Sunday, August 25, 2013

ALCO Pasadena Tx

Thanks to one of my loyal readers for the tip on the existence of these stores in the Houston area, and the confirmation of this store being a former Kmart location. 

ALCO stores have been in business since 1901 as mainly a small town retailer. These stores remind me of the discount stores of Woolworth and TG&Y but with a modern look. In less than 50,000 square feet, ALCO features nearly every product department that Walmart and Target have, but with a smaller selection of products. ALCO currently has two stores in the Houston area. The other one on Gessner in Houston is a clearance store and does not currently offer the full selection that this store has. If you are looking for an alternative to Walmart and Target, this may be what you are looking for. 

Yes the large A/C vents were a clue to the ALCO's past life as a Kmart location. 

The electronics section is in the front of the store which is always a must visit for me. 


  1. I am really excited to see the photos of this store. I did go to the Gessner Rd. store back about a year ago when it was a normal store, but this one looks a little different. That one had the electronics up front too though.

    Yeah, this is about as close to a Kmart as we have in Houston these days. The red stripe around the store is kind of sort of Kmartish. It would have been really interesting if it had vintage Kmart orange striping, but that might be asking too much. Nevertheless, it certainly does have the vintage Kmart feel with the mega HVAC vents and the light strips. Speaking of the light strips, the back of the store looks a little dark even though the lights appear to be on.

    These Alco stores do put an impressive variety of goods into a relatively small space. They do kind of remind me of the older Wal-Mart stores (some of which still exist in small towns) and the older small format Kmart stores. I believe those Kmarts were known as the 9000-series Kmarts. Alco's prices may not be ultra competitive with Wal-Mart, but it is a good alternative to Target and Wal-Mart I do think. Hopefully they can open more stores. I'm not sure what the deal is with the Gessner store. Perhaps Alco's prices will get more competitive as they open more stores. This might be especially true if they open more urban/suburban stores. It might be easier to get away with higher prices if they're the only store in a small town.

    One thing that I like about Alco is that they sell Sansui TVs. You can kind of make that out in the last picture. There's nothing particularly special about today's Orion-built Sansuis, but Sansui is a classic name in good Hi-Fi audio equipment. I have an older Sansui cassette deck in my collection. It's nice to see the name live on even if the current Sansui products are much more bargain oriented than the older stuff. That said, Orion has historically been a pretty good maker of lower priced electronics oriented towards discount stores. Hopefully that is still true today.

    Maybe I'm the only one, but I do think that it is really awesome that an old Kmart lives on as another discount store today. This is especially true as this Alco has kept some of Kmart's distinctive features. It's kind of a Kmart museum in Houston. I would say that the store is a bit more organized looking than vintage Kmarts that I've seen even though it is smaller. The lack of shoppers in these pictures is concerning, but perhaps there were shoppers there and you did a good job taking pictures without them showing up in the pictures. Hopefully Alco, especially this location, will be successful in Houston.

    1. I think ALCO will expand with the company that they are a part of now, and get more buying power with the expansions. They have several deals throughout the store, but the regular prices are slightly higher than Walmart or Target on many items. I really like the setup of these stores because I am not a fan of walking all the way to the back of the store to see the electronics section (Walmart).
      Yes I try to eliminate any person in the image while taking photos and just get photos of the stores. There were several other shoppers in the store during my visit. My next post at the Lake Charles Kmart looks like there are no customers, but I am able to get shots without anyone in the images.

  2. It is good to hear that there were shoppers inside this store. The Gessner Rd. Alco was not busy at all when I went there. In fact, the parking lot was so deserted that we wondered if they were even open. That said, the Gessner store is located near a lot of apartments and neighborhoods so I think that more people walk or bike to the store than what you would see at other discount stores located at major intersections.

    I know that we've discussed the pros and cons of each discount store chain before in other posts. I believe that you complained about the speed/length of Wal-Mart's checkout lines. I really hadn't seen that as being a big problem in my relatively recent Wal-Mart trips, but that changed a couple of weeks ago. I went to two Wal-Marts back-to-back since the first store was out of what I really went there for. Both stores only had 4-5 checkouts open in the afternoon rush hours. The lines were super long and slow. The self-checkout lines were moving faster, but there was a long line there too just to get a self-checkout machine. That was really quite ridiculous and it reminds me of Kmart's last few malaised years in Houston where stores would only have one checkout open. Perhaps Wal-Mart is cutting back on cashiers now that they have self-checkout machines. If so, that makes stores like Alco all the more appealing because you can do your shopping there very quickly.

    I do agree that Alco has good advertised specials even if their regular prices are a bit higher than the established discount store giants. Hopefully their prices will continue to get better when/if they continue to grow in more urbanized areas. Also, hopefully Alco's new owners will continue to invest in the brand and won't let it rot kind of like what Kmart has done. If you looked at their ad, you would never know that the stores are as small as they are. They really do pack a lot into those stores without making them feel cramped.

    1. There are only a few times during the early day that I have found Walmart to have a reasonable checkout process, but I hardly ever go these days so it may have gotten better. I go to Super Target for most of my discount shopping, and they will quickly call for help if the lines get long which is great. Super Target stores also now stay open until 11 pm which makes it more convenient to shop late.
      I went ahead and posted my Kmart revisit behind this article because both stores have many of the same features such as the lighting and A/C vents. A Planet Fitness recently opened in the long vacant portion next to the Kmart. Planet Fitness has been opening in long vacant shopping centers and malls recently, but I am not sure if they really help to drive traffic to the stores. After working out people are probably too tired and sweaty to shop for a while, but I may be wrong with my perception.
      As for ALCO, I wonder if they send those advertisements out to homes, and if they do then how far do they advertise. If ALCO had more stores in the Houston area television advertisement would be a good idea, but for now the brand is not well known here. I don't know if you have seen any of the ads Kmart has run here in the past couple of years, but in the past companies would run TV ads before locating to an area to create a demand ahead of any grand openings.

  3. I posted some thoughts about how this store looks compared to a similar vintage currently operating Kmart store in your recent Lake Charles Kmart post. It looks like Alco does mail out ads because the weekly ad that they have on their website has a spot for a mailing address on the back page. I'm not sure how far out Alco mails those ads out or if it is possible to be added to their mailing list.

    Speaking of Alco's ad, I'm looking at their latest ad right now. It's their Labor Day sale ad. I have to say that I have a lot of respect for this chain because they are advertising a Toshiba DVD player-VCR combo right up top on the front page of the ad next to the picture of the 50" Sansui LCD TV. I'm guessing VCRs don't get front-and-center treatment in too many ads these days. I think that it's pretty awesome that Alco put that there. I also noticed that Alco advertises used DVD movies in their ad. That's pretty interesting.

    You mentioned in another post that Alco had been brought out by Argonne Capital. Well, it looks like Alco received a better counter offer from their largest shareholder, Everbright Development Overseas. It seems that Everbright is a Chinese company. I thought that that was pretty interesting. I suppose that some may get a chuckle out of the fact that a Wal-Mart and Target competitor is Chinese owned. If Alco ever really takes off nationally, will the people who bash Wal-Mart by calling it "China-Mart" and stuff run to defend Wal-Mart? That would be pretty funny to see, but I guess we'll have to see what the future holds for Alco.

    I see quite a few Kmart TV, radio, and Internet ads here in Houston. A lot of Kmart's ads are quite controversial these days. I know their back to school ads caused a lot of controversy. Anyway, I suppose we get those ads because Kmart buys national ads. Those ads would be more efficient if Kmart was truly a national company, but oh well I guess. I don't know if Alco does much TV advertising since their stores are mainly located in very small areas where advertising may not be necessary since they may be the only option. That could change if they have bigger aspirations.

    Planet Fitness recently moved into a part of the former Jones Rd. and 1960 Target location. Anyway, a lot of Goodwill stores here in Houston are in shopping centers with gyms. That Jones Rd. Planet Fitness shopping center has a Goodwill store in it. I don't really like that because it seems to me that there are a lot of auto break-ins and stuff like that in shopping centers with gyms in them. I know that a gym patron got mugged at the Veterans Memorial and 1960 24 Hr. Fitness/Goodwill shopping center a few months back and I saw the police taking a report of a smash-n-grab auto break-in at another shopping center that has a Goodwill and Planet Fitness in it. I think gym patrons are easy targets since the thieves know that they will be in a gym for a while and 2nd tier type shopping centers that attract gyms (and thrift stores I guess) probably don't have the best security. You're probably right that gym patrons just go the gym and then go home, but maybe convenience type stores can benefit from them. It's hard to say I guess. I wouldn't expect higher end retail to benefit much from gyms though.

    We don't have Super Targets here on this side of town as an alternative to Wal-Mart for groceries. Plus, I have not been really impressed with Target's prices on groceries the few times that I have been to Super Targets. The Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market near me may still be ok, but that could change too. Grocers that lower their prices on general merchandise may be a big threat to Wal-Mart if Wal-Mart's shopping experience continues to slide.

    1. Sounds like the ALCO acquisition was not as cut and dry as I anticipated. The new bidder definitely adds a new wrinkle to the buyout of the company. Who knows at this point what will happen to the company if the new bidder is the one to get the company. Since two companies are bidding over the stores, it means the company is well valued.
      It seems that Walmart prices the neighborhood markets closer to what their competition is in the area. Prices are noticeably higher at the neighborhood markets than at regular supercenters.

  4. It certainly seems like there is interest in Alco. That's probably a good thing, but I'm not sure if things are settled now or if things can change again. Alco isn't a big enough company to warrant major news coverage, but hopefully we'll find something out.

    You could be right about the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets being more expensive than the Supercenters. I don't shop for groceries at either regularly enough to be able to tell. It seems to me that price differences within a chain even within one part of town are becoming more common. I don't know if you notice that too. Maybe it has been going on for a while now and I'm just now noticing it. HEB is very annoying about this since they send us an ad for one store, but the other stores near here have higher prices. Even the sales aren't the same at HEBs just a few miles apart it seems. I also noticed that some regularly priced products at The Woodlands OfficeMax were more expensive than things at NW Houston OfficeMax stores. I know that price differences within a chain have always existed especially when you look at higher income areas like The Woodlands or The Galleria areas or in areas with lesser competition, but it seems to me that maybe it's becoming more popular.

    I found some pictures of some newer Kmart department signage that just goes to show how similar Alco's signage and Kmart's signage is in some cases. Here's a Kmart sporting goods sign and here is a Kmart electronics sign. They look quite similar to the Alco ones. Obviously the Kmart ones have that K design on them, but otherwise they are similar. That's what makes this Alco store look even more like a Kmart. I think you could really fool some people into thinking that this is a small Kmart if you took the Alco logos out of this store.

    1. Alco has a great opportunity to grow if they advertise themselves as an alternative to other discount chains and focus on saving people time and money. As long as the store sizes stay the same or even slightly larger they can still advertise convenience over the larger discount chains. People are more and more switching to smaller stores to make purchases and big box stores are starting to lose market share. Even malls are doing better than in the recent past. Many malls that were struggling are seeing new life and malls that were doing well are continuing to do well. Some malls are still going to fail, but so will many big box stores, and lifestyle centers.
      I guess companies have to adjust regular prices to gain profit at some of their higher valued properties, at least they have to honor advertised specials.
      Wow those logos are unbelievably close, I have not been to a Kmart with that signage yet. Hopefully Sears/Kmart continues to remodel stores or they can wait until Walkmans and home telephones are back in style and save the money.

