The slow dying of Fry's

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2021/01/05/the-slow-dying-of-frys.html

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I used to love going to the “Aztec Temple” Fry’s in Phoenix when I would visit the city – there was really nothing like it in my experience. These days I live near a Micro Center and those are probably the closest thing for those on the East Coast (although with less character) – a brick and mortar store where you can buy motherboards, graphics cards, computer cases, etc. for DIY systems. Their DVD collection was also good back in the pre-streaming era, But Fry’s wasn’t doing well even pre-pandemic, so I can’t imagine them coming out of it alive.

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I lived practically on top of a Fry’s once in WA state. I had heard the hype, and thought why not. I buy a lot of tech related things.

It was pretty much a disaster from stepping foot into the store, no matter when I went. The shelves were always randomly bare. Often there was no rhyme or reason as to where things were stocked. The staff never knew where things were. If I was lucky to find what I was looking for, then I’d have to fight a line up that spiraled out into the store.

I did appreciate thier price matching, but to do that, you had to first identify a product you were looking for, then fight through the endless line to the tills, then have the poor minimum wage worker sigh, and look disappointed as they tried to flag down a supervisor/manager to do the transaction.

It was just an all over unpleasant experience. My wife and I gave up on them, and just shopped somewhere else. The extra buck or two we’d save at Fry’s was just not worth the trouble. I can’t imagine I am the only one that feels that way, so I don’t know if they were doing well even before the pandemic.

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I don’t know what era you are referring to – maybe in the last five years or so? The heyday of Fry’s was the 1990s to maybe 2010, and as the SF Gate article says, going to a Fry’s was a very enjoyable experience then.

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The Las Vegas location for Fry’s was a huge mixed bag but my overall experience was negative to be honest. A lot of things were terribly over priced and it was only really worth going to if you were in a bind and were desperate to find something ASAP

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I can confirm that from personal experience. Going to Fry’s was a regular activity when I lived in and visited Southern California. I especially enjoyed introducing my tech-curious young nephew to the store in 2010, and going there to upgrade his rig became a nice experience for us. From about 2013 or 2014, though, I started experiencing some of the same things @ethicalcannibal did – especially the stock issues and the staff not knowing their own store. That’s usually a sign of death-spiral corner-cutting.

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There’s a micro center near me and I end up there every couple months it seems. There’s always a line for checkout (checkout is properly staffed) and the store is bursting with product. I wonder why they seem to be successful when most other places are failing. Probably because it’s super convenient to be able to just pop over for (yet another) raspberry pi and some printer filament at competitive prices.

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Apparently, the Downers Grove, IL location is still open (or at least it’s listed on their web site). I’m actually a bit surprised, because I went there in December 2019 it looked like it was “Will the last one out, please turn off the lights.” I was quite shocked, to say the least.

For a long time, I kind of cycled between Frys, TigerDirect, and MicroCenter, depending on who had the best deals. All three had brick-and-mortar stores within somewhat reasonable driving distance.

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Basically Micro Center are the only brick and mortar place selling computer components/ “maker” stuff like 3D printers/Pis/Arduinos in the areas they are. Although that’s probably only a third of the store. The rest is selling laptops, video game consoles, and the other sorts of consumer electronics you can find at Best Buy or Walmart.

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I don’t really know why Fry offered up office space at the Palo Alto branch to the American Institute of Mathematics, but I’m glad he did; it has been a convenient place to have math conferences. Face the entrance, turn left, walk down the loading docks past the dumpster to a door labeled “American Institute of Mathematics”, and inside there are mathematicians.

They moved AIM a few years ago from the Fry’s branch to the head offices (no longer walking distance to Palo Alto restaurants, alas). One benefit was being able to see Fry’s personal library of vintage math books. I don’t remember examples but think original edition of Newton’s Principia, that sort of thing.

I’m guessing they’re not going to recreate the Alhambra in Morgan Hill as a math conference center, as they’d been hoping for so many years. Pity.

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I was regular Fry’s customer for some time. Aside from electronics, they also were an early retailer for DVDs.
It turned out that at least at the Redondo Beach store, employees were more than disgruntled. Aware that Frye’s had just been found guilty of some sort of bait and switch, and knowing that they were being scrutinized, Fry’s began honoring any posted price, unquestioned.
The non union, underpaid and overworked employees started marking everything down to pennies on the dollar in order to fuck the owners. Man, as a customer it was impossible to not reap the benefits of those unhappy employees.
Got some good gear and nasty looks before I moved away.

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Would always pop in to the Fry’s in Vegas when I flew down for a few days. Some items were fairly priced while others (thinking of the aisle of zip ties and fasteners… very project-specific) were got-you-over-a-barrel. Thought it was great these items were actually on the shelf and available compared to ordering online shipping… great convenience but you pay for it.

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The last time I went to the Fry’s in Austin it was mostly empty and they did not even have any solder at all which is what I went there to buy.

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I liked Fry’s because besides Radio Shack, it was the only other place that carried electronic components, proto boards, pc etching supplies and test equipment. Their selection has shrunk over the years to become practically non-existent as disposable consumer electronics took over but back in it’s heyday, I spent hours perusing and imagining what I could build out of the stuff they had on hand.

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The last five years or so is accurate. It did not reflect the stories I had heard.

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The last time I went to Frys looking for that sort of thing, a few years ago, that whole section of the store had bare shelves with just a few random circuit components remaining. They were out of the most basic stuff, like freaking solder and heat shrink tubing, and the worker I talked to about it made it clear they had no plans to ever re-stock. So that store has been dead to me for a while, only its hollowed-out corpse remains.

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I was there a couple months back. I needed some sort of adapter. They did not have it.

Whole aisles were completely empty. The entire appliance section was vacant. No motherboards. No hard drives.

Someone posted to Reddit that it’s even worse now. There are sections of the store that are roped off and kept dark.

I remember when they came to town. All the little mom-and-pop computer stores went belly-up within 6 months.

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The long slow death began when they started stocking kitchen appliances… The became a Disney land version of themselves and the “theming” started.

It was good for a while though.

I grew up near-ish that one (in Woodridge, FWIW) and I think I’ve been in that Fry’s… twice? Whereas the MicroCenter in Westmont I used to go to all the time.

EDIT: This whole thing got some traction in January of last year, I think the speculation is that Fry’s tried to go to a consignment model where the stock is property of the supplier and the supplier got paid when the stock sold. The lack of stock is because the suppliers refused to play ball.

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Where will people get their Jolt Cola now?

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