My mother went to Radio Shack.

Can someone please explain why this chain exists? To sell substandard items to the ignorant? To be a reseller of perpetually behind the times Sprint wireless? Back in the sixties, when a storefront was everything, you went to Radio Shack as a hobbyist, to buy stuff to build stuff, or for odds and ends that no one seemed to stock (sometimes the same thing), and to get a free battery. Yes, they had a club, with a card, you got one free battery a month. Remember when people wanted D’s? Now everybody wants double or triple A’s!

No, I’m not talking about bra size, but you know that’s coming. Remember when big lips were offensive? Now you’ve got everybody in pursuit of Lisa Rinna, ruining their face to obtain a paragon of beauty no one from the opposite sex adores. As for big rear ends… This is still flummoxing women throughout America. Do you want to be J. Lo or Kim K. or should you have a tush as tiny and flat as a boy’s? Looks are fashion. But they don’t sell fashion at Radio Shack.

Then again, they do. The inventory is completely different every time you go there. Well, not quite. I go there once a decade, to buy something in person that just doesn’t make sense on the web. Then again, I never buy anything, because the help is so ignorant I already know more than they do and it seems that whatever I’m looking at doesn’t fit my bill.

Ah, the problem of inventory. How do you stock what everybody wants without going out of business from the carrying charges?

So my phone rings. Just as I walk in the door. And I’m in a rush. I’ve got a lot to accomplish in very little time and I’m leaving on a jet plane tomorrow, but it’s my MOTHER! Get old enough, and you never blow your mom off. Or let me say that THEY get old enough and you realize they’re not here forever and you’re worried that the one time you don’t take their call, the next one is that they’ve passed and you’re forever haunted by your decision to put yourself first, instead of them, that last interaction, or lack thereof, haunts you forever.

So, I take the call. Since now we always know who’s calling, since we can see the name on the screen. Hell, if I see digits only on my cell phone, I don’t pick up. It’s like Seth Godin says, we live in a permission society. If I don’t know you, if we don’t have a preexisting relationship, my door is closed.

But it’s my mom. And she wants a phone.

Now I already bought her a three handset Panasonic last year. But now she wants a handset for her bathroom. And this might sound like luxury to you, but my mother uses a walker, not that you’d know this if you had her on the phone, she’s the most vibrant 86 year old you’ll ever meet, and she still loves to travel, she’s treated like royalty at the airport, schlepped around in a wheelchair, but if the phone rings and she’s in the loo…she’s never gonna reach it. Ergo, the desire for a phone in the bathroom.

And I’m of two minds. Either I handle things immediately, or almost never. And since it’s my mom, I decide to jump right on this.

And boy is it confusing.

I go to the Panasonic site, that’s where you start your research, at the manufacturer’s page, to get the lay of the land. And I’m the kind of customer who needs the best, and the best phones are not that expensive, so I click on the DECT 6.0 Plus. Makes me crazy when people are cheap. Buy an inexpensive phone and then no one can hear you for years, but you saved ten bucks! Kind of like iPhones, my mother’s got one of those, she’s hip, you buy it and you can use it. Buy an Android and unless you’re a geek, you can do very little. Save the hate mail, statistics are on my side. Bottom line, I’m looking for the best phone.

But it’s only a satellite. An outpost in the condominium. Do I really need the absolute best? After all, my mother started off at RADIO SHACK! A DECT 6.0 is probably good enough.

And all these major companies have bad websites. They should just hire the guy who did Apple’s and be done with it. Comparing products is a nightmare. Not the chart you get after you click through, but finding where the buttons are, learning after the fact that you can only compare three items at a time. Huh?

But I finally nail it down.

And I call my mother. She said she wanted white. There is no white. Silver or black?



But you’ve got to know me. The odds of me buying something on the first pass through are essentially nil. I can’t make a mistake. So I decide to pull up the original invoice, from a year ago, to check compatibility.

THANK GOD! Turns out the original phones are DECT 6.0 Plus, and I’ve got to start all over again. And there is no silver. And do I pay five bucks extra for a bigger white screen? After all, my mother’s eyesight is not so good, and the old phones are white.

So I call my mother back. Hell, I’m talking to her more in one day than I did in months in college.

And I whittle it down, I go for the expensive item, with the big screen, and then I go to buy it on Amazon.

The pictures and model numbers don’t match.


This is my mother. She’s not tech-savvy. She’s not going to return, hell, she doesn’t even drive anymore, she’s not going to the post office. And we’re only talking about forty bucks anyway.

And all the prices are different on Amazon. And I might as well get free shipping, but if you buy direct from Amazon…they don’t have the identical model.

So I decide to buy from Panasonic’s site. Hell, the prices are the same. What a win for the Japanese company, they’re cutting out the middle man! If you’re selling, make sure people can buy from your site, at a fair price…

But I’ve got to go through the rigmarole of entering all my information, my address and my credit card, and I don’t understand why it ships in 1-3 days, either they have it or they don’t, Amazon ships right away, but I click through and I’m done.

Forty minutes later.

Which seems like a waste of time.

But if I’d bought an incompatible item, that truly would have been a waste of time!

And I’m thinking how it’s every man for himself these days. How you have to do all the work.

Then again, the prices are cheap and the expert at the store, like at the aforementioned Radio Shack, usually is not.

Still, it’s amazing what’s at our fingertips these days. It’s hard to succeed with smoke and mirrors. Hell, that’s what killed the album, not piracy, but the bad value proposition, thirteen bucks for one good song?

So everyone laments the passage of the good old days.

And in some respects they were so damn good.

But I like today better. Because our society is run on information. And it’s all on your screen. Want to win? Stop tweeting and Facebooking and read. Everything you want to know about how the world works is right in front of your face, for free. You can win. If you put in the time.

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