Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Eulogy for RadioShack

Jon Bois, writing for SB Nation,1 shares some of his stories from his employment at the legendary prototypical American electronics retailer:

Most folks who have worked in retail are probably familiar with this. Once every couple months, we’d have to stay after hours and count inventory. The store computer would print out a novel of every single item we were supposed to have in stock, from TVs to transistors to batteries, and then we’d have to root through the entire store and make sure we had all of it.

This could mean staying until midnight on a good inventory, or staying until five in the morning, depending on how obsessive my manager happened to be. RadioShack could very easily have scheduled these regularly and in advance, as a courtesy to its employees, but RadioShack is a craven and unfeeling entity that issued what I can only describe as open contempt of those they employed. The higher-ups preferred to spring them on us with maybe a day’s notice.

That is a major violation of labor laws, but they didn’t care. Sometimes they’d call an hour before the store closed to let us know we were staying there until two in the morning. We could comply or be fired.

Great piece. Altogether unsurprising, too. Every time I went into a RadioShack, I felt overwhelmed by how cheap and nasty everything felt. Not compared to Apple; compared to the dashboard of a mid-’80s Chevrolet. It’s almost as if they genuinely wanted people to feel like they couldn’t buy anything more downmarket.

I once bought a quarter-inch-to-eighth-inch audio cable adapter from RadioShack. It cost me four dollars, I believe, which already felt a bit spendy for something that felt so light and plasticky in my hand. But it’s all they had, and I wanted to plug my headphones into my guitar amp, so I picked it up. I took it home, plugged it in, plugged my headphones in, played for a bit, and felt it was acceptable. Then, I unplugged my headphones, and pulled the entire adapter’s assembly apart with the connector.

I haven’t seen any RadioShack locations near where I live, but we have their replacement, called “the Source”. Same shit, different name.


  1. Which recently, I think, added some sort of bullshit contextual highlight-and-tweet Javascript. It’s baked into the site-wide scripts, though, so I can’t just add it to my JS Blacklist extension, which is a pity. I hope it doesn’t make its way over to the Verge↩︎