Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Stores

In the interest of full disclosure, I should first say that I own stock in Radio Shack. I’ve often said that I think one of Radio Shack’s problems is that their stores are too small. I like Radio Shack because they you can’t help but dream about all the ways you can build something with the cool stuff they have in there and I don’t like Best Buy because it is such an unsatisfactory shopping experience and yet I shop at Best Buy more than I shop at Radio Shack. If I had my way, Radio Shack would have a superstore the size of a Best Buy store where you could get any and all the stuff that Radio Shack sells online.

That being said, there’s something to be said for the small stores that Radio Shack has. I walked into a Radio Shack the other day in need of RCA connectors. The store clerk greeted me the moment I walked in the door and asked how he could help. I told him what I needed. He not only knew what I was talking about, but he left the counter, walked the short distance to the back of the store, opened the drawer they were in and showed me my options. He rang up the bill and I paid him. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that I needed an RCA coupler as well. I told him as much, though I didn’t call it by the right name. He got enough of an idea that he took me to another part of the store, showed me what he had and I was able to spot what I needed. He checked me out again and I was out of the store within ten minutes of when I walked in.

I realize that some of Radio Shack’s workers aren’t always that helpful either, but compare that experience to my last experience at Best Buy. I walked in the door as about a hundred Best Buy employees were walking out. I suppose several of the stores had had a meeting that morning. The guy up front greeted me. I said hello and then walked back to the part of the store where I thought what I needed was. There were a couple of blue shirted employees standing there talking. I spent several minutes looking for a camera bag that would fit a Flip Ultra. I looked at one bag and then another, but no one even bothered to ask if I needed help. I found a couple of bags I liked, but since I didn’t have my camera with me, I wasn’t sure if they would fit. I decided to look for Flip Ultra in their store. After some looking, I found the camera. I slipped the smaller bag over the camera and it didn’t fit. I stuffed the packing back in and tried the other bag. This one seemed to work. I decided to buy it, even though it was thicker than I would’ve liked. I took the other bag back to the rack. Then I walked to the front of the store. I had to walk all the way to the other side of the store to get past the rope, even though I was the only customer ready to check out. Only then did someone actually talk to me. But that may be okay. My experience with Best Buy employees has been that all they really want to sell is the service agreement and they have very little knowledge of the products they’re selling.

Radio Shack is the kind of store I’d like to visit more often, but they don’t carry enough stuff for me to have need to. Best Buy is the kind of store I avoid if at all possible, but they carry stuff that I can’t get at the places I’d like to shop.