  5. I think Alco has the right store format based on some emerging retail trends. It seems like shoppers are tiring of mega-sized stores with mega-congestion. A neighborhood type store like Alco could be the answer. I think it is a major step up from the Dollar Generals and Family Dollars of the world without being any less convenient. We'll see how much they expand into bigger markets though. I took a look at their Texas store locations and I didn't even recognize many of the town names on there. That just goes to show how small the typical Alco market is, but they can change that if they build strategically, advertise strategically, and if they are price competitive.

    Yeah, those Kmart and Alco department signs are strikingly similar. I guess one difference between the two electronics signs is that they use different Spanish translations. Maybe the Kmart one is plural and the Alco one isn't. I don't know, but that is a bit odd.

    I think stores may be looking to recoup higher rents at some locations. That may be part of it, but maybe they know they can charge more with more affluent shoppers. Perhaps they aren't as willing to check ads and comparison shop based on price. Also, I think competition may have something to do with it. The HEB that advertises the lowest prices around here is the single location at Jones Rd. and West Road (a former Randall's that HEB took over, expanded it slightly, and hit it big-time with the ugly stick). That intersection also has a popular Food Town (in the old Food Lion location) and a popular Kroger Signature store. Maybe HEB can be price competitive with Kroger without having lower prices in just that location, but they may have to try harder to compete against the popular Food Town. On the other hand, the HEB in The Vintage on 249 and Louetta does not have any nearby competition, but a Whole Foods is under construction near there as we speak. Of course, that probably won't lower HEB's prices any.

    You might be right about Kmart keeping those tiles covered until Walkmans (Walkmen?) become popular again! I've been befuddled this week because not only did Alco advertise the Toshiba DVD-VCR combo on the front page of their ad, but now Sears has the Toshiba DVD-VCR combo in their Labor Day Sales ad (in the electronics section, not the front page) as a new product (new to Sears, I think that is a model Toshiba/Funai has made for quite some time). It's $20 more at Sears than at Alco, but Sears will give you 30,000 SYWR points if you buy that. Perhaps that is a more beneficial offer for some. The sad thing is that Sears was advertising Magnavox DVD-VCR combos for $59 and $69 during Christmas 2011, but I think Funai jacked up the prices on those things after that because nobody is selling those for close to those prices anymore.

    But, yeah, why is there so much interest in new VCRs now? These weren't being advertised for the previous year and a half or so, but I don't always see the Alco ads. Maybe it's an interesting trend. The Kmart picture you showed seems to indicate that Kmart is stocking up on those VCRs too. Maybe the retailers have a hunch that people are rediscovering their VHS tapes or something. I'm interested to see if this is just a sales circular coincidence or if there is something real here.

  6. Wow, I just came across something that I think you will find very interesting. I know I did. I found that someone uploaded some pictures this week of a currently operating Kmart in what must be a former Venture store of similar vintage to the Ventures we had in Houston.

    This is the first time that I have seen a Kmart in an ex-Venture since our Houston Kmarts closed. I think you said that you never went to an ex-Venture Kmart, but my local Kmart was an ex-Venture location for a few years so these pictures certainly bring back a lot of memories.

    The uploader of these photos isn't very good about giving photo descriptions of where this store is or when this store was built, but based on the high school apparel in the store, it seems like this store is probably near Des Moines, Iowa. This store might be smaller than our ex-Venture Kmarts because it seems much more cramped than our ex-Venture stores. You can tell that the main racetrack around the store is very narrow in these photos, but I don't remember our stores being that way. Also, the cart location, registers, and service desk are a little different than what we had. That said, most everything else is pretty similar to the way ours were set up. The department locations are pretty much the same too as far as I can tell. This store even has the odd split drop/open ceiling configuration. I think the part of the store that has the high school shirts and stuff used to be the cafe. I don't know why Kmarts have so much Dallas Cowboys stuff. The Lake Charles store having Cowboys stuff is one thing, but are the Cowboys that popular in Iowa? I don't know. Maybe Kmart got a great deal on closeout Cowboys stuff or something.

    Anyway, here are the pictures:

    The uploader also has a picture of an unnamed mall in an unnamed location that has a Goodwill store in it. It would be really neat if the malls in Houston had thrift stores. The same uploader also has a pretty low quality photo of an Iowa Kmart video game case from 2002 with some vintage Nintendo logos. You might like that. I like seeing all those vintage shelf stereos with dual cassette decks.

  7. Those photos are a great find and the store does not look like a Kmart until you really look at the displays. Cowboy merchandise is everywhere, at the Sears across the GNO bridge from Downtown New Orleans they had a fully stocked Cowboys section next to the New Orleans Saints section. Yes it was definitely a bad move on whoever ordered all those items in a store that will probably never sell any items in that section, but I could be wrong.
    That mall photo has those two guys both wearing pink shirts and blue jeans standing like bouncers for anyone who leaves that store and walks into the mall, you don't see that often at malls. The Nintendo photo is great, I remember those displays. I want to say that was a vintage 1980's display but my memory is cloudy on when I first started seeing those.

    1. I am really enjoying those photos of that ex-Venture Kmart. I've seen a lot of Kmart photos on the Internet over the years, but this is the first time that I have seen what our local Kmart looked like when it closed since the stores closed. Of course, it also reminds me a bit of Venture itself. Venture laid out their departments in the store somewhat differently than how Kmart did. For example, with the Willowbrook area Venture at least, they had sporting goods in the back corner where Kmart put electronics. I honestly don't remember where Venture put their electronics. I can only assume that their electronics department was rather forgettable.

      But, yeah, Venture stores of that era and the ex-Venture Kmarts do have an odd look to them. They are certainly quite different from the vintage Kmart layouts, but perhaps the difference was a bit less stark compared to 1990s-built Kmarts. Stuff like the hybrid ceiling is still quite an oddity though. It's probably the most memorable feature of those Ventures.

      Those Nintendo cases remind me of the 1980s and early 1990s Nintendo Power magazines (I think that is what they were called). Thus, I would guess that they are from the 1980s or very early 1990s, but maybe not. I do have a pretty good sense for what the video game cases looked like at the ex-Venture Kmarts that we had, but my memories are a bit fuzzy about what they looked like at older style Kmarts here. I have better memories of 1980s video games and demo machines at Wal-Mart and Target than I do of Kmart, but I do remember the small section of PC games that the older style Jones Rd. and FM 1960 Kmart had. I don't remember what the console games section looked like there.

      Yeah, I don't get why Sears and Kmarts have so much Dallas Cowboys stuff. They don't even have Kmarts in Dallas! As far as LA goes, you probably know more about this than I do, but perhaps some areas like Shreveport have a lot of Cowboys fans and perhaps there are some people who rooted for the Cowboys back when they were good and the Saints weren't. I'm not sure how that translates into sales of Cowboys gear today though. I know that the Cowboys are a "national" team, but still, the abundance of stuff at that Iowa store is quite odd and it makes you wonder if Kmart grossly miscalculated the interest in Cowboys gear. Granted, I am a fan of a team on the other side of the country so stores selling out of market team gear is kind of nice, but it isn't so nice to see all that Cowboys stuff when one is a New York Giants fan living in Houston!

      I looked at some of the uploaders other images and it seems like that anchor spot where those guys in the pink shirts are standing is a Des Moines Area Community College location that opened up in an old JC Penney at the Southridge Mall in Des Moines, IA. Those may be construction or maintenance workers wearing the pink, but who knows. Wal-Mart-style "greeters" at malls are a bit unusual in my experience, but I think the antique mall in the old Northwest Mall JC Penney has a greeter at the mall entrance (I'm not sure about the other entrances).

    2. I have noticed a recent push for VHS/ DVD players at many stores. I guess people are rediscovering their VHS tapes since many movies are still only available in that format. I have as many VHS players in my house as DVD players and Blu-ray players combined. I really enjoy watching VHS movies from time to time with my family. We have also recently rediscovered Nintendo and Super Nintendo games which my children really enjoy playing.

      Check out my Spring Deauville post from a few weeks ago. I decided to check out the entrance farther back on the building. I added 3 new photos from that section of the mall to the bottom of the post.

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  9. Part I:

    I am glad to see that I am not the only one who is noticing the increased spotlight that retailers are giving to DVD/VCR combos. In fact, I was flipping through the channels on Labor Day and noticed that HSN was selling the Toshiba DVD recorder/VCR combo unit. I don't usually watch those home shopping channels, but I had to stop and see what was going on and if they would shed any insight into why these combo units are such a focus for retailers these days. The HSN host did say that they used to sell those recorder combos a lot in the past, but they said that they don't feature it as often in recent years since there is now only one manufacturer (which is true AFAIK) and since the prices have skyrocketed in recent years (which is also true, although the prices for the DVD recorder-VCR combos have been more stable than the DVD player-VCR combos as far as I can tell). The HSN people were really pushing the ability for people to use the DVD recorder to digitize old VHS camcorder tapes and stuff like that. That's actually a really viable use for the recorder combos, but most retailers are pushing the DVD Player combo and not the recorder. They also mentioned the ability to watch old forgotten tapes. I guess there has to be increased interest in doing that.

    You're right about there being a lot of material on VHS (not even counting home movies and TV recordings that people still have) that hasn't been re-published on DVD. Also, a lot of VHS movies are available for really cheap these days in thrifts and other places. Plus, most thrifts have a lot of children's movies and Disney stuff on VHS that may be hard to find on DVD.

    I really can't say that I expected the increase in attention that VCR combos are seemingly getting these days, but I'm glad to see that retailers don't think that VHS is dead yet. VHS certainly isn't the greatest video format, but maybe people rediscovering VHS tapes will help fix the tarnished reputation that VHS got from electronic industry marketing, somewhat unfairly IMO, when the industry was pushing the DVD format hard in the late 1990s.

    I don't know if there will ever be an increase in people recording with VHS, but if there is, maybe there will be more choice in blank tapes and lower prices as well. Obviously there are some people who still record to VHS, but I kind of doubt that people will restart recording to VHS if they haven't been doing so unless there are some people who unsubscribe from pay TV/cable and need a way to record something without having a DVR. Of course, when I found new blank tapes in the Walgreens clearance section for thrift store type prices, I got about as excited as the guy in this old 1986 Wal-Mart commercial featuring a quick shot of some vintage Wal-Mart orange carpeting and some really awesome audio cassettes. Oddly enough, both Sony and Polaroid (though the current Polaroid company is a bit different from the original) still sell VHS cassettes to this day (Walgreens' regular price VHS tapes are Sonys).

    I'm not sure if you've heard about this or not, but this upcoming September 7th has been marked as being the first International Cassette Store Day for audio cassettes. I don't know much about it, but it seems like Record Store Day has been a big part of the vinyl comeback according to my reading. The Cassette Store Day website lists one Houston store as participating in the day and it looks like there are several other Texas stores and I think I saw a New Orleans store as well. I'm really interested to see if audio cassettes will make a comeback like vinyl has. The Cassette Store Day has gained some attention due to the success of Record Store Day and since August 2013 was the 50th anniversary of the unveiling of the cassette and that gained it some press coverage in mainstream magazines and blogs.

