Radio Shack – love it and hate it
(Most Radio Shack physical locations have closed as of 2020 but years ago they were a great resource for the CB Radio hobbyist)
It’s 4:30pm on a Sunday and you’ve just completed setting up your Cobra 29 LTD Classic in your new Dodge Ram. It’s a good feeling and now you’re ready to measure your SWRs and do some testing. As you pull your SWR meter out of the closet you remember that you loaned your 3 coax jumpers to a friend last week and he never gave it back. You spend a couple of minutes cursing. You really want to test your system and get it up and running before Monday but that A-hole of a friend has your coax and he’s out of town till next week.
You’re left with only one choice, you have to go to the only store open on a Sunday evening that will have a piece of coaxial cable for a CB radio.
That store is Radio Shack.
Yes, Radio Shack delivers in times of need. They are one of the few, if not the only electronics store nationwide that still carries CB radio equipment and supplies. As most of us CBer’s are aware, it’s getting harder and harder to find CB equipment locally as many of the mom and pop shops have gone out of business.
So it’s nice to know that there is a national chain to turn to in times of need, but there are quite a few pros and cons about going to Radio Shack for CB equipment and I’d like to take a minute to explain.
RADIO SHACK SAVES THE DAY – THE GOOD
When you walk through the door at Radio Shack you most likely aren’t going to see anything CB related near the front of the store. Maybe at the front counter they might have one of their overpriced Cobra knock off radios but most of the CB equipment is usually pushed back in one of the far recesses of the store.
Radio Shack is an electronics store and although CB radio used to have a large and extensive section in their stores, today most stores only carry a few of the basic items you might need for your CB.
Types of things you’ll be able to buy for your CB radio at Radio Shack –
- SWR meters (although they aren’t the best made, the two models that sell will do the job)
- Antennas (Radio Shack is one of the few places you can still buy a 102″ stainless steel whip antenna, their other antennas are pretty much all junk and should be avoided)
- Coaxial Cable (Radio Shack carries RG-58 in sizes from 1 to 50 and RG8 in a 50′ roll. They coax is cheap and poorly made in most cases and has crimped on connectors instead of soldered connections)
- PL-259 ends and a number of other various connector pieces
- Potentiometers, capacitors and resistors (great selection of parts for fixing blown radios or doing modifications to radios)
So their selection of CB related items isn’t great, actually it sucks. But like in the scenario at the beginning of the article, who else in town has CB coax available after 6pm on basically any day of the week.
There have been many times when I needed a last minute part or piece of coax to complete or test something and Radio Shack has always delivered for those final hour projects.
THE BAD AND THE UGLY
The fact to me has become clear that even though Radio Shack maintains a small CB section they no longer really care about our business. Maybe this is understandable since the number of CBer’s has dropped in recent years, but nonetheless if they are going to continue to sell CB equipment then they should be able to answer simple questions about their products.
Radio Shack has gone through a lot of changes in the last 20 years, but their recent evolution seems to have their stores focused on selling cell phones and Ipods. The staff at your local radio shack gets a training course on how to sell these items and activate them and some basic info on how to look up other items in their computer system.
Maybe it’s the way of the world these days, but the employees at Radio Shack are not educated about their many products and they have absolutely no knowledge of CB radio or the CB radio equipment they carry.
I bring this up because if you ever choose to visit a Radio Shack you need to be prepared. Make sure to look up the product you want online first and make sure they have one and write down the product ID number. When you walk into the store if you can’t find what you’re looking for youre going to have to give them the ID number and let them go look for it. Be persistent, many of the young clerks at Radio Shack will give up after a few minutes and tell you they don’t have the product, but in reality they probably do have one. The most common case of this is the 102″ antennas. I’ve been told on numerous occasions by clerks that they don’t have a 102″ antenna but after spending many minutes convincing them to go look in the back room they were able to find the antenna I wanted.
As mentioned before, the other downside about shopping at Radio Shack is that most of the CB items that they do carry are not very high quality. Sure they will do the job but don’t expect them to last over the long haul. The prices are also not particularly competitive because they dont have much competition.
ANY PORT IN A STORM
So their prices aren’t great, their selection has dwindled to only a couple of items and their customer service is questionable. Why would you go there? Because when you need something right away and don’t have time to drive out to the CB shop on the interstate, or order it online, Radio Shack delivers.
I have been there many times late at night buying the last coax jumper in stock so I could finish setting something up. Radio Shack isn’t my favorite place to buy CB equipment but I’m certainly glad they are there when you need them.