Radio Shack's happier days, when it sold $2495 cellphones

I suppose one shouldn't make light of the dying, but Radio Shack, as moribund a nationwide retailer as they come, pretty much asks for it. Their intended aping of Apple stores a few years back seems not to have panned out, and articles like "A eulogy for RadioShack, the panicked and half-dead retail empire" by SB Nation's Jon Bois started ringing the death knells a while ago.

While Bois, a former Radio Shack employee, does seize the opportunity dance on the company's future gravesite, he also provides a thoughtfully damning analysis of its countless missteps:

As this company has spent the last decade-plus trying to save itself, the happiness of the employees has always been the first to go overboard. Its store managers are worked so hard that they become unhappy, half-awake shadows of themselves. Labor laws have been brazenly ignored. Untold hours of labor haven't been paid for (when I quit, on good terms and with two weeks' notice, they withheld my final paychecks for months and wouldn't tell me why). Lawyers have been sent to shut down websites that have bad things to say about RadioShack. Employees who make a few dimes over minimum wage are pressured, shamed, and yelled at as though they're brokering million-dollar deals.

RadioShack is a rotten place to work, generally not a very good place to shop, and an untenable business to run. Everyone involved loses.

Amid all this, we might cast our minds back to happier days at the 'Shack, maybe by browsing the Radio Shack Catalog Archive, or by watching their old commercials like the one above. Time was, Radio Shack could charge prices that made Apple's look reasonable: not just $995 for a "portable data terminal," but $1399 for a car phone, and an astonishing $2495 for a cell phone.

True, that was 1987, but it was also 1987 dollars; the same price comes out to over $5301 today. You've got to stay up pretty late at night to misspend that kind of money coming in, but somehow, Radio Shack always managed.