We could call this report on my recent dealings with RadioShack "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," assuming of course that Clint doesn't take exception to my borrowing the phrase.
It all started out as a well-meaning attempt by my wife and her sister to help Lillian, my mother-in-law, who was visiting the Bronx from her home in San Francisco. Lil has a vocal chord problem and sometimes is unable to raise her voice much above a whisper, making it difficult for others to hear her.
As many of us do when faced with a problem for which electronics may have a solution, the ladies looked to RadioShack. And upon visiting an outlet in the Bronx thought they might have one in the form of a wireless microphone transmitter/receiver combination, which they purchased.
After realizing they hadn't a clue as to how it works, they brought the product to me for a look. The first thing I saw was that the original carton appeared to have gone through the Gulf War. The box was creased and wrinkled, the end flaps were torn and only tape kept the contents inside.
The product clearly had been purchased, tried out and returned to the store, a diagnosis confirmed when I discovered two dead batteries inside the microphone and a sloppily rewound line cord attached to the receiver. I put in fresh batteries, plugged in the receiver, attached a freestanding speaker (not included) and turned everything on.
The result: Nada. That the system was non-functional was obviously the reason the product had been returned to the store in the first place. But one of the great things about RadioShack is their willingness to serve their customers — that's an honest assessment, not a snide remark.
I called up a nearby outlet, explained my problem and asked if they would make an over-the-counter exchange. No problemo, I was told, providing of course they had a replacement in stock. But they didn't, and suggested I call a sister store.
The sister store even went a stop further. Checking on what I assume was a computer network, the store clerk said the records showed that the RadioShack in a nearby mall had three units in stock. I called that store and received assurances of availability and of their willingness to make the exchange.
Off went the wife and sister to the mall. Their greeting at the store was a welcoming one, and the sales associate went off to the back room and emerged holding three cartons, just as promised. But when he put them down on the counter my wife was surprised to see that all three were clearly marked as non-working.
With the original receipt in hand, they requested and got an on-the-spot refund.
I'm not sure whether it's a case of "Hope springs eternal" or "Some guys never learn," but I decided to try another tack. I went online and ordered a system direct. It arrived after about 10 days, and guess what? It didn't work.
I immediately called customer service and any anger I felt was quickly smoothed over by the customer-oriented attitude of the young lady who took my call. When I said I wanted a refund and would not pay to return the product, she offered to cancel the charge and arrange a free shipment.
So how do we grade RadioShack on this experience? The store personnel all get A's for attitude and service. And while in one case a D- in common sense would be appropriate, the chain also gets an A+ for its call-in customer service. But a five-for-five failure rate indicates that, at worst, something is dreadfully wrong with quality control or, at best, someone is knowingly allowing products with a defect history to be shipped to stores and customers.