Parenting Blog

Why I Shop Local, Except When I Don’t, But Never At Radio Shack

It’s been beeping every night. Around 2 am, religiously. It was as if the alarm system was programmed for maximum pain and suffering, as much as a shrill beep can inflict. Why not 2 pm? Why. The. Hell. Not. It took exactly 11 additional beeps to get the beeping to stop, a joyless tone in the dark hallway, with sleep still crusted in my eyes, and the cool of the hardwood floor stunning my unsuspecting soles, but it would return again, always at 2 am, a nightly proclamation of my laziness. All that was needed was one phone call and three batteries, but that, clearly, was too much for me over the past two weeks. Yesterday, I made that call and went in search of three C123 batteries. Finally. Here’s where you’ll discover why I shop local, except when I don’t, but never at Radio Shack.

Target doesn’t sell ’em. I just saved you time. You’re welcome. The red-shirted electronics guy offered up Radio Shack as my best option. By the time he hit the long ‘O’, his regret was palpable. No one likes to walk into, or recommend someone else walk into, a Radio Shack. 15 minutes later, I did just that. I was presented with two terrible options: $13 for 1 or $20 for a 2-pack of off-brand C123 batteries. I dropped the $42 including tax for 4 and brought up Amazon on the phone in the car before pulling out of my parking spot: $12 for a 6-pack. $14 for a 6-pack. $18 for a 10-pack. Energizer. Duracell. WTF. I ordered, chose 1-day shipping for an extra $4, and told myself I’d go back to Radio Shack the next day, to return their batteries to, hopefully, a different employee. I did that this morning.

I got a super sad sack story from today’s Radio Shack guy when I returned the obnoxiously overpriced odd-shaped batteries I bought there yesterday. I told him they were $16 for six on Amazon (including 1-day shipping costs) compared to $40 for four in his store. I then got to hear about how they are having to close 1100 stores because of Amazon. He picked the wrong day to verbalize his microeconomics issues, because I was in the mood for a word fight. My retort was to tell him that they are closing 1100 stores because Radio Shack has chosen to charge $40 for something that, even with overhead costs Amazon doesn’t have to absorb, shouldn’t cost nearly that much. 15 years ago, in the sunset of the pure local consumer, a store like Radio Shack could easily get away with that price gauging strategy. No more. I added that dinosaurs shouldn’t be kept alive out of pity or nostalgia if they are unwilling to adjust and compete and serve in ways that an online retailer cannot. I told him that I use Amazon judiciously, that I’m willing to pay a few bucks more to shop locally at places like MonkeyFish Toys, but not 350% more, that I shop at many local stores who’ve found clever ways to stay in business, and even thrive, in an increasingly competitive economic landscape because they realized long ago that they cannot rely on being the only game in town anymore to find hard-to-find items and then price them as obnoxiously as they choose. I told him that these other stores have, instead of bitching to customers about the way things used to be, the glory days of the retail biz when local stores could gauge local customers, tried to find new ways to engage with the community, to locate and serve a customer base okay with paying slightly more in person for an experience far more rewarding than merely walking in and out of a store. Evolve or die, Radio Shack.

I shop local often, but never again at Radio Shack, and I can sleep at night with my decision to buy those batteries from Amazon, especially now that the 2 am beeping has stopped.

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