Last weekend I walked into RadioShack for the last time! (Probably not,... but I hope so). It seems every time I go in there, I come out mad or frustrated. This last time was the final straw.
Bryan had "bought" a simple kind of disco light at Dave & Busters with the tickets he won from playing several games. It was a cool light that would bathe his room in slowly changing hues of red, green, purple, and blue. He thought it was cool but it ran on AA batteries despite having a 4.5 volt power port. If we got the right sized wall wart, he could leave it on all night.
Well, we bring it into RadioSchmuck and a salesman takes the light and starts to gather the universal power supplies, chords and tips he is going to need. I go off to look at a couple things with my kids and when I get back this guy has about 5 packets open trying to find a size that fits. He tries one, turns it on (no work), turns it off, tries another, turns it on (no work), turns it off, tries another....on and on. I watch him for 10 minutes and realize he isn't paying ANY attention to the electrical properties of the plugs he's trying, he's just trying to find one that physically fits. 4.5 volts or positive or negative pin polarity seem to be non-issues with him.
I ask him if he's sure the outlet he's plugged into is working. He shrugs and tries another. I ask him if he has a multi-tester, he fumbles around and comes up with a small one, which he clearly doesn't know how to use. I teach him what setting to use and how to check for current. As I'm showing him this I see that the cable he is using can reverse its polarity depending on how the plug is inserted. It's negative pin one way or positive pin the other way.
At this point I have a sickening feeling that I know why it isn't turning on anymore. We put the batteries back in and sure enough the toy is dead as a doorstop. He fried it. We crack the case open and it is a very simple design, basically a group of LEDs and a couple of resistors. He doesn't understand anything about how to check for which component has been burned out and I realize then that my own 12 year old son is more qualified to work at RadioSlack than this guy was.
At that point I was mad. I felt like saying "Please explain to my son how you broke his toy and what you are going to do about it!", but I was too upset. "Come on kids, we're leaving." is all I could say. He just stood there, not saying much and didn't even offer an apology. The sad thing is that I probably would have had to go to RadioFrack for the parts to fix it, but I am determined not to ever go there again. I will wait until I can go to a more responsible and reputable electronics supply store.
RadioHack has become little more than the Sears TV department and the local cellphone store combined and has very little to do with "Radios" or "Ham Shacks" anymore.
By-the-way, Bryan took the unit apart, identified the high power LED that had fried and is awaiting the new part so he can solder it in and put it back together. Bryan is 12 years old and just finished 6th grade. Way to go Bryan!
We'll get our own 4.5 volt power supply from somewhere else. (Maybe Bryan will just make his own!)