Radio Shack FAIL

Oh, Radio Shack… what happened?

It starts out with a mistake on my part: when I was invited to What the Hell??!? Con, I was told I would be given an artist’s table. My plan was to take my inkjet printer down to the con, and while everyone was setting up I would print out comics and plaster them all over the table for people to peruse while they were queuing up to buy things from the vendors who actually had product to sell. Simple plan. Unfortunately, in my haste to pack I neglected to bring the POWER ADAPTER for the inkjet printer.

It is very difficult to operate an inkjet printer without power.

So I decided to stop by a Radio Shack to get a universal power adapter. For those of you who do not know, a universal power adapter is a power adapter brick with a variable voltage setting and a collection of plugs of various sizes. With one of those, I reasoned, I could power my inkjet printer and print out the stuff I needed to decorate my table.

So this morning I arrived at the Radio Shack and said “I need a universal power adapter now!”

The salesman pointed me to a row of power adapters, each of various power settings and plug fittings. None of them were universal. You had to specify what voltage, amperage, plug size, positive/negative connection you needed, and none of them went up to 18.5 volts, which is what I needed for my printer.

“No,” I said, “I need a UNIVERSAL power adapter.” I then proceeded to describe the power adapter in painstaking detail, since I have bought many of them through the years, and most of them were purchased at a Radio Shack.

“Oh,” the guy said. “We don’t sell those any more.”

I looked at him in stunned silence, trying to work out what he’d just said. He shrugged. Finally, I managed to recover from my amazement just long enough to ask “…why not?”

He explained it was for liability reasons. They were afraid that someone would buy one of those things, misconfigure it, and fry the device they were going to power.

Think about this for a second. Radio Shack is an electronic parts store. An electronic parts store. They have spools of bare wire sitting on their shelves. They have components that require you to remove the safety plates of electrical outlets in order to install them. They specialize in selling fire hazards.

But the universal power adapter is deemed a “liability.”

Radio Shack, you are officially dead to me.

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