aired Feb. 22, 2014 on Dave’s Gone By. Watch on youtube: http://youtu.be/vwjERWIpR_8
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of February 23rd, 2014.
I can understand why some people like to bash Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian, because they’re famous for being famous, and their lifestyles are flaunted before us on every webpage, magazine cover and police blotter in America. And I can understand why some folks hammer Barack Obama, because all Democrats are evil communists who don’t like country music. What I don’t understand is why are so many pundits kicking RadioShack while it’s down?
RadioShack: a place to buy wires and couplers and splitters – if you’re into that sort of thing. A local store where you can grab what you need to hook up a TV, solder your speakers, snag a flashlight or a flash drive, or pick up batteries or a clock radio or a spare mouse – in case your cat is bored. And yet people are taking schadenfreudic glee at the problems RadioShack has been having in the marketplace.
With everyone listening to music on iPods and Bose boxes, the public demand for transistor AM radios in perforated leather cases has been admittedly waning. And with televisions all hooked up to one giant cable oligopoly or other, nobody’s using rabbit ears except…rabbits. RadioShack also sells higher-ticket items, like TV’s and cell phones, but there they have to compete with Target and Wal-Mart, which, at this stage, is like little David going up against not just Goliath, but his
friends, the Green Goblin and Mothra.
Media types have been laughing at RadioShack, especially their Super Bowl TV commercial, which was a nostalgic throwback to the 1980s. “Brilliant,” the pundits said, “You’re a store that consumers think hasn’t had new merchandise since 1983…and you’re making them think of 1983!” The stock price of RadioShack is so low, Mexican day laborers could buy a thousand shares and have money left over for pizza. And the truly tragic thing: 500 RadioShack stores will be closing by the end of 2014. That’s a lot of geeks out of work, so if you’re walking down a dark alley next year and find yourself being mugged by a 60 year
old with bad asthma and a pocket protector, you know where he used to work.
I have to say, my recent experiences at RadioShack have been most pleasant. I didn’t buy anything, but the employees were very nice, and I liked looking at the mini-tape recorders, the plugs, the iPhone cases, the hand-cranked victrolas… I’m kidding, and honestly, 8-track tape players took up only two shelves way in the back.
But seriously, cheering the downfall of RadioShack is like a guppy in a fishtank going, “Yay, the bubble-making clam broke.” The fish may still have a pirate treasure chest and a coral tower, but there’ll be one less item providing oxygen in his aquasphere. If Radio Shack goes the way of Loehmann’s, Robert Hall, the dodo and the American middle class, we’ll be one step closer to Wallyworld owning the world. Sure, you can buy everything on the interwebs now, but are we really at the point where you buy a TV or an iPad or a smartphone without ever actually seeing it first? Instead you just watch some homemade instruction video on youtube and hope for the best. Who knew that American enterprise would ultimately follow the same business model as mail-order brides?
For all the people who are mocking radio shack and scolding them for not changing with the times – what do you suggest they do? Sell cars? Put in a coffee nook? Hold singles nights by the walky-talky aisle? What good is changing your marketing when you’re moribund? I mean, Blockbuster could give away all the free popcorn in the world, it wasn’t gonna bring VCRs back.
Scuttlebutt is: the only way RadioShack can save itself is by going – not bigger, but smaller. Cater to a niche market of hobby people, folks who tinker with robots, electronics and 3-D printing. They’re your best bet to compete with Best Buy. Even in this day and age, when everything’s been thought of, patented and plugged in an infomercial, crackpot inventors are still out there, touching the red wire to the blue circuit while the hydrogen compound bubbles on the stove. Yes, that’s also the way to make Hot Pockets, but mainly, it’s how we became the greatest, most ambitious country in the world. Eggheads with messy garages; they still exist. Radio Shack just needs to rope them in – or at least sell their older brothers airplane glue, `cause with heroin getting such a bad rap, you know that stuff’ll come back.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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