Consumer Goods and Services

“Anger. Hostility towards the opposition.” – Downset.

Now this has a much deeper meaning in the context of the song, but this was the first thought that popped into my head as I was leaving RadioShack. First of all, RadioShack and I have a love/hate relationship. I am glad that there is one approximately 0.5 miles from my house. I also own some equipment from various RadioShack brands that have been acquired throughout the years. Most of the items have been good to me. RadioShack has a notorious reputation for having cheap electronics. I’m not going to dispute this I’m going to make this statement and then move on to my current frustrations. RadioShack makes consumer goods. They are actually pretty good at it too. In the technology world it is always easy to poke fun and pretend that all of their stuff is crap. I’m not going to be able to change anybody’s minds and frankly, don’t care to. On to whatever I was getting at…I am a dork. I am currently working on a control system for a bar in my area. I needed a null modem. For those not tech savy, it’s either a cable or adapter used to crossover a signal. Basically, send on device A goes to receive on device B. Without this cable you have send on device A going to send on device B. No good. RadioShack carries a null modem. Just the thing I need. Now I know going into the store that there is a really good chance it’s going to take a few minutes to try and explain to the person that works there what I need. I’m fine with that. I know they carry them, they are on the website, but I need one today. So I went, I even waited for the clerks to wait on customers buying things like batteries, because I know this could take a minute or two to explain. About half an hour later I approach the woman at the counter (they were busy). This is my account of the conversation:

Me: Hi. How are you doing today?
RadioShack employee #1: Good, is there something I can help you with?
Me: Yes, I need a null modem cable, or adapter.
RSE#1: (confused look) You need a…
Me: (smiling) I’m not surprised by your reaction. I need a serial crossover cable or adapter.
RSE#1: Umm… (looks at RadioShack Employee #2)
RSE#2: What are you looking for?
Me: I need a DB9 to DB9 adapter. (third description I used in a matter of three lines)
RSE#2: Like this? (hands me a male to male DB9 connector)
Me: Almost, I need a female to female with a built in crossover.
RSE#2: Oh, I’m sorry we don’t have one here.
Me: No problem, I’ll just get the parts and make one. (leave to go to the “Technical Parts” isle)

None of this so far has caught me off guard. RadioShack has a lot of tech and tech related stuff. I’m sure Null Modems aren’t one of their biggest sellers. I get to the isle, I find two female DB9 connectors, solder of course, I don’t trust those cheesy crimp pin ones they carry. I also grab to D-Sub connector hoods. Metal, because I hate the plastic ones, the metal ones are more durable to say the least. I return to the counter.

Me: OK, I think I have all the parts. (I know I have all the parts, just felt bad for this woman at this point in time)
RSE #1: Great, do you need anything else while you’re here.
Me: This should cover it. Besides, I live right around the corner. If I need anything else I’ll be back.
RSE #1: (smiles and rings up my shit) Have a nice day.
Me: Thank you very much, you too.

OK, train is still on the tracks, but it seems to be moving backwards. I now have to build a null modem cable. Still no big deal, but I was hoping to avoid having to make an off the shelf part. I go home cut a two foot piece of cable and turn on my soldering iron and begin stripping wire and opening up packages of my new parts. I look at the receipt and I couldn’t help but laugh. The null modem adapter on the website was listed for $9.99. I just spent a little over $10.00 on the parts alone, minus the cable. So the 2 feet of cable is only worth $0.38. The pre-assembled adapter is a whole dollar cheaper. It’s not even the dollar that bothers me, it’s the fact that I wasted just about an hour when all was said and done. Damn you RadioShack. You were there for me again…Kind of. I still need you, but you still drive me friggin’ nuts.


2 Responses to “Consumer Goods and Services”

  1. 1 KMac December 10, 2008 at 12:17

    The crimp style are the best, for just this situation. Rather than needing a Null, you just take your pin extrator, pull out pins 2 and 3, swap them, pop them back in. No adaptor, no trip out to Da Shack, no problem.

  2. 2 insultants December 10, 2008 at 18:47

    Good idea, but not necessary. I already have a hand full of cables and some gender benders. No need to swap back and forth. I’m not a big fan of messing with cable configurations every time I need to control some equipment.

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