    1. Wow that Walmart commercial brought back memories, I still have some of those Polaroid cassettes lying around with some 1980's movies off the tube.
      I gave up on cassettes many years ago when I could not find any stores that carried new music. Then most music stores either got rid of their cassette sections or raised the price up to what CD's cost. I was one of the last holdouts lasting until 2001 with only a handful of CD's that I had bought. I gave away my collection and held onto a few tapes that I was not able to replace on CD.

  10. Part II:

    Retro gaming is quite popular these days, but I'm not sure if the spirit of the old games ever really went away totally. Emulators were popular even back in the late 1990s if I remember correctly. A lot of those old 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s video games were great and I'm not surprised that kids these days enjoy them. A lot of the cell phone type games that are popular these days are kind of simple like old video games. I know Sega and probably others have re-released some of their old games for newer consoles/PC. I purchased this Sega collection that has a couple of Master System games in it. I didn't know this until just now, but it seems like that collection of games also spurred on an LP record release of classic game soundtracks that was available in other countries. Odd.

    I saw your new Spring Deauville Fashion Mall photos. Wow, those are great. I really need to see this place in person since I drive by it on my way from work. Designer Depot was a Kmart store and I'm sure the K-bloggers would love to see that since it is an obscure thing. Yeah, that place really is a time capsule. On the topic of old formats and old Deauville Mall stores, photo stores (and Foto Mat type deals) were a really big thing back in the day that you don't see much of anymore. 35mm film is still sold and developed, but I don't know if it will make any kind of huge comeback. I certainly don't expect it to impact malls like it used to.

    On a slightly different topic, I was reading this JCPenney investment document and they mention on slide 11 something about a Green Street Advisors Mall Database with mall grades based on sales. I'm not quite sure what this is, but I'm really intrigued by it. I did a search about it and found some stuff about it on the Green Street Advisors' website, but obviously you need an account to access the data and I'm sure it isn't cheap to get access to that information. I wonder what ratings the various Houston malls have. I think that this is the first time that I have heard of these grades, but do you know anything about them?

    1. The game soundtracks are a little strange, I couldn't see myself driving around town listening to video game music. Some of the tunes are catchy, but not enough for a soundtrack.
      I was surprised for sure to see that corridor of the mall relatively untouched for as long as it has been. Many malls that have been abandoned for that long are destroyed by the lack of maintenance and vandals. I guess since they were using the mall as storage for one of the nearby businesses they made minor repairs here and there to keep the property up. The roof of the center court looks terrible in some spots though, you can see it from the Houston Garden Center next to the mall. If you look close enough you can see the holes in the ceiling in a couple spots, so there is some damage to the building. I could not tell, but it looks like some of those decorative lights were on, but it may have been the reflection through the skylights.
      I know that mall properties are rated by sales per square foot. I forgot the exact standards but C properties and D properties are considered low to no profit properties. I would say we have several class A malls here in the Houston area such as Willowbrook that stay busy, Class B is hard to figure out, and class C or D properties are obvious.

  11. Part I:

    Wal-Mart had and still has a fairly eclectic electronics department. On the one hand, you have Wal-Mart branded stuff like the Durabrand stuff that they used to use as a house brand that rivals Tozai for the most useless plastic junk. There is this 1987 Wal-Mart electronics commercial that makes a Soundesign rack stereo sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread, but that system was almost certainly pretty crummy. OTOH, we brought a Pioneer turntable from Wal-Mart in around 1987 or 1988 that I still have (it needs a new belt though) and I certainly don't remember Kmart or Target selling anything of that quality back then, but maybe I'm forgetting something. Even today, Walmart is the go-to place for hard drive based DVD recorders (Walmart sells the Funai/Magnavox HDD DVD recorders with digital tuners with 3 different HDD sizes). They are pretty much the only place that sells them (granted, they can pretty much only be brought from these days, but you can have them shipped to the store). Sometimes online stores will sell them, but that isn't always consistent. I think Walmart must have some pull with Funai to have them continue to make those. A lot of video guys are very thankful to Walmart for continuing to sell those as HDD-based DVD recorders are by far the most reliable DVD recorders for recording TV and they also act as standard def. DVRs without monthly fees. Funai probably would have discontinued those if Walmart didn't continue to sell them.

    I have some of those 1980s Sony Dynamicron VHS tapes from that 1986 commercial (they still work great) as well as some Polaroid tapes with that cover design, but I think the Polaroid tapes that I have are from the 1990s. Polaroid must have used that dust cover design for many years. The current Polaroid tapes use a different design, but there still is a bit of a rainbow design in there.

    I gotta love those vintage Maxell XLII and TDK AD audio cassettes that make a quick appearance in that 1986 commercial. Granted, other stores sold those too, but it's great to see them again. Maxell XLII were very popular Type II tapes that you can still find with relative ease in thrifts these days, but TDK AD was a premium ferric Type I cassette that worked really, really well. Premium Type I tapes are kind of rare and didn't get much respect as I guess most people who spent a little extra on tapes brought Type IIs instead of premium Type Is even though it could be argued that the premium Type Is (especially really rare stuff like TDK AD-X and Maxell XLI-S) were better for most types of music. Due to the rarity, stuff like TDK ADs now cost a fortune on ebay. They are like $8 per tape plus shipping. I did buy a new sealed 1987ish RadioShack Realistic Supertape Gold, RadioShack's premium Type I cassette, from a thrift last week for 25 cents. Granted, I don't think the Supertape Golds were as good as stuff like TDK AD even if they were comparable on paper, but it looks great and it's a great tape to add to my sealed blank tape collection. Plus, I like collecting RadioShack stuff from that era because I used to love to read their catalogs back then.

    One thing that I've been noticing lately is that some of the Goodwill stores that I frequent are in the process of renovating and expanding their locations by knocking down walls and moving them further out. Hopefully this will lead to greater selections of electronics and stuff. We'll see, but it is interesting to see these stores boom in the area.

  12. Part II:

    The Cassette Store Day got a lot more coverage than I was expecting. Some popular alternative newspapers like the Austin Chronicle and the Houston Press mentioned it. The Austin paper even made a whole series of articles about it. In typical Houston newspaper fashion (well, at least since the Post ended), the Houston Press managed to completely butcher the article with nonsense "facts". Yes, cassettes can sound bad, but cassettes are like steak. If you buy the cheapest meat, cook it on some cheap grill that cooks unevenly, cook it using totally wrong methods, and then leave it on the grill way too long, well, it's not going to be tasty steak. Cheap tape recorded on cheap recorders using wrong methods are going to sound bad as well and that's how many people remember cassettes unfortunately. OTOH, you could make great recordings even with decent tape like Maxell UR and a decent cassette deck that you could buy from places like Service Merchandise so as long as you maintain the deck and understand how to set recording levels properly and adjust the bias correctly if the deck allows for that adjustment.

    I guess CDs are a lot more "dummyproof," but for those who know how to make a great tape, it's a really interesting and rewarding format. I'm hoping that the people who are rediscovering tapes will realize that it is a great format. Hopefully the new listeners aren't just hipsters embracing the lo-fi attributes of badly recorded tapes. We'll see. Historically, a lot of record companies used fairly low grade Type I tapes for prerecorded tapes which didn't help cassette's reputation, but maybe the new publishers will use better stock. I think some of the indie type record labels and stores may prefer cassettes as they may be cheaper to make and sell than vinyl so there may be some supplier side push toward cassettes. Of course, a lot of people will need new cassette decks and portable players if cassettes take off so hopefully there will be enough demand that more models will be made like is the case with turntables.

    Yeah, I don't know about listening to game soundtracks. Putting Genesis soundtracks on vinyl seems kind of like faux nostalgia too. Cassettes and CDs were more time appropriate, but I guess CDs don't have the same nostalgic appeal even to Sega CD lovers. Perhaps my favorite game soundtrack from that era was for the PC fighting game One Must Fall 2097. It was a great game too. I don't know if you've ever heard of it as it was kind of obscure. EA Sports games used to have great soundtracks too until around 2001ish, but sometimes they used mainstream music and not music made just for the games.

    It's sad to hear that there is some rot at the Spring Deauville Mall. It looks quite good in the photos. Hopefully whatever rot there is won't lead to further deterioration. Of course, that mall is right across I-45 from Spring High School. That has been in the news a lot recently obviously and a lot of people are discussing the changing demographics of that area and the I-45 and FM 1960 area as we've discussed before. The I-45 and Cypresswood area is still very strong from a retail perspective though. The Deauville Mall is basically the only thing of retail blight in the area and I'm not sure if I would even call it that since it isn't totally abandoned or anything like that.

    1. I guess when we see cassettes for sale again like records have been we will know that they have arrived again. The prices for records are insanely high at the stores I have seen them in.
      I missed most PC games until around the 2000's, I did not have a PC until 2001 and I was way behind everyone else.
      It is strange how the Deauville property has been partially redeveloped. If you drive by on the street it looks like a decent shopping center. If you pull in on the other side of Ace Mart you can see the two entrances of the former mall with some boarded up spots and the parking lot is empty. I guess some of the crime from the 1960 area is spilling over into that area, but the news will make it into more than it is.

  13. It is nice to see mainstream stores sell records these days, but the prices are sky high. I think the record companies are loving the vinyl comeback because it gives them another opportunity to sell the same music to people. There may be people out there that, for example, brought Elvis LPs back in the day, then brought the same music on 8 track, then the same music on cassettes, then the same music on CDs, and now they are buying the same music again on records because they gave their old records away a long time back or whatever. The record companies obviously love this and I'm guessing the retailers won't complain about it either. It's like printing money for the record companies. They try to do the same thing by releasing "new digitally remastered" CDs of the same music and stuff like that, but I'm not sure if that works as well as releasing something on a new (or seemingly new) medium like vinyl. We'll see if cassettes are part of this process.

    I did see a large part of one of Fry's newer ads saying that they are selling vinyl. Who ever thought we'd see that being advertised again? Hopefully cassettes can do the same. On that note, hopefully music stores in malls can become viable again too.

    Speaking of which, do you remember that picture that I posted the link of of the Kmart that opened up in an old Montgomery Ward at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville, OH? Well, new pictures of that mall have been posted online by someone and here is a mall entrance shot of that Kmart. That's not the interesting thing though. That mall still has an operating Sam Goody in it! That image sure does bring back memories of cassettes and the glory years of CDs. That sure is one interesting mall.

    The Spring Deauville Fashion Mall exterior has been maintained pretty well over the years at least when looking at it from the streets. It does look like a nice shopping center, albeit it does look a bit strange as a shopping center. I don't know if people who didn't know that it was a mall before would know that it was a mall by looking at it, but it certainly does not look like a normal shopping center. The shopping center next to it with the Loews Theater looks a lot more grungy than the mall itself, but it is fully or mostly occupied even if it has some non-traditional occupants these days. The other shopping centers in that area are quite nice looking (I'm not sure if you've ever been to the Sears Outlet there on the Spring High School side of I-45) and most of the stores are considered to be nice stores like Staples and Super Target. You wouldn't tell that there might be some issues in that area by looking at the retail and the homes in that area, but I think that you're right to say that the media might be making more of the issue than what really exists. Some of the news reports and user comments on sites make that area sound like it has become Greenspoint 2, but I don't think that is the case. Hopefully perception does not become reality. It is unfortunate that that area is receiving such a black eye because that area really could have boomed with the opening of all the new offices in that area. It seems like The Woodlands and Conroe developers received a real victory given the recent publicity against Spring.

