Radio Shack

I've said for years that with the right knowledge, you could use every component sold at Radio Shack to construct the most diabolical weapon mankind has ever known. While I still contend that this is true, Radio Shack isn't really helping my cause lately.

As far back as I can remember, they had every transistor and capacitor you could ever want, along with your most basic audio connectors. They tried making their own computers for awhile, utterly hosing the 5¼” software market:

-Is this spreadsheet compatible with my IBM?
-No, that's Tandy-only.
-Well, what about my Apple ][e?
-No, it only works on Tandy machines.
-What's a Tandy?

Then, to grab the attention of all the little tykes who got dragged into the store because daddy's looking for a replacement phono jack for his record player, they decided to add crappy Korean knockoffs of electric keyboards to their inventory.

Evidently, sales were still comparatively weak, since electronic components aren't exactly high-dollar items. So in the 90s, they decided to dilute their market even further by adding digital satellite subscriptions and hardware, and finally mobile phone contracts and handsets.

Even though you can probably build any of that crap with all the guts they have in stock.

Because of the rather technical nature of the products they sold, the sales force there was required to be knowledgeable in the ways of electronics. Hence their old tagline, “You've got questions, we've got answers.” I was able to forgive their janky off-center “R” logo, since their marketing department still wanted me to think of their representatives as knowledgeable.

But then, as I was flipping through Sunday's newspaper circulars, I beheld a loathsome sight. The janky “R” logo remained, but their friendly tagline had been replaced.

With one so vague and meaningless, it makes Nike's “Just Do It” seem positively brilliant in comparison.

Radio Shack's new tagline?

Radio Shack: Do Stuff

I'm not kidding.

I wonder how many ideas were bounced off the board of directors; I wonder how many times a pretty decent idea had to be watered down in order to achieve this message.

I wonder how long that final meeting was before the CEO finally gave up and said, “Okay, I've had it. Let's just make our new tagline ‘Do Stuff.’ I'm tired, hungry, I haven't bathed in three weeks. Print up the new fliers and inform the web department immediately.”

I guess it's really an indictment of our society though. Customers stumble off the street into a Radio Shack with Subway's Chicken Teriyaki and Honey Chipotle residue stuck on the corner of their mouths, looking for that thingy that goes inside the bigger whachyacallit to make it, well, do stuff

Marketing to such idiocy is clearly a tough job. I'm not sure this is the company to pander to the lowest common denominator (I'd expect Hostess to jump on that bandwagon first), but at least, years from now, when we wonder how our nation got so stupid, we can herald Radio Shack as being that visionary company who saw the big picture and embraced the looming dumbitude that was to sure consume us all.

I like soda.

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