Shack-ing up with the past

The power of an old message can be rather surprising, especially if it’s completely organic.

I’ve seen a sudden spike in interest for my mini three-part rant on Radio Shack, a nearly two-year-old sore spot that has since dissipated into consumer lore like an Alka Seltzer. The main issue: a local Radio Shack store sold us a Sirius satellite radio receiver under erroneous pretenses and, when pressed, made little effort to help us.

I was pretty angry – and totally duped – about the situation, and after three months I finally just wrote a letter to the district manager.

I didn’t expect much. But I was a dissatisfied customer making his voice heard. I am a multi-year veteran of retail and know that, as an employee, your ultimate job is to make your customer happy. You may not like it. You may not do it. And your bosses might not even care. But it’s your job, or at least it should be.

Though it may be a long lost chivalric deed nowadays, I still feel that a retail establishment has a duty to its customers, if only because those customers ultimately keep a store in business.

Anyway, I received a response (after finding my own solution) and found it lacking. A few hours later, I got a call from the district manager with a personal apology – an apology that I was both surprised and pleased to receive. It was the way customer service should be – filled with actual concern and not just simple avoidance. I held a grudge for about six months, then (naturally) gave in and started shopping at Radio Shack again.

I’m not old fashioned, I hope. I think a company best maintains its brand by promoting positive customer experiences. I didn’t ask for anything more than respect, and I didn’t offer anything but my disappointment. I posted the letter and responses to let others know what I had gone through, to see if I was the only one, to see if I could rouse up some solidarity.

My posts returned several types of comments.
1. Other customers who were equally upset.
2. Employees of Radio Shack who corroborated my issues.
3. Employees of Radio Shack who tried to justify the issue by saying, “What do you expect? We’re here to sell things.”

A great number of responses were either of a “Radio Shack Iz Dum!” or, even worse, “Yer Dum!” nature. I fought for my position when needed and still feel I was justified. I passed off moronic and insulting comments as immaturity. I was at ease with my thoughts, and as nearly two years passed, and I figured the ordeal was in the past.

It wasn’t. Thanks Google.

Go ahead. Search “Radio Shack Sucks.” See what you get. There’s a good chance it looks like this:

Google Search #1!!!

Yup. That’s me. #1. The old URL, too –, not You get the same post and the same comments either way. Amazingly, the comments have gotten more pro-Radio Shack. And the reasoning goes back to #3 above: What do you expect? We’re here to sell things!

Please. Most of us want to be treated with respect when we enter a store. Unfortunately, that respect can be difficult to find. There’s a large number of retail employees who might not care about the customers they serve – and who can blame them? It’s hard to care when you’re being paid peanuts, or when you’re pressured to make sales above and beyond the capacity of the community.

But does that make it okay? Do the ends justify the means? Are we really supposed to simply shrug our shoulders and accept the fact that, sometimes, at some stores, we’re going to be lied to in order to appease some corporate sales level?

Whatever. Unless I lock the comments, I’m sure I’ll continue to get comments from both sides. I’m at peace with the situation, and most of the comments I continue to get are rather funny. In fact, I’ve helped those coming to the page by added links to the other posts – now readers won’t assume the letter was the last word. Now readers can follow the situation to its thrilling conclusion.

And I can sit back and revel in the fact that I’m #1 in terms of such a seemingly common theme – corporation malaise; the hatred for the big – a search term that could rank in the top ten of “INSERT STORE” Sucks, somewhere after Best Buy Sucks and WalMart Sucks.

I have to be careful though. In the grand scheme of things, I’d hate for this mini-rant to be my legacy.

This was lovingly handwritten on February 28th, 2008