So I worked for Radioshack for a long time and it left me extremely bitter and resentful. I just recently left after a giant pay cut and I felt the need to voice my long term issues with them both to vent my own feelings and to give them insight into what their policies do to their employees, I sent them an e-mail. I mentioned this on Facebook where multiple people immediately wanted to see it (probably because it got the ridiculous length of 1,900 words or because I still know many employees). Instead of e-mailing it 15 times, I’ve decided to just place it here. Maybe others at the company will see it, maybe some of them will even agree, who knows. Do with it what you will. (Disclaimer: And I realize, objectively, it may sound like whining and complaining as some people experience much worse in their workplaces but these kind of things are relative. Also, many times when the problem is pay, it’s tied to the possibility of the employer failing. I don’t believe that to be the case here.) Here it is:

I apologize in advance for sending this e-mail to customer care but I can find no way to contact upper management directly. I only hope this ends up somewhere meaningful.

I left Radioshack in the middle of August after roughly nine years as a sales associate. I was not simply any associate, I was an ideal associate. I worked under nine different store managers between seven stores in three states and was looked at as the most reliable person to leave in charge in each case. My numbers were good enough that I was consistently in the top 10, sometimes consistently in the top 3, at all times. I rarely used sick time. I regularly trained new associates, not just in operations but in sales, an area of training that is extremely neglected in most Radioshacks. I was even trained early on to be a manager and upset my district manager greatly when I decided to go back to school and remain an associate instead of taking a store. I was around long enough to know what it was like to be a T4, a status that I doubt most upper management is even able to remember at this point.

The reason I preface my e-mail in this way is not to brag but to give Radioshack a sense of what type of employee this is coming from so that it perhaps holds more weight. I hate Radioshack. It’s not that I think the products are bad or the organization doesn’t have nice people in it, it’s because I hate the disconnect between upper management and those at the bottom of the hierarchy. Working at Radioshack, even as an associate, is a mentally exhausting job. One is expected to know a huge amount about the inner workings of electronics, the nuances of multiple contract based services, and be able to communicate all this information clearly to customers who mostly have no idea what’s going on. I dare say that no other entry level retail position in the United States requires the level of expertise that working at Radioshack does. Sure, some associates get away with knowing very little but they’re not successful. They get by, barely, and are often more of a detriment to the business as a whole than a help. No, good associates must be extraordinarily knowledgeable and patient.

With this in mind, Radioshack offers an exceptionally unrewarding work experience. When I started at Radioshack, in my small town in southern New Jersey, I went in to work with pride. It was shocking how rewarding my efforts were. I would leave some days knowing that I made $200 gross in just 8 hours of work. It was a lot of work, as mentioned above, and a lot of effort, but the results could often be amazing. Compared to the other work available in my area, I felt a bit like an aristocrat. I was doing a job that could pass as professional work for an income well above what everyone else was making other than hard laborers or people who had to commute 2 hours away. To top it off, promotions were easy to come by. Within 6 months I was part way through the manager in training program and I had already seen multiple coworkers who started before me get their own stores in that time. Everything seemed perfect.

Then came pay plan updates. Every year or two brought a new pay plan with it. These became the bane of my existence. My first pay plan change was actually beneficial. It came, I believe, shortly after Len Roberts left the company and yielded a significant increase in my gross earnings. Of course, Radioshack realized this very quickly and many of the boosts were removed before being in place for even a year. That seemed okay to me. If the company changed the pay plan in a way the could make them go out of business, it wasn’t worth it. That was the one moment of reward that I’ve ever experienced at Radioshack, though. I must have experienced some 5 or 6 pay plan changes in my time there and literally every single one other than that first was realized as a pay cut for myself. It was amazing. At first it was just a little aggravating but as it happened more and more I developed a sharp sense of bitter resentment at the company. My motivation to excel at my job was drastically reduced, as it was for all my coworkers as well. Radioshack became the thing I would be doing until I could find another job. It was convenient enough that it could pass as a job until there was something better. This essentially became the mantra of every coworker I’ve ever had after my first year or two with the company. This is absolutely the worst situation I can imagine for a company that survives on the sales skills of its associates.