    1. You can tell the Sam Goody has gotten the FYE treatment, but wow that store is a blast from the past. Looking at the FYE store map Texas has 8 locations and Louisiana has 6 locations. FYE locations also includes Suncoast stores in their store total list. There are 0 FYE or Suncoast stores in the Houston area. Beaumont has a Suncoast and Austin or Lafayette have an FYE store but nothing here anymore. Pasadena Town Square was the last FYE store in our area. Fry's does have a bunch of new vinyl for sale and so does surprisingly Books a Million.
      The area just north of Spring is booming with the Grand Parkway and Exxon construction. The Grand Parkway is being cleared out all the way to 69/59 which will only increase the traffic to the area.

  14. Part I:

    Yes, that Sam Goody picture is certainly a blast from the past. I am guessing that there aren't a ton of those, especially ones that look that vintage, still in operation today. I did not even realize that there were still some Suncoast stores around until I saw a picture of one sometime back.

    If I remember correctly, Willowbrook Mall in the 1990s had two Sam Goodys of that style in it that may have operated concurrently. One of them was near the Sears and had a Suncoast next to it. I can't say for sure where the other one was, but it may have been somewhat near Montgomery Ward on the main concourse. IIRC, the one near the Sears was very odd because it had a sign on the exterior of the mall behind the store even though it obviously didn't have an exterior entrance. Maybe I'm remembering that wrong, but I seem to remember that.

    That Ohio Valley Mall is really fascinating. Not only does it have a Kmart in an old Montgomery Ward, but it also has a Sears store as well. The Lufkin Kmart is near the Lufkin Mall Sears, but this has both in the same mall. Plus, it has a Boscov's department store opening in an old JCPenney. Not only is it great that they found a replacement for Penney's, but I would say that Boscov's is a major upgrade over JCPenney.

    Of course, it would have been even more of an upgrade had Boscov's not announced the end of their electronics and appliances departments last year. Boscov's certainly was one of the last, if not the last, department store to have an electronics departments. Here is a picture of a Boscov's Audio & Appliances department at another mall, here is another picture of that same department, and here is yet another. It certainly looks like how a department store electronics department should even if that location seemingly had a different storefront for the electronics department from the rest of the store. I also like that they had a rack of Maxell batteries with the famed Maxell "Blown Away Guy" on it that came from this famed Maxell cassette commercial that I'm sure you've seen before (or at least you've seen parodies of it). Putting "Blown Away Guy" on batteries seems a bit odd, but Maxell started to use that on wrappers for their UR cassettes in more recent years. That makes more sense.

    1. I want to say the other Sam Goody was near where Hot Topic is today near the former Montgomery Ward. The Suncoast in Beaumont has the old televisions and red neon still operating at the entrance of their store. I will have some good photos of that store in the future on the blog. It is obvious that F.Y.E. has taken that store over but most of the Suncoast signage inside of the store is still in place. The Boscov's entrance was dated with the neon cursive sign, but no electronic and appliances is a loss for those stores. I am not sure if I had seen the original or a parody of this commercial, probably both it is a famous commercial.

  15. Part II:

    Aside from that, the Ohio Valley Mall has a lot of interesting things. First, it seems that the ex-Wards Auto Center is now an NTB. That's interesting because Sears used to own NTB until some time in the early 2000s. I don't know if Kmart used that auto center or when NTB took it over, but it's interesting that it has a bit of a Sears history as well as the ex-Wards itself.

    More interesting than that is the store directory for the store. According to that picture, that mall has many things that are now extinct or increasingly rare at Houston malls. It has a Tilt arcade I guess, it has a RadioShack, and it has a sports cards store. It also has a Books-A-Million and two GameStops that are seemingly very close to each other. That does not make a whole lot of sense. Maybe one store was something else before and they couldn't get out of the lease once it became a GameStop? I don't know. That mall also has a vintage looking Toys R Us as an outparcel.

    As far as the ex-Wards Kmart goes, there still aren't a ton of interior pictures of it still, but there is one of this blocked off side entrance that Wards must of used. Unfortunately, both it and the outside of the doors are missing the famed "MW" door handles. Unfortunately, I guess Kmart removed those.

    I did a drive from Pittsburgh to NE Ohio through West Virginia a couple of years back, but if I had known about this mall then, it would have been very tempting to make a detour to visit this mall. It seems like a bit of a time capsule even if the mall is otherwise mostly modern. It has a nice balance of types of stores that you just don't find in a lot of other malls these days.

    The part of Spring north of the Grand Parkway, or even the part just south of it, is probably in pretty good shape. This is especially true of the parts west of I-45. You're almost in The Woodlands at that point so I guess there isn't a ton of difference and they may go to the same schools. The parts near Cypresswood and FM 1960 are probably suffering from the negative publicity though. That's unfortunate because that really isn't a bad part of town as far as I can tell and there are a lot of nice houses in that area that could have and may still attract the new workers to that area.

    I cannot remember the last time that I brought a record new or used. The last LP that we brought may have been in the early 1980s. Obviously, I was a bigger fan of the cassette format. I think we brought some 45s even later than that though as it was the best way to buy singles as "cassingles" never really took off big and CD singles were even more rare. But, yeah, back in the last few years that records were sold before the comeback, records were the cheapest, then cassettes were a little more, and then CDs were the most expensive option even though it might have cost less to make the CDs in bulk. The record companies are charging a real premium for vinyl these days though it seems.

    1. That Ohio mall is a nice time capsule and has a good balance of stores for men, women, and children. There is only one mall (Katy Mills) in the Houston area that has a Tilt. PlazAmericas has small arcades in their two mercado's but that is it as far as mall arcades in the Houston area unless you count the movie theaters. It seems like malls are becoming nothing more than large clothing stores with little else to offer. It would not surprise me if home goods departments and the furniture departments in department stores are eventually eliminated. I hope I am wrong and the offerings at malls will revert to more variety in stores.
      I remember buying a few singles, but I mostly put those together on a dubbed tape with other single so I could get more playing time than on a cassingle. Most of those singles contained extra songs or different versions of the single which is harder to find these days.
      Hopefully the Grand Parkway will increase land values for those neighborhoods near Spring HS that might decline because of the negative publicity of the area.

  16. Part I:

    I totally agree with you that modern malls are filled with women's clothing stores and shoe stores. It's a real shame that malls have turned into this. I miss the days of the malls and the anchor stores having something for everyone. Memorial City Mall is probably the closest thing we have to a mall that fits that bill, but that's only because it has a Sears and a Target. It's a shame that we have to rely on someone like Target to bring variety to malls.

    I've heard that arcades are making a bit of a comeback. I don't know if that is true or not, but if it is true, I wonder if the people going to arcades are young people or ~40 year olds who miss the glory days of mall arcades. Maybe that arcade scene from Back to the Future II isn't that far off. Who knows. I don't know if we'll see more arcades in malls, but it would be interesting to see.

    It is a real shame that Boscov's is getting rid of appliances and electronics. The "audio" reference in the "neon" light of that Boscov's was probably put in at some point during the Hi-Fi era when having great home Hi-Fi was a big deal. All the big department stores and mass merchandisers got in on the game. Even some discounters would sell higher end Hi-Fi gear than you would expect from the level of the store. Korvettes was probably the greatest example of this as this commercial that had a brief appearance of some vintage video games there at the end would indicate.

    It'll be interesting to see what happens to housewares and furniture at department stores. I really don't see a lot of people shopping those departments when I go to JCPenney, Macy's, or Dillard's, but perhaps they don't have to sell that stuff in a ton of volume to make money. It's hard to say. It seems like no one is really dominating those sectors and stuff like furniture is hard to buy online so maybe the department stores can still carve out a niche for themselves in those sectors. If nothing else, they may have to sell that stuff or else they will end up with a lot of empty retail floorspace.

    1. There is a large arcade in downtown near Minute Maid Park that advertises over 200 games. I have been meaning to go, but I don't make it downtown too often. It seems like Dave and Busters and a few other places are keeping games alive, but I don't think too many companies are producing games anymore.
      I remember the big craze for Hi-Fi equipment, my first home theater speaker system was Hi-Fi.It really does not seem like the speaker technology has improved greatly since the Hi-Fi era. I actually think my last tube TV has better speakers than any of my flat-panel TV's.
      Korvettes had corny commercials, but it was interesting to see those stores from the 1970's.
      I made a few recent purchases online, but with in-store pickup at various places. You usually get a better deal than in the stores ordering online, but sometimes the orders take a while to process. I really don't see the benefit that a store gains by doing these discounts because most pickup areas are at the entrance to a store. If retailers want you to visit the store, it would be in their best interest to have you come inside and go through a few well placed displays before heading to the pickup area. I would not want to buy anything online such as furniture, jewelry, clothes, or large electronics. The only items I will buy online are from Ebay such as collectibles or video games.

  17. Part II:

    That Maxell "Blown Away Guy" commercial is very famous. CNN Money did a video about that commercial earlier this year and discussed the impact that it had and some of the parodies of it. I had a Maxell tape "Blown Away" moment just yesterday actually. I was at a thrift and saw that they had 8 sealed Maxell UR 90 minute tapes plus a TDK D 120 and an open but unused RadioShack LN 120 minute tape for 99 cents. I was "blown away" by that bargain for sure, but I didn't notice that the handwritten pricetag actually said 66 cents instead of 99 cents so I was blown away yet again when the cashier rang it up. 10 new cassettes for 66 cents! I still can't believe that one.

    Memorex had another very famous series of cassette commercials with Ella Fitzgerald and the shattering glass. Maybe you remember those as well. Memorex used the shattering glass image in their marketing for many years after that even if the reality of the matter was that the only thing that Memorex tapes would shatter were your dreams given their general lousy quality during that time. I sure do miss those cassette commercials. I was watching a 1992 tape of some MTV stuff and there were a lot of TDK tape commercials during that one. There were also so many PepsiCo commercials on that tape that I'm surprised that I didn't see the famed Crystal Pepsi commercial from that time. I think that Crystal Pepsi commercial is more famous for the SNL Crystal Gravy parody than for the actual commercial itself.

    "Mixtapes" are probably the most memorable image of cassettes for most people who lived through the peak of the cassette era. It is certainly a lost art. I guess people still make Mix CDs and MP3 playlists, but those certainly don't take the effort of a mixtape. Aside from making longer tapes for car rides and stuff like that, one could get a date by making a good mixtape back in the day, but I'm guessing a mix CD or playlist didn't and won't get you so far. A mixtape today probably won't get you a lot of women. If anything, it'll help get rid of women! On the flip side, women probably won't slap you across the face these days if you use an el cheapo tape like a Walgreens' ToneMaster for a mix instead of a good tape!

    I think you're right about the other Willowbrook Mall Sam Goody being near where the current Hot Topic store is. It looks like the existing Suncoast stores still have a lot of vintage elements in them like the signs and the CRT TVs even if the interior decor is mostly fye-ish. That's interesting that there is still one on Beaumont and I look forward to seeing the pictures of it.

