I do remember when they were at least a reliable choice when you wanted something electronic, and they even had their own factories making components back before that got offshored. That's kind of the only reason they're not bankrupt yet...those early years let them build up huge reserves. Kind of like Dell, or to a lesser extent, IBM...still plugging along but a shadow of their size and influence during their "golden age."

on the factories thing... yep! they would find some product that was very good and they might have that company make the same product but with the tandy or radioshack name on it... if it went really well, they would buy the factory and start making the products for everyone else...

do you remember their batteries? the red and green ones? yup, same exact product as the name branded batteries they sold right beside them... came out of the same factory and the same production line at the same time... each was simply diverted to the separate labeling lines...

do you remember their cassette tapes? same thing! they sold them beside memorex tapes... guess who made the memorex tapes... yup! radioshack did :)

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Re: Retail bankruptcies are never fun

All those brick and mortar stores released onto the market are going to be leased by Amazon, so they can fly those limited distance delivery drones from a mini warehouse nearby to your front porch. That is, if they can get the FAA to approve their drone delivery system..

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Re: Retail bankruptcies are never fun

Sears is a dead man walking as well. The company is being bled dry for short term gains (same stunt the CEO pulled with K-Mart.) Inventory has been divested, the customers are fleeing and the stores are being sold off to mask the shortfalls.

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Radio Shack was the only good electronics place in my town before Best Buy. Maybe Best Buy or similar should buy them and use them as outlets that cater to local demands (like one location might do well with phones, another with tvs).

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Can anyone smell recession yet?

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Unhappy

Contrary to what 'Just call me Dave' claims, we haven't exited the last recession. If anything we're barely marking time.

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The Nightly Business Report did a story on the problem the states are having: the wealthy are taking so much money away from the rest that there is less commerce, and less revenue from taxes, etc. Those companies like Apple, with nearly a trillion dollars taken away from consumers, seem to be most of the problem. The economists call one form of this stuff rent seeking.

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Corporation hoards

Those companies like Apple, with nearly a trillion dollars taken away from consumers

Interesting point: all those billions squirreled away offshore is doing nothing for the economy, at least not for the economy of the originating countries!

Maybe the big businesses should be forced to repatriate a goodly chunk of it and SPEND it, or distribute it as a divi at least so others might spend it?

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Re: Corporation hoards

They keep it away and splash out the odd bilion here and there buiiyng up smaller companies to ensure competitors don't get to them first.

After that it's usually a big press release followed shortly by 'absorbing' the smaller firm and usually never using what they scrambled to buy in the first place.

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Re: Those companies like Apple

Much as I dislike Apple, the truth of the matter is, all those trillions squirreled away offshore are peanuts compared to the federal debt. Fix the problem with government taxing and controlling too much, and the rest of the problems will subside.

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Silver badge

Maplin is likely next.

I think online became the only feasible way to buy electronics parts ages ago. The SAME part as in Radio Shack or Maplin from Asia, 1/5th price. INCLUDING postage.

Selling "boys toys" and junk tools won't save maplin.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Maplin is likely next.

agreed, it's what I do - although the quality of parts can be very variable and I always worry about plastics being full of cancer chemicals, etc.

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Re: Maplin is likely next.

Exactly - these days nothing short of selling EVERYTHING in a range is good enough, which only warehouse-based online sellers of electronic components can do. No small store with a bunch of wall cabinets can match that, no matter how big that wall is. There's no point in going to a store with my BOM if they don't have half of it (or 99% of it, more often) so in the end there's no point left going to such a store at all for anything more complicated than some batteries or CAT5 cable or a bunch of LEDs - and that's not enough to stay afloat.

RS's problem is that their original niche slowly sunk from under them with the changing of times as tinkering with transistors sort of went out of style, and they never found something else to do that others don't do much better already...

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Re: Maplin is likely next.

RS Components in the uk (Radio Spares, no relation to Radio Shack) have branches still - screwfix/argos style rather wall cabinets.

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Society, technology and people have changed

We now live in a throw away world with digital minituraized tecchnology. There's little left that we can build or fix compared to decades ago. I tried to give my son a soldering gun. Every guy needs to know how to solder, right? It came back.

In this new world we live in there's little need for the type of parts and tools shop that Radio Shack used to be. Recently I was looking for the psu capacitors for an LG lcd monitor. I tried about 4 or 5 electronics shop in an area but none had the correct parts. I ended up at a shop in an older part of the city, run by an old fellow, that a couple of the shops had mentioned. When even the real electronics shops don't have all we need, what hope is there for a RS?

About a week ago I was online checking out local shops for the snagless boots for RJ45 ethernet cables before dropping by. I ended up placing an order with Amazon for a bag of them. Kind of sums it up, doesn't it?

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Tandy

In the 70s & 80s, I used to love going to Tandy. I loved looking at all the electronics on the shelves, the amateur (ham) radios, and all the little things. At one stage, Tandy was the only place I could go to get 'crystals' for my portable transceivers.

Then, sometime in the early 90s I went to Tandy to buy a 3.5" FDD - they wanted $200* for it. Went to a little computer shop around the corner and got one for $30!**

So yeah, they were good once, but started losing their way.

*Sony

**Hitachi

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RIP RadioShack

They should never have abandoned their core products. I was a Shack shopper all through the 80s and worked there several years in the 90s. I would get each new catalog and read it cover to cover, looking for the new products - usually speakers or other audio equipment. I remember when people would stop by just to see the IBM Aptiva on display.

Yes, their offerings were all rebranded gear made by others but it was usually good gear. You knew the house brands - Tandy computer products, Realistic for the regular audio gear and later Optimus for the good stuff. They had all the car stereo offerings you'd want too; maybe not your first choice but usually not the worst either. I picked Radio Shack phones for my business because I knew they'd last. No matter what cable, adapter, or harness you needed, they'd have it hanging on a peg somewhere.

Not anymore. Once they decided they were a cell phone store, the rest of the products disappeared. Now that phones are sold everywhere there is no reason to go to Radio Shack. Nothing sold there can't be purchase a few stores away for less. There's no selection of repair parts for anything. If I wanted to order it online I'd get it from another (cheaper, quicker) retailer. In fact, I'm not sure what they do sell these days. In the last decade I've purchased a variety pack of resistors and perhaps an odd battery or two. Other than that they have nothing left to offer me.

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The Radio Shack I knew disappeared ages ago. What withers on the vine now will not be missed. Nevertheless I have mixed feelings.

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So much for the life time warranty

On the two Radioshack vacuum tubes in my still working AM Short-wave table radio...

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