The final blow for me came during the last pay plan change. I was already about to transfer to a new school and focus on only that but even if that weren’t the case, I would have quit Radioshack even in the absence of a new job. I went to the meeting where my district manager explained the pay plan changes and my stomach grumbled as soon as the topic came up. She spun it well. People in the room were mostly convinced that they could actually make more money because of the change in mobile upgrade SPIFFs. I knew better. I kept a spreadsheet detailing my pay on a daily basis for years and I knew I made half of my money in performance SPIFFs. That portion of my pay generally accounted for $2/hour but the max that could be earned under the new plan was $1/hour and relied on the entire store performing, not just me. What’s more, the goals for the drivers that had to be hit were set across the board instead of by store. This was incredibly short sighted (or not?) as, for instance, never in the history of the store I was in did even a single person end a month with a 33% RSSP attach rate let alone had the entire store averaged that. It was full of tourists, foreigners, and rich people who saw money as expendable; there was no way to achieve this kind of result. Similar problems were obvious with other goals but even if everything was reached, like I said, it was a 50% cut in performance SPIFF earnings. Ok, so cell phones are to make up for that, right? Prepaid would pay an extra $2 and upgrades, the majority of post paid phone sales, would pay an extra $7. My store did not have a lot of post paid sales but we had an unusually high amount of prepaid sales. So, I did some calculations. I knew exactly how many hours I worked every week in the past year so I compared that with my phone sales over the past year and found that not once did the extra phone sales make up for the cut in performance SPIFFs. I casually voiced my disdain for the new plan to my manager who seemed baffled that I thought I would make less money. Of course, my math skills showed to be true once the pay plan went into effect.

I received two full pay checks and one partial pay check before leaving the company. I found a roughly 20% decrease in pay on those two pay checks. Coworkers of mine couldn’t calculate their cut but also told me that their paychecks looked significantly smaller. This cut was much larger than any other cut I’d received in 9 years and was completely uncalled for. The last earnings report from Radioshack claimed that the company was doing just fine. There wasn’t as much growth as hoped for, to paraphrase the report, but the company was in no way struggling. And how could the company be struggling? Most large electronics chains that competed with Radioshack had already gone out of business more than a year before this change. No, just as every other pay cut Radioshack gave to its associates over the years, there was literally no reason other than a desire to grab more profits to the detriment of the people who serve as the front line for the business. Pay cuts have happened consistently, in good times and bad, during recessions and during times of general economic growth. There was no excuse.

So I left, with a fierce sense of disdain. So did everyone else in my store. Within a month, my store, whose employee base all had between 2-9 years of experience (most being 5+ years) had literally one employee left who was just about to leave the job for another also. I’ve been to sites like Glass Door over the years to see what retail life is like for at other similar businesses. Four years ago, entry level associates at every corporate cell phone store (Verizon stores, T-Mobile stores, etc.) reported making at least $10k/year more than what Radioshack associates were making. That was well before this 20% pay cut. Today, I can’t even imagine. My store literally has not made even the minimum of the 5 targets for performance SPIFF that are required to date (I’ve kept up through my manager and coworkers who stayed there a bit longer). There is simply no way that working for Radioshack is competitive with other businesses. One can literally work at a hot dog stand and make significantly more money (I know because my roommate was doing just that and averaged $13/hour with tips while my pay had shrunk to an average $11/hour in San Francisco where the minimum wage is $10.24/hour already).

I suppose Radioshack is intent on turning over their workforce until they have, essentially, a bunch of cashiers who don’t realize that Radioshack at one time was a profitable company to work for. It was a company to be proud to be a part of. If that’s the goal, then you are well on your way. If you want to have one of the most knowledgeable and helpful associate bases in the country on your front lines, you’re failing miserably. My personal bitterness has extended beyond simply not wanting to work for the company, I have literally suggested to friends and family that they not go to Radioshack for anything because it’s a company that does not care (and I say this having multiple childhood friends who are store managers). If nine years of dedicated service are rewarded by regular and painful pay cuts and nothing more, what does that say about Radioshack?

I apologize for the length but I feel this really needs to be said, maybe even just for my own sake. In a way, I hope this reaches someone in the company that has a voice and can be swayed to actually change things for the benefit of employees at the bottom of the hierarchy. After all, the business can only be as strong as those who act as its face on a daily basis.