  18. The cassettes were a good deal, I think a 10 pack at Kmart was $4.99. I forgot which brand they were selling there though.
    I think mythbusters proved the shattering glass with the speaker was a myth unless there was a vibration pattern that would disrupt the normal balance of the glass and break it.
    The Crystal Pepsi was awful, I still have a bottle of Pepsi Blue which was a much better product but did not last either. I have a few soda bottles and cans that I have collected over the years. I could probably sell a few and make money but I will hold onto them for a while longer.
    I don't think a mixtape will send the same message today as in the past, it might be too retro for many teenagers to know what a cassette is or how or where to play the cassette. They could always go to Kmart and see the cassette lady I guess. It seemed you could do a lot more with a tape that you can with a CD.
    The Suncoast store does not have the neon on the inside working at this time, but the front of the store is still completely intact.

  19. Part I:

    Some of the Korvettes commercials were certainly corny. This "Come see the Softer Side of Korvettes" ad showing some totally disco era clothing would fit the description. OTOH, there is this Korvettes ad with Julie Newmar that is, well, wow. Those legs could certainly move some Quaker State oil and Presto Burger Makers!

    As that commercial alluded to, one of Korvettes more famed departments was their music department that was supposedly superior compared to other similar stores. Granted, that may not be too surprising given their emphasis on selling stereo gear. This Korvettes commercial, which is preceded by an interesting Sears stereo commercial, shows their record department. Of course, Sears had their own record department back in the day as well and had their own interesting commercials.

    10 cassettes for $4.99 is a good non-thrift price. I wonder what kind of cassettes those were. I believe Kmart sells Sony HF tapes, but maybe they were also selling some old new stock tapes as well? This is Kmart that we're talking about here so I wouldn't be shocked if they had something still on sale from the 1990s or early 2000s!

    I didn't know that Myth Busters tested the broken glass claim, but I guess that commercial is still recognized. That's some interesting information. It's not surprising that Memorex (or Maxell for that matter) advertising would stretch the truth though. That said, Memorex marketing must have worked well because they sold a lot of tapes even though their product was sometimes subpar. You may remember that they came out with some really colorful cassettes in the late 1980s that were really popular with young people. Of course, the most interesting tape design that I remember was the 3M Scream'r cassettes from that same timeframe that is also in that picture. I remember seeing those for the first time when they were new and laughing at them, but I did buy a couple of them and I still have some recordings on them. You're probably right that kids today would not know what to do with a tape and they may not even know what it is. They need to go to Kmart and see how awesome cassettes are by seeing the Walkman woman!

    Speakers have not changed much over the years. Good speakers 40 years ago are still good ones today. Speakers are really important and it is a good idea not to skimp on them. It is true that many CRT TVs have superior sound to flat panel TVs. Even earlier flat panel TVs may be better than current ones due to the thickness of TVs. It's a shame really, but this can be solved by using a home theater system or a soundbar. A lot of audiophiles prefer vintage tube type and solid state amps over modern stuff. They think it makes the sounds warmer just like analog vinyl and tape over CDs and MP3s. It's interesting how much vintage Hi-Fi gear can fetch on the used market these days.

    1. I liked the tagline on the Sears commercial "guess what you are getting for Christmas". I wonder if modern kids would rather have an 8-track or cassette, it is a tough decision, lol. Those colorful tapes remind me of the Swatch watches that were popular in the 80's. It does not surprise me that vintage well built audio equipment sells for a premium, as long as the items were taken care of they should still sound great. I am sure if the speakers are used every day for years the quality will deteriorate, but if kept in a climate controlled environment and used sparingly they should work well.

  20. Part II:

    I think I've read about that downtown arcade that you are talking about. On the one hand, vintage arcade machines are probably available fairly cheaply with all the arcades that closed, but OTOH, it may be hard to find people to maintain those machines. I don't know though. I don't know if they still make new arcade games either. Maybe there is still stuff like pinball. You're right that Dave & Busters and others still have a business model around arcade games though. It's too bad that many malls aren't in on them though.

    You do bring up a good point about the in store pickup thing not maximizing the potential for shoppers to buy more stuff. I've never been too big on in-store pickup from in-store inventory unless the price is much cheaper online or if inventory is low. Having things shipped to the store is a different matter, but I guess that has the same problem. I guess in-store pickup has to have a convenience factor so having people go to the middle of the store may not work so well.

    I've heard of people buying clothes and shoes from catalogs and online. That seems odd to me especially if there isn't a local return/exchange option, but I guess some places pay for return shipping. Still, that seems like an extra hassle to get things mailed off. I think that only makes sense if you need some kind of size or design that isn't available locally. I probably still would only order clothes online if I could return it locally.

    I remember buying Crystal Pepsi from Auchan when it first came out. I didn't think it was horrible, but it didn't taste like Pepsi. I guess that was Pepsi's version of New Coke. It's funny that you mention your soda collection because one piece of sports memorabilia that I have (which probably isn't worth anything) that I didn't mention earlier was some special collector glass Coke bottles that they were giving out to people who went to one of the games of the final regular season series at the Astrodome against the Dodgers in 1999. I went to one of those games and I kept the bottles. That's the only soda thing that I have collected unless I'm forgetting something.

    1. I am sure Tilt has a large surplus of games from all the stores that they closed in the past 10 years. Many of the machines were not in good shape though, many of them probably made in to the scrap yard or were sold for parts. The only reason I have used the online pickup is for the discount. If you buy it in the store you will pay more for many items. The pickup time is dependent on the store and the day, it has not been consistent. The best time was 30 minutes after I ordered it, the worst 3 days later so you never know what you will get. My soda collection is not nearly as large as my sports collection and I also have some beers and liquor mixed in. They are probably not worth much, but you never know unless you put it on eBay.

  21. I just now remembered this article from a couple months back discussing the current state of the arcade equipment business. In addition to Tilt, there was also Aladdin's Castle that was a pretty big chain of mall arcades that I remember. Amongst more local options, there was Fame City (which I guess had a brief mall connection through Memorial City Mall). The main Fame City is now FunPlex and their website claims that they have a recently renovated arcade. Fame City used to be quite the attraction back in the 1980s, but you really don't hear much about it these days. I guess it's still there though.

    The last time that I brought something online from local inventory was at Circuit City so it has obviously been quite some time. If I remember correctly, they had a special price just for in-store pick-up, but I believe that it took longer to get the thing from the store through that method than it would have been to just buy it normally.

    I remember those Swatch watches. They were still quite popular in Europe the last time I was there, but I'm guessing the designs were more modern. Those bright "fluorescent" type colors were quite popular back in the late 80s/early 1990s.

    I would have to say that cassettes would be considered cooler than 8-tracks these days. I'm not sure if there will ever be a large scale 8-track comeback simply because there just isn't much equipment to play those on now. Plus, I'm guessing that 1980s and 1990s music is considered cooler than 1970s music by the kids, but if not, 1970s music is also on cassettes as well. Obviously, buying the cassette version of that Sears stereo would have been the smart move.

    Old speakers that were stored correctly should still sound good as long as they weren't abused and/or played near their limits for a long period of time. The foam surrounds on speakers sometimes deteriorates over time, but that can be fixed.

    It's amazing how much used auto equipment can go for. I have a 1978ish Pioneer SX-650 receiver that we've had since it was new. It was a fairly middle of the road receiver that sounds quite good, but that model regularly sells for $100+ on ebay even though new stereo receivers from Sherwood, Sony, Onkyo, and Teac that on paper are superior can be had for around the same price. Nicer vintage gear sells for massive amounts of money though. I'm not sure if anyone viewed that stuff as possible investment material back in the day.

    It's quite remarkable how much emphasis stores put on stereos/Hi-Fi and records back in the day. Even JCPenney was very serious about it. (I came across this Penney's Atari ad while I found that ad.) Add to that all the cool cassette (audio and video) commercials and weird electronics store ads from that era and it was quite a time. Sadly, things have changed in that regard now.

    As far as other Sears commercials go, I really like those "There's More For Your Life at Sears" era commercials. The 1986 ones from the 100th anniversary, like this one and this one, are quite good. As far as 1990s commercials go, this "Come See the Many Sides of Sears" extended ad is very good too. Sears has a lot of humorous ads these days. They may be pretty good, but I think something that shows off all the departments and the history of the chain could bring back some shoppers.

    1. The last Aladdin's Castle I saw open was in Lake Charles a couple of years ago. That store closed not long after I visited the mall, but the arcade looked like it was in sorry shape.
      That Pacman game is considered one of the video game failures that doomed the 2600 era generation of video games. The other one was ET which was terrible also. I actually enjoyed the Pacman game when I only had a 2600, but I have not played it since the 90's.

  22. Ah, yes, the famed ET Atari 2600 game. That game is a legend in video game history. Supposedly they had to bury a bunch of unsold ET game cartridges in a landfill in New Mexico. I don't think PacMan was as bad as the ET game, but there was so much hype about it and I guess there were expectations that it would be similar to the arcade version that it was a major disappointment when it's limitations became known to the gamers. Those two games certainly did a lot to ruin the reputation of Atari and video games in general. I'm sure a lot of retailers were less than impressed with the video game industry at that time, but Nintendo did a lot to restore trust after a bit of a dark period.

    Interestingly enough, I came across a vintage Sears integrated stereo system in a thrift earlier this week that had both the cassette recorder and 8 track player in addition to the turntable. I bet those kids in that Sears commercial really would have liked that stereo instead! I thought that that find was interesting given our earlier discussion of Sears stereo systems from that period. It was also interesting because I almost never see Sears electronics in the thrifts. I wasn't interested in it, but I was especially not interested given the price on it. It had two price tags, one looked like it said $30 and the other looked like it said $80. I don't think I would have brought it for $8, but no way would I pay $80 for that!

    The same thrift also had a vintage Montgomery Ward slide carousel that still had the wrapper on it and the original price tag (it had been used, but I guess whoever had it before was careful to keep as much of the wrapper on it as possible). It had the pre-1982 Wards logo on the box and whoever owned it before wrote on the box that the slides that were in it were from 1982. I have a Kodak slide projector, but I don't really have any use for another carousel for it and I didn't even know if it would fit so I didn't buy it. Actually, that thrift also had a Wards Admiral 5 disc CD changer carousel and a small Wards CRT TV as well. I've been seeing a lot of Wards stuff in the thrifts lately actually. Who knows which Wards people brought that stuff from, but it certainly seems like Wards had a lot of customers who lived or would eventually live on the northside of Houston!

    I also saw a Sony Hi-Fi Beta VCR at another thrift. It sure was interesting seeing that. Obviously I had no way of testing it (unlike 8 track cartridges, Beta tapes are rare, rare sights at thrifts these days) and I don't have any use for a Beta VCR so I certainly passed on it especially given that they wanted like $25 for it. No thanks, I was more interested in the $7 VHS machines sitting next to it! Still, it was an interesting oddity (especially since it was Hi-Fi) that you don't see very often these days.

    1. I enjoyed the Pacman game but I never really noticed the defects until reading an article about the game recently. I also have not played that game since the 1990's when my last Atari 2600 crapped out on me.
      I went to Half Price Books recently and found some great cassettes for 49 cents. I still have a cassette player in my vehicle so I fired it up and enjoyed the sound. It has been several years since I listened to a cassette and it sounds great in comparison to a CD or the radio.
      I am sure the Beta player can fetch the high price because many of the Beta movies sell for a premium online. I don't remember seeing any Beta movies and have never owned a Beta player so is the quality better than VHS?

  23. Part I:

    I did not even realize that Half Price Books sold audio cassettes aside from audio books maybe. I have not seen them in my recent visits. I'll have to look for them the next time that I go there. I know that they have a pretty large section of 99 cent VHS movies, but they kind of hide them below music stacks in some stores.

