[conspire] Fry's Electronics Palo Alto, 1992-2019

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Jan 8 22:31:34 PST 2020

I wrote:

> I cannot help noticing that the flurry of articles from Bay Area news
> outlets about the empty-shelves-at-Fry's story over the past year
> inevitably say that customers have migrated to Best Buy and to online
> vendors, but never mention Central Computers -- which just goes to show
> that the reporters covering the 'technology' beat just aren't
> computerists at all.

And this is the other peeve that I'm allowing myself to indulge, this
evening:  Taking Fry's Electronics seriously as an electronics retailer 
for computerists.

I mean, really?  Seriously?  

I don't know about the rest of you folks, but I learned within a couple
of years of the original Fry's Electronics store[1] opening on Oakmead
Parkway in Sunnyvale that it would almost always be a _bad_ choice of
place to go, for computers or for components thereof.  

Fry's was the place you went to either for completeness or because
everywhere better had already closed for the day and Fry's was open
later into the evening, because you were shopping for one of a
limited number of items for which they were a reasonable source
(magazines, blank optical disc media, NiMH rechargeable batteries), or
because you were drawn in by one of their sales-price discounts.

But they weren't ever actually _good_, merely enormous -- increasingly
so over the years as the newer buildings were Costco-sized or greater
and followed similar logic of having a lot of _stuff_ that wasn't
necessarily great, but nonetheless a lot present to go through.  

Over the years, I kept encountering computerists who maintained with a
straight face that Fry's had a lot of variety of inventory, and I always 
asked the other party to think carefully, e.g., about some item he/she
had shopped for, there, in the recent past.  Let's say:  hard drive
enclosures.  OK, so picture in your head what you saw.  Granted, I'm
sure you saw many items, but, here's the question:  Out of those items
on the wall, how many would you have seriously considered buying, as
opposed to passing over as commodity junk?  If it was a reasonably 
alert computerist, usually he/she saw my point.

And I'd say:  'Right.  So, suppose you shopped for that same category of
item at Microcenter.  Or at Central Computers's main store in Santa
Clara?  How broad was the selection there, of items you'd actually
consider buying?'  And it would generally be:  More than at Fry's.

I'm going to miss Fry's, the next time I want to shop for NiMH batteries
or a good charger for them.  And it was convenient to pop over to Palo
Alto rather than to Santa Clara / Sunnyvale / San Mateo -- but that's
about the limit of it.

(I miss Microcenter a little bit.  They weren't great, but they sure
beat Fry's for many things.)

[1] It was _literally_ a barely repurposed Fry's supermarket, so inside 
it had exactly the layout of a Fry's food market.  As I joked at the
time, instead of chips and dips, the big difference was that it had
chips and DIPs.

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