It was bound to happen, but I think I wasn't ready to see another one of my old favorite electronics stores being taken out by progress and convenience here in Las Vegas, NV.
It seemed like only yesterday, in my days of single dad youth, that I started my work shifts as what would be known as the "cage monkey" in the components section at Fry's Electronics.
I would hand out high-priced electronics to cashiers serving customers carrying quotes for several high-end processors, memory dims, hard drives I could only dream of owning one day and the occasional Microsoft OEM license and CD (for those of us who went "legit"). Still, it was one of my last retail jobs before really thinking to myself, "Man, I got to get out of this cage!" and find what eventually led to the start of a long path to my career.
But ever since I left, I always came back, as a customer, as a consumer of fine static-shielded electronics, as a connoisseur of freshly unwrapped cellophane performance computer components and their sweet untouched assembly line aroma that hypnotized me so. I digress, what once was isles and isles of stocked goods is no more.
As I pulled up with my oldest daughter Phoebe, to the often full parking lot big enough to fill a stadium, I noticed that a measly 16 cars had not taken up the vast lines and rows set for the store. People where walking out empty handed in front of us where before trucks and cars of all shapes and sizes were busy pushing giant flat screen TVs into trunks not physically capable of holding such treasures. Listening to the sound of the front store display of the familiar slot pull sounds and gears with the Fry's mascot and giant coin guards front and center. It all felt like this was the start of the zombie apocalypse, and people far more aware than me were stocking up for the long haul.
The horde never came busting through the store doors. As we walked in, the returns section was front and to the right after the entrance . This time, not even a single representative giving a customer the bad news about a restocking fee. The sound of the echoing music playing the latest pop music but seemingly no-one to complain about it.
We kept walking, into the components section where I once roamed like an overweight gazelle grazing the shelves and finding that one sweet deal that I know I didn't come for but somehow needed right after I saw it, "How can I spin this purchase to the wife?" I thought to myself not too long ago...
No, this time I found nothing but wasteland and unwanted parts for things I knew I could get on Amazon for far cheaper and without adding a leg day to my weekly 50 steps, maximum effort. I knew Fry's electronics wouldn't leave shelves under stocked or staffed, but I couldn't believe it. One employee in each section as I walked around. I looked at all the post of ads and deals for each department, nothing really showed a discount where there was once a CPU deal with some ECS motherboard bundle that you would rather use as a paperweight or to sand down that table you kept promising to resurface and stain but putting off for that phantom pain to go away.
I walked up to the counter with the only thing I could find that I "needed" and this time, there were no cans of air that I could find to bump up my spending average. I grabbed a CPU air-cooler that was compatible with the latest Ryzen processors for my daughters own personal build for her birthday and walked up to the empty rails of the check-out lines, she asked, "Isn't this your favorite store to come to..." my internal voice screamed out "Yes! what have they've done to you?" but all I could muster was a weak and dissatisfied, "Yep" .
I then realized that it wasn't ever going to be the same. That I won't be coming back here again. But I just had to ask the cashier and see if they might tell me something of a new hope. The younger looking man (cringe) asked me if I found everything I was looking for. That inner douche bag in all of us wanted to be matter-of-fact and extend his questioning with obvious answers back and forth regarding our lack of purchases but I knew it wasn't his fault this was like this. I said, "yes" and politely nodded, proceeded with my own questioning. "Excuse me, what's going on with the store?" I asked. Already confirming my initial fears, he replied, "Well, Amazon is killing us and we're going through a bit of a remodel. I was told that we're changing our inventory process but I don't know how soon...".
That poor unfortunate soul, either management hadn't told him the truth, or Fry's is changing things. But nothing in the master plan included him continuing on with the company afterwards. The tab came out to 25 dollars and some change. My daughter and I started walking away, and the last usual steps at Fry's as I walked out was always the receipt checks at the exit door. I figured, "why not, for old-times-sakes", just have the receipt ready for the security bag checker and get your last receipt highlighted as a souvenir... It never came. The lady at the post simply leaning on the podium with hand holding her face cocked to one side in boredom looked at me and simply waved me forward and out the door. My final walk through of Fry's, and I didn't even know it...
All things considered, I had some of the best memories working at Fry's with my cousin. He and I working similar shifts and complaining about every aspect of our roles and responsibilities at the company. Having a reason to be up late at night past reasonable hours because we had jobs we hated and parties to attend from other co-workers far better off than we were, mostly the commission based employees. But I learned a lot too, understanding customer interactions and dealing with frustrations I too would have on the receiving end of it all. But I never hated driving 20 miles from any part of the Las Vegas Valley to the center of it all at Fry's Electronics, it always was the true best buy... (pun intended).
Farewell Fry's, hope to see you online. GG.