    I'm glad that you rediscovered cassettes and are enjoying listening to them. Cassettes can sound great and there are more reasons to listen to/record to them aside from nostalgia. Perhaps you'll be able to find a nice working home cassette deck, but if nothing else, listening to them in the car isn't a bad way to go.

    Most thrifts (aside from Family Thrift Centers) have audio cassettes ranging in price from 25 cents to 99 cents each, but the selection may vary depending on donations. I've had a lot of success lately finding both blank and recorded cassettes in thrifts lately. I found a bunch of nice 1980s movie soundtrack cassettes (like Back to the Future and stuff like that) and a Teac "open reel" style cassette that had someone's Michael Jackson's recordings on them this past week. Normally thrifts don't sell home recorded tapes, but I'm glad that they sold this one because those Teac "open reel" style cassettes sell for an insane amount of money on eBay. A set of two opened Teac CRC chrome tapes sold for $92 earlier this month and one sealed Teac CDC Type I tape sold for about $40 a little while back. There's nothing really remarkable about these tapes from a performance standpoint, but they are highly desired (to insane levels) because of the reel-to-reel look of them. I don't intend on selling my tape even though I could make a ton of money on it especially considering that I only paid 25 cents for it, but it'll look great in my collection of tapes and it looks spinning in my cassette decks.

    I think the benefits of Beta vs. VHS were overblown by the media and 1980s videophiles. Beta did have slightly better quality compared to VHS, but VHS HQ (you may remember the HQ logos on VCRs) helped bridge the gap. Besides, the difference between the two formats was pretty much negligible on the TVs that people were using in the 1980s and even 1990s. S-VHS blew Beta out of the water if one was interested in quality. Beta had a S-VHS competitor in ED-Beta, but Beta was already a dead format by that point so it was pretty useless. Perhaps the difference between the two formats was more noticeable in Europe and the benefits of longer VHS recording lengths were less important there due to the differences in our NTSC analog video format compared to PAL/SECAM European formats, but North America had more pull in the electronics sector then so that's the way things go.

    I probably could have flipped that Sony Hi-Fi Beta VCR for way more than $25 even if it didn't work, but I really don't buy vintage electronics for the sake of selling them. It was gone the next time that I visited that thrift so hopefully someone brought it who will enjoy it and has a use for it. I'm sure Beta VCRs are expensive on the used market as the supply for them isn't really there these days and I'm sure there are people who have Beta tapes that they want to watch or have transferred to another format.

    1. There are probably some Beta movies that cannot be found on DVD or VHS formats that people can use Beta players for. The two movie exchanges on Westheimer have tons of VHS and DVD copies but no Beta tapes. There was a video store several years ago on Richmond that had Beta, Laserdisc, and any older format for sale. I guess Ebay would be the best choice now.
      The tape section at Half-price books is not easy to find but they are usually on low shelves just below records or Laserdiscs. I have found some Half-price bookstores put cassettes in their clearance sections.

  24. Part II:

    Another slightly less obscure Sony video tape format was the Video8 (8mm) format that was popular with camcorders. While they (along with VHS-C) were popular with camcorders, they also made full-sized Video8 VCRs (as well as Video Walkmans) and there were pre-recorded Hollywood moves on Video8 tapes. I'm sure those movies are quite obscure now though and I've never seen them in thrifts (I do see a few LaserDiscs though). Those pre-recorded Video8 tapes are probably much more rare than even Beta movies. I'm sure most people don't even realize that 8mm was used for things aside from home camcorders. I believe that some airlines used to use Video8 tapes to play the in-flight movies back in the day.

    I've actually had a really good month thrifting. I never thought that I would find one in a thrift, but I found a working Mitsubishi D-VHS VCR at a thrift for $7! I also found some S-VHS tapes that will work in D-VHS VCRs (though I may have to drill a hole in the tapes) so I have everything that I need to record digital HDTV VHS style. This D-VHS deck only has FireWire inputs and outputs for D-VHS content though so I would have to use a computer as an intermediary device since I don't have a TV with FireWire inputs (TVs with that were rare to begin with) or a cable box with FireWire output (though I may be able to request that still). I either forgot about this or didn't realize it, but it seems that only JVC D-VHS VCRs support the D-Theater pre-recorded HD D-VHS movie tapes. I won't be able to watch those on my Mitsubishi, but there are some pre-recorded non-Hollywood HD D-VHS tapes that I would like to get my hands on to demonstrate the deck. Besides, the Mitsubishi D-VHS decks seem to be a lot more reliable than the JVC ones.

    That same thrift had a working Sharp-built Admiral Montgomery Ward very late 1990s/2000 Hi-Fi VCR that I also picked up for like $4. That certainly wasn't as exciting as the D-VHS deck, but it's a great souvenir from the last couple of years of Wards.

    I know you said in the other post that you have not had a lot of luck finding stuff in the thrifts, but hopefully you'll have better luck if you make more visits. I guess that is why thrifting is like gambling or whatever. Sometimes you have no luck at all, but sometimes you have great luck. If nothing else, you should be able to find a lot of audio and video cassettes for cheap prices. Some thrifts are better than others if you're looking some something specific, but I guess it depends on what you're looking for. On that topic, did you ever get the reply that I posted to your CompUSA post that I wrote two or three weeks back? I had some video game thrifting related stuff in that post, but I don't think that post ever got approved or whatever.

    1. Those are some good finds, I will have to frequent the stores more often to score some of those vintage Wards players. I will go back and take a look at the Comp USA comment. I have not had much free time lately to keep up with the blog and I must have missed that comment.
      I have a video-8 camcorder that still works, but I have been converting the tapes to DVD's so I can have more storage space. I also remember the mini CD discs that were supposed to be the next music format. Most of the mini CD's were made for promotions once the format did not take off.

  25. Part I:

    I will combine my reply to your comments from the Lake Charles Kmart post with this post since they are both related to thrifting. Finding video games at thrifts can be challenging aside from PSX, PS2, PS3, Xbox, X360, and GameCube games. PSX games are usually mixed in with the music CDs and the other games are mixed in with the DVDs. I don't know if you are interested in those types of games, but if so, it's worth looking at the racks for games. You'll also find some old PC games/software in the CD racks, but those often won't work with modern operating systems (at least not without some work). For better or for worse, a lot of the games at end up at thrifts are sports games like Madden. I guess people donate those since they aren't worth anything on the used market, but then again, stuff like PSX games may not be worth much at this point unless it's a really special game.

    As far as gaming hardware goes, it's often slim pickings at thrifts aside from PS2s and GameCube type consoles that show up every now and then. Your best bet is probably to check the Goodwill Computer store on Westheimer that was mentioned in the CompUSA post. My feeling is that Goodwill sends a lot of gaming hardware that they get to that store. You won't find a ton over there, but you might find something. I would not make a trip there just for that, but it's worth checking out if you're in the area.

    One issue with thrift store gaming consoles is probably the same problem that happens with thrift store VCRs. Thrift store VCRs rarely come with remotes and you may not get the game controllers or A/V cables with game consoles that you may find. That may make it especially hard to try out stuff. You definitely have to do that at a thrift. Anyway, another thrift you may want to check for games is the NAM store on 1960 near Walters Road. We've talked about that store before, but they have a glass case with a lot of games. Usually there isn't much exotic stuff in there (again, PSX type games), but I did see a Sega GameGear in there once. They wanted a lot of money for it, but I guess those are probably expensive everywhere now.

    As far as audio equipment goes, I actually found more audio stuff this week than I usually do. The Goodwill in the old Kmart on Budde Rd. and Sawdust had a very nice looking 1980s Kenwood stereo receiver for only $15. I thought about buying it, but receivers are heavy so I didn't really know if I could store it. I also didn't try it to see if it works. They also had a 1999 Denon DVD/CD player. I don't know how good that is, but Denon is a premium Hi-Fi brand so it might have made for a nice CD player. I didn't see if either of those pieces of equiptment worked since I didn't buy them, but I'm guessing they (the receiver at least) are sold by now. $15 is a great price for a receiver of that vintage and quality so someone probably jumped all over that. Most thrifts usually want at least $30-40 for receivers and they still don't last very long on the shelves. You may be able to find shelf stereos without looking too hard, but be sure to try them out fully (especially the CD changers and cassette decks) before you buy them.

    I'm sure you'll be able to find a Montgomery Ward VCR at a thrift if you look hard enough. If nothing else, there is always eBay, but you'll pay more that way.

    I also have a Video8 Sony Handycam that I purchased new in 1999 from Service Merchandise. I still use it sometimes. I really need to transfer my tapes to DVDs or to Blu-Ray discs because the tape transports on those camcorders are really fragile so it almost certainly won't last forever. I've seen a few VHS-C camcorders at thrifts lately, but I surprisingly don't see too many 8mm camcorders. The ones that I have seen are priced sky high and they don't always have necessary accessories like the power cord.

    1. One of the problems with the Video8 camcorders is the tape loading and eject mechanism failing. I did not use my most recent camcorder too much because the technology was obsolete not too long after I purchased it. Digital cameras with 12 megapixel dropped in price right after I bought the camcorder so I did not use it much. I lost two other camcorders because of the cost I was quoted to fix the broken loaders. I am not sure how much longer this one will last but I only use it to hook up to the DVD recorder to transfer the tapes over.

  26. Part II:

    You must be talking about Sony's MiniDisc format. MiniDiscs were an interesting format, but they struggled to convert people from much cheaper cassettes in the early-to-mid 1990s and then the rise of cheap CD-Rs and later on MP3 players really took away any potential market for them. They did have some success in other countries, but it never took off here. Oddly enough, Sony only discontinued selling MiniDisc players earlier this year. I never had a MiniDisc player, but I did have a friend from overseas who visited here in ~2002 and wanted some recordable MiniDiscs. She was really impressed when I found a bunch on clearance at Target for a dirt cheap price. Perhaps I should have taken her to Kmart, showed her the Walkman woman, and convinced her that all the cool Americans were still listening to cassettes. I don't think that would've worked though!

    I'm sure there are some movies on Beta that aren't available on VHS or anything else, but I'd imagine that most stuff was co-published on VHS as well since most people couldn't afford to buy both Beta and VHS VCRs back at the height of the format war. People who made recordings on Beta will need a Beta VCR though. Of course, Beta initially had such short recording times that it really wasn't a great recording format. Sports and movies would not even fit on 60 minute Beta I L-750 cassettes. Longer recording times came later, but VHS beat them to it (of course, VHS already had 2 hours to begin with) so it's pretty clear why VHS won out.

    I didn't even realize that there are video exchanges today that have VHS tapes. That's interesting. I remember the old video stores that had Beta, VHS, LaserDisc, and even CEDs. Of course, there is Half Price Books for VHS. I'll have to look carefully for audio cassettes there. They had large clearance sections at the stores near me before they reorganized their stores a few months back, but now those sections are gone or are much smaller now.

    1. Yes the Sony Mini-Disc format is the one, Best Buy had a small section in the mid 1990's that I remember going to and that section disappeared quickly.
      The Half-price at North Oaks has their clearance sections sort of hidden in the departments, but the Deerbrook Half-price has their clearance together in the back of the store.
      The Movie Exchange stores have most VHS tapes at a very low price, but you will notice some selling for hundreds of dollars in their cases. I was flipping through the CD's there and saw a $250.00 tejano CD mixed in with the 99 cent CD's. They also leave the newly purchased VHS and DVD in stacks at the front of the store so you can look through the stacks and possibly find something that was not on the regular racks and would sell out quickly if it was on the racks. The sections are in alphabetical order so it is easy to find exactly what you are looking for if they have it.

