If you want to gauge the disconnect between business “experts” and regular, everyday consumers, read online coverage of Bell Canada’s announced purchase of 750 The Source (formerly Radio Shack) stores last Monday. This apparently “gutsy” move will get noticed, said Kaan Yigit, president of telecommunications consultancy Solutions Research Group in the Globe and Mail, because “The Source is a respected leader in consumer electronics retailing right across Canada,” explained Bell and BCE CEO George Cope in the Star.
It’s hard to see why exactly the purchase (for an as-yet undisclosed amount) of one of the most ubiquitous electronic retail stores in the country by a giant telecommunications company is “gutsy” (lowering cell phone charges to match those of Europe and the United States—that would be gutsy). And The Source, whose American parent company Circuit City filed for bankruptcy last fall, is a “leader” alright, with stores in just about every suburban and underground downtown mall in the GTA.
The move is a potential boon for Bell’s cell phone and high-speed internet line, struggling to keep pace with Rogers’ and Telus’ recent opening of 300 new outlet stores (although The Source is under an exclusivity contract with Rogers through early next year, meaning they won’t be able to sell Bell products until January 2010). As for what it will mean for the rest of us, Montreal blogger Steve Faguy summed it up best: “[It] make[s] perfect sense, as both companies offer crappy product, have horrible customer service, charge way too much and yet survive because people who don’t know any better recognize the brand.”
So in a year’s time when you’re at The Source by Bell to buy computer wires on your way home from work, expect a large robot named Alice to assist you with whatever you want, as long as you say “USB cable” as loudly and as clearly as possible. And if she asks if you’d like to buy the cable as part of “bundle” package along with a mouse, keyboard, and $1400 laptop, just say no.