  27. Yep, you're exactly right about the tape loading mechanisms failing on 8mm camcorders. That's why I really should transfer my tapes to DVDs or Blu-Ray discs while my Video8 camcorder still works. There was a digital standard definition version of 8mm called Digital8. Some Digital8 camcorders, but not all, were backwards compatible with Video8/Hi8 recordings and could even digitize them right on the camcorder itself. I would like to get one of these, but it just seems highly unlikely that I will find a working one of these at an affordable price at a thrift. One of the nice things about Digital8 is that it records to regular old Hi8 tapes. Digital8 competed with the MiniDV format, but MiniDV ended up being more popular in the end probably because the tapes were quite a bit smaller. I wouldn't mind picking up a MiniDV camcorder in a thrift either, but I just don't see them there even though they were pretty popular back in the early 2000s. Perhaps people are still using their digital tape camcorders.

    One reason why I still use my Video8 camcorder is because it has superior low light performance and quicker auto focusing than phones/tablets and digital cameras with video modes. In fact, it may be superior in those regards even compared to modern stand-alone camcorders. My Sony camcorder has the infrared NightShot feature that works really well for recording in the dark. Sony ended up weakening the NightShot in newer camcorders and I'm not even sure they still offer it in their current lineup. Perhaps it's only on the most expensive models now, but I'm not sure if it's even on that. I'd love to get a modern memory card based camcorder since they are a lot easier to deal with than analog/digital cassette based ones, but I've yet to come across one in my price ranger that has acceptable performance.

    MiniDisc was yet another failed Sony format. DAT (Digital Audio Tape) would be yet another, although DAT did have success as a professional format. There was also the DAT competitor DCC (Digital Compact Cassette) that was also a failure. None of those digital formats really convinced people to dump their analog cassettes. It wasn't until CD-Rs and MP3 players came out that people became interested in recording digitally. Of course, in the case of MP3 players, people just downloaded stuff instead of doing their own recordings.

    Wow, I didn't know Tejano CDs could be worth $250. Who knew? One of the nice things about thrifts is that the pricing is usually pretty standardized. Unfortunately, there is almost no organization at thrifts. Sometimes they just put tapes in a box and you have to pull them all out just so you can sort through them. Many thrifts have separate sections for regular VHS tapes and children's tapes (sometimes in completely different parts of the store), but sometimes stuff like regular videos and video games end up in the kid's videos section. It's worth checking both racks if you have time.

    I don't like the redesign that the Copperfield and North Oaks Half Price Books has now. As you say, the clearance sections are within each department itself. While that is kind of nice in a way, it seems like there just isn't as much clearance material as there used to be. Perhaps that will change with time. I drove by the Copperfield location today and thought about stopping to look to see if they had audio cassettes, but it is pretty difficult to make a left in and out of there during traffic time so I passed. I didn't see them there when I last went there 3-4 months ago though, but maybe I just wasn't looking in the right place. I know their VHS tapes are stored below their record racks.

    1. I noticed the prices for retailers to transfer cassettes to DVD has gone down, but it still costs a good deal of money around $20. For $200 I got a new DVD recorder/ VHS combo so if I make 10 DVD's I will have paid for 10 store made DVD's. My camcorder is a Sony as well with nightshot capabilities and I loved that feature. Digital cameras and smartphones don't record well at night at all even on night settings. Most of my night still shots on my new smartphone come out good but videos are terrible at night. All of my older digital cameras or smartphones were worse.
      One of the major changes with digital technology is the loss of the record stores, but also the experience of searching in a store and getting the opinions of employees on music. You would get an honest answer most of the time especially if you became a regular. I am sure you can find music easier now online, but it takes the fun away. Stores like Soundwaves, Sam Goody, and Sound Warehouse were great stores when I was younger so I really miss that experience. The Movie Exchange stores on Westheimer give you that same experience, but I don't live close enough to be a regular.
      I have not been to the Copperfield location, but I am very familiar with the North Oaks location and I have been going there over 10 years now.

  28. I have seen places like Walgreens advertise VHS-to-DVD conversion services, but it seems quite expensive. There are also stores that just do conversions like that. There's a place on FM 1960 and Cutten Rd. near Willowbrook Mall called Video Tape Copy that does stuff like that. I think Video Tape Copy used to be in the Willowbrook Commons, but they must have moved several years back. Obviously, they are quite expensive as well. It makes more sense to just buy a DVD Recorder and digitize stuff that way as long as you have something to playback your tapes. Degraded tapes may need professional restoring to get back acceptable results, but it's probably unlikely that restoring is needed unless the tapes were stored improperly. DVD recorders are becoming hard to find in stores, but they can be ordered online if nothing else.

    I have a couple of DVD recorders so that is probably the easiest way for me to digitize stuff. I also have a device that digitizes stuff to an SD card, but the video quality from that device isn't the best. It's good for "quick and dirty" captures where quality isn't super important though. I also have a few computer video capture cards that I can use for capturing video with my computer. So, yeah, I really don't have any excuses for not digitizing my tapes.

    One good piece of advice with DVD-Rs (or +Rs) is to make a duplicate copy every few years because DVD-Rs can go bad even if they are stored correctly. I've never had that happen personally, but I have seen it happen to a ~12 year old CD-R that I stored correctly. It's not something that you have to do all the time, but it might be worthwhile to make duplicates of important stuff every 6-7 years or so. It's very easy and quick to make duplicates using a computer with DVD writing software and a burner. Some brands of DVD-R media are better than others, but most brands (even the "premium" ones) buy their discs from 3rd party suppliers. Brands change up their suppliers often so it is hard to know what quality you are getting sometimes. There are some companies that still make their own discs, like Mitsubishi Chemical's Verbatim DataLife Plus AZO discs that are very good, but even then most stores sell Verbatim's cheaper "Life Series" discs that are from 3rd party suppliers.

    The loss of record stores is quite sad. Malls were better when they had music, book, and video stores IMO. Plus, with the declining quality of radio programming (at least in Houston), it is hard to discover new music. Satellite and online music streaming services may help in that regard, but they aren't as cheap or convenient. At least there are still a few music and video stores, but as you say, they aren't always convenient to go to.

    While the conversion of the ex-Kmart in Pasadena to an Alco was a good retail conversion, I found a very interesting Kmart in New York that has not been turned into anything even after nearly 25 years of being vacant. Here is one angle of it and here is another. It looks like that building was built with a billboard style facade, but it looks like it was semi-converted to a mansard slice type facade. That's very odd. Anyway, I thought you would enjoy those pictures.

    1. The Video Tape Copy website looks like it was made in the 1990's, lol. I wonder if they are able to survive by taking in all of the Walgreens and CVS orders because they do not do that service in store and ship them off.
      I had some CD-R's from Fry's that had a problem of flaking off a few months after using them. They were the discs that were free with a mail-in rebate. I have been using flash drives as an additional backup for photos now since they have gone down significantly in price recently.
      Many popular malls just offer phones, clothes, shoes, food, and home goods with very little else (If Sears is not an anchor). Malls are no longer a one-stop shop as the properties were intended to be. The Internet and Big Box stores caused many of the issues that hurt profitability for specialty mall retailers.
      The labelscar is still visible on that Kmart store after all these years. I am sure the inside of the store is destroyed from neglect and vandals after 25 years. Thanks for sharing.

  29. It's funny that you mention "flaky" CD-Rs from Fry's because I was thinking about Fry's CD-Rs when I made by earlier reply. I was helping someone I knew make some music on the computer about 10-11 years ago. I had finished mastering the music on my computer and I burned a few sample CD-Rs from him on some "GQ" (Great Quality) branded CD-Rs that he brought from Fry's. Those CD-Rs were so bad that I could physically see spots in the dye on the unburned CDs. They all did burn okay (which was surprising), but most of the discs had so many errors in them that they would actually skip when played in a CD player. I had never seen CD-Rs that were that bad and I've never seen anything like that since. Sometimes Fry's can (or at least did) sell some real garbage. The CD-R that I have that started to develop errors after ~12 years was actually a Maxell branded CD-R that I brought from Walgreens. Fortunately I didn't have anything important on that CD.

    There's always some downsides to all backup methods, but it is important to do backups regardless of the method. I usually use some sort of optical disc (I have a Blu-Ray burner, but I also use DVD-Rs and CD-Rs depending on what I'm backing up) these days to do my backups. I used to have a QIC tape backup drive in the 1990s, but tape backup is probably overkill for the home market these days. Tape, like LTO, is still popular for professional backups.

    I don't know who Walgreens and CVS uses for their conversion services, but I looked at their prices and they are very expensive. It's possible that they may outsource it to small companies like Video Tape Copy, but I don't know. Video Tape Copy's website does seem quite dated, but I guess it's a bit difficult for a company to have an up-to-date website when VHS is their main business!

    On that topic, I have seen a lot of video game and audio equipment in the thrifts this past week. The Value Village on Edgebrook had a Genesis for like $7 and a NES for like $10. I know that the Genesis was just the console and didn't have any controllers or cables. The NES might have been in the same condition. They did have quite a few of old video game cartridges on and behind the register counter though. I think they were Genesis games, but there might have been others as well. Oddly enough, another thrift that I was at a couple days earlier had just a Genesis controller by itself for sale. I also picked up a nice working Pioneer CT-W606DR dual cassette deck from 1998 for $8 at a thrift. These decks were supposedly still available for sale on big online sites well into the 2000s. This deck was absolutely filthy outside and in. There's a thick layer of grime and dust all over the unit and the tape transports are very dusty and there is grime all over the capstans and on the deck A head. This must be the dirtiest thing that I have picked up from a thrift. That said, it does work and I should be able to clean it up to like new condition. This deck had Pioneer's Digital NR playback feature on it that digitally removes a lot of hiss. I had never used a deck with that feature before and I have to say that it works surprisingly well. I was quite shocked by the results, but I need to do some more experimenting with it after I clean the heads. But, yeah, the point is that there are good audio finds in the thrifts, but it does take some patience (and luck) to find the good stuff at a great price.

    I would also imagine that nature has taken over inside that old Kmart. Another photo of that Kmart was posted and you can see that the whole shopping center that it is in is in poor condition.

    1. Fry's still does carry questionable products, I guess they need products to fill their massive sales floor and settle for low quality products. Fry's does carry some neat items, but you have to be careful with some of their special deal items. I have had some issues with products besides CD-R's that I bought there, but mostly the products work well for me.
      I am going to have to check out some Value Village stores on my next day off. The deck you purchased must have been sitting outside for a while to collect all that dust or got lost in a warehouse.
      That center is certainly in very bad shape, it is a shame that the anchors took the signs off but after 25 years the signs would be destroyed. I wonder why that area has been unable to remove that eyesore and put something else there in its place.

  30. I know that in the past at least Fry's would advertise some really low grade stuff for fire sale prices just to get people in the store. Perhaps they still do that, but not all of their really good sales prices are on crummy stuff. For example, they often have some really nice speakers on sale for really good prices. I'm sure that they also sell cheap stuff to fill up the shelves and so they have a wide range of products.

    I know that I have brought some crummy stuff from Fry's just because it was cheap. I brought a PC ATX case and power supply from Fry's during the West Rd. Grand Opening sale. Boy was that cheap. The metal on the case was so thin and sharp, but the power supply was even worse. The thing made all kinds of snap, crackle, and pop noises when it was on and it finally broke after a year or so.

    I cleaned up that tape deck today. It looks good now and it also performs well now that the heads, capstans, and pinch rollers are clean. The head cleaning did end up restoring the sound quality on well A. I still don't know how it got as dirty as it did. I thought that maybe it was stored outside, but the rubber parts are still in good shape and there weren't any insects in it so I'm not sure about that. The grime looked really brown in color on the rag that I cleaned it with so maybe it was cigarette smoke residue (though it does not smell like smoke) or maybe the deck was used in a kitchen or something where there is a lot of cooking grease. Cigarette smoke can really hurt electronics so that can be an issue with some thrift store electronics, but I don't know why this one was so dirty. But, yeah, it's all clean now so all I can say about the dirt is that maybe it helped to keep the price down because $8 wasn't too bad for this deck.

    One of the comments under one of those New York Kmart photos says that there were plans to build some residential buildings on that shopping center property, but those ideas fell through. I'm guessing the roof of that place, or at least a part of it, fell through many years ago!

    I came across an interesting photo timeline of a mansard slice Kmart in Jenison, Michigan. Here is a photo of the property before the Kmart was built. Here are some 1980 inside construction and grand opening photos. Here is an image of the store closing in 1995. The store was then subdivided and other things opened in it including a Dollar General and a Big Lots. Those stores left eventually. The store received new paint in recent times, but it still looks like an empty Kmart. It kind of looks like the Texas City ex-mansard slice Kmart now. Anyway, I thought that you would enjoy that timeline.

    1. Glad to hear the tape deck worked out for you. I have still not added any more new tapes to my collection. I have been acquiring movies from the Blockbuster sales, one store I went to recently was in the last days of operation. I bought a ton of DVD movies for 99 cents and some complete TV series for $4.99.
      Wow they really did not improve the building at all with the addition of the Dollar General or Big Lots. You can see the labelscar from the Kmart on some of the later images. I recently visited the Longview Kmart which is almost identical to the Bossier City Kmart. The Longview Kmart was really busy on my visit.

  31. The Longview Kmart looks to be a late 1970s/early 1980s mansard slice type store. Perhaps it is somewhat similar to the Killeen Kmart, but it's hard to say. Perhaps that store does better business than other Kmarts because it is located somewhat away from other retail in the area. AFAIK, a lot of Longview's retail is located near the Longview Mall. Perhaps having a location that is a bit removed from that, but still in a large residential area, helps sales. Perhaps slightly higher prices and/or sub-par store decor can be justified for the convenience factor ala Dollar Generals and Family Dollars. I guess the Houston Alco stores are striving for that as well.

    A lot of us were waiting to see how much longer Blockbuster would last, but I guess we have our answer now (though some franchise stores may continue to operate AFAIK). I would be wary of buying ex-rental tapes and DVDs as they are often overly worn, but somehow I have the feeling that Blockbuster DVDs haven't seen much use in the last 6-7 years or so!

    I've come across a lot of interesting cassettes and cassette equipment in the SE side thrifts that I have been visiting lately. I actually came across an interesting moment at the Texas City Goodwill store. They had two identical Sony portable cassette voice recorders sitting next to each other on a shelf. I wasn't sure if I wanted to buy one or not so I decided to browse the rest of the store and then come back to make a decision on the recorders. Well, just seconds later a young couple (probably of the hipster orientation) walked by and one of them stated "This is just like a Walkman!" and brought one of the recorders. Now, technically those recorders aren't exactly Walkmen in that they only playback in mono and they really aren't intended for music playback even if it is capable of doing so. Regardless, that kind of forced me into a quick decision on the remaining recorder and I'm guessing that you know what the decision ended up being! Actually, that same Goodwill also had a Sony tape duplication machine on sale as well. Perhaps all that stuff was donated together. That tape duplicator was probably a bargain at only $15, but I really don't have a need for something that can make 3 copies of a tape at once so I passed on it. Still, it was an interesting piece of professional equipment that you normally wouldn't find at a thrift store. But, yeah, it was funny to see some young people get excited about a Walkman that wasn't even a Walkman.

    I would have to say that the League City Goodwill (the one on I-45, I think there is another one as well) is probably the busiest Goodwill that I have ever visited. It's an odd Goodwill in that it is located in a grade A shopping center that has a Best Buy, Walmart, and JCPenney in it amongst other retailers. Most Goodwills are not located in such high traffic shopping centers. Anyway, I saw a shelf stereo system in it's box (though used) for $50 there that I think is the same model as the one that is sold in the Montgomery Ward catalog that has the dual cassette deck and the turntable. The price tag said that it didn't have a remote and the CD player didn't work. I wouldn't be surprised if it is Tozai quality or something close to it, but I do wonder if maybe the person who brought that originally brought it from the Montgomery Ward catalog.

    1. I had some trouble finding the Kmart location because I am not familiar with Longview at all. I had not passed through Longview since the late 1990's. The majority of the city is a few miles North of I-20 and you have to drive for a while until you start getting into the main retail of the city. They also have the store Fred's in Tyler and Longview now, I had not seen those stores before so they may have been there a while but they looked new.
      You really have to look at the media before you buy from Blockbuster. There were a few movies that I looked at and put back because of the quality of the disc.
      Funny you mention the tape decks, I went to a Half-Price Books last night and looked through the tapes but came up empty handed. I may have to look at Ebay if I want to find some good tapes.

  32. I stayed at a Best Western motel in Tyler for a night or two back in the late 1980s or early 1990s that I believe was right next to a Kmart. I am quite sure that you would not remember the location of that Kmart, but it is an interesting Kmart memory of mine. Perhaps I have a photo or video of that Kmart somewhere.

    I have heard about the Fred's chain, but I've never been to one of their stores. Perhaps it is somewhat like an Alco, but it might be more like a Dollar General. It certainly sounds like there is a lot of discount store competition in Longview so it is good to hear that the Kmart there is doing pretty good business.

    I would certainly check out thrift stores for cassettes. Most thrift stores sell them (Family Thrift Stores usually don't, but most of the others do) and they are usually priced between 25 and 50 cents each. Some thrift stores have a lot of cassettes to choose, but it just depends. Of course, a large number of the cassettes for sale are religious tapes, self-help tapes, Christmas music, and stuff like that which may not be of much interest, but there are good tapes to choose from as well. One thing to look out for are promotional sampler tapes that were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. Businesses like gas stations, stores, cigarette/alcohol companies, car companies, and others would sell or give away self-branded tapes that often had good music on them. I have a lot of these tapes both from when those tapes were new and thrift store finds. One thing to check when buying tapes from thrift stores is to make sure that the tape in the case matches the cover art. Sometimes people would put their tapes in any old case laying around and I'm sure some people donated their tapes that way. Of course, sometimes you can find good tapes in cases that were meant for not so interesting music.

    1. I found some good cassettes earlier today at a Half Price Books store. I was out all day and evening picking up gifts for Christmas. I was able to make it down to the Mall of the Mainland and I stopped by the old Kmart down the road. I saw the "IN" sign right by the Starbucks that you were talking about. I also found out the date that the mall closed off the JCPenney and Dillard's wing. January 7, 2013 almost a year after both Macy's announced they were closing and the Tornado hit the mall. The Pizza place, Claire's, and a couple of small retailers are gone that were open when I last visited around 6 months ago. It also looked like the Jewelry store down at the end of the mall where the corridor is blocked off is closed but I could not tell for sure. Now only Footaction and Bath and Body Works are the last national inline stores left at the mall. I also observed that the electronics department shrunk again. Not too long ago the electronics stretched to where the vacuums are now. The size of the department has been cut in half and only has a very small selection of items compared to most Sears stores.

  33. That is interesting that you visited the older Texas City former Kmart yesterday because I was there yesterday too. I went to the Goodwill store next to the old Kmart, but I drove by the Kmart next to the Goodwill on the way there (the parking lots connect between the two). I'm glad that you were able to see the "In" sign from the old Kmart.

    I didn't make it to the Mall of the Mainland yesterday, but if I did, I might have seen you there as I'm sure that they didn't have too many shoppers. I think you are right about that jewelry store by the food court closing. I think I noticed it being open during my first visit there a couple of months back, but I didn't notice it being open during my last visit. As for the food court itself, it seemed to me that only one food vendor is left. It's possible that others were open and that the employees were sitting in the back room since it wasn't busy. I wasn't even sure if any of the food court vendors were open on my first visit since there weren't any employees out there, but I think the employees were just in the back because I saw one of them out on my second visit. But, yeah, there really isn't much left in the mall at all.

    I'm not sure how the Mall of the Mainland Sears electronics department used to look (unless something has changed in the last week or two), but I'm not surprised to hear that the electronics department has been downsized. I noticed that it was quite small though. The Willowbrook Mall Sears also was reduced in size some time back (probably in 2012) when they moved the microwave and vacuum department from where it used to be to inside part of the electronics department. They put more major appliances on the old vacuum floorspace. That's probably what happened to the Mall of the Mainland Sears. They probably wanted more floorspace for major appliances or mattresses. I would prefer it if the electronics department was larger still, but it is what it is I guess.

    I don't know if you went to the Texas City Goodwill on your visit there since you were so close to it. They did have quite a few cassettes sitting in a basket near the video cassette rack. It might have been hard to see the basket, but they did have quite a few cassettes as I mentioned earlier. I don't know how many of those tapes you would have liked though.

    I'm glad that you were able to find some more cassettes at Half Price Books though. Hopefully you will be able to find something that will enable you to play tapes at home so you don't always have to listen to them in the car. I'm sure you will find something decent if you visit the thrifts often enough. I have been wanting to visit a Half Price Books store to see if I can find audio cassettes there, but I have not had the chance to do so lately.

    1. The Kmart is very well preserved and the brackets for the Kmart sign are still in place so you can make out where exactly the sign was. The old Kmart further up I-45 at Nasa has been subdivided for stores but you can still tell that is was a Kmart.
      Hello Josephene and Aloha Java Juice are the last two places in the food court. The Aloha Java Juice is only open on a limited schedule. The pizza place La Pizziaola was very good but they must have closed in the last 6 months because all traces of that restaurant are gone. It was located just around the corner from the entrance to the bathrooms. One interesting thing that happened at the food court was that there was a Texas Hamburger restaurant and Corndog restaurant that combined and lasted about a year after they combined into the one location. Then after that restaurant closed I suspect the pizza restaurant bought their inventory because they were advertising a corndog and french fry special. I ordered the pizza of course.
      I just passed by the Kmart quickly and drove through the parking lot and took a photo of the building. I also noticed the new Kmart building is now a different company.
      I still have a mid 1990's walkman that still works great that I have kept in my collection for a while. I plug the walkman into my computer or use headphones so I can get the full effect of the sound. The last time I went to the 1960 North Oaks location they had 8 shelves that were stocked two deep at the front of the store under the CD rack. They are actually in a prime end cap spot right by where the DVD section starts where the music CD's are. They charged my 49 cents for each cassette which beats Ebay unless you just have to have a certain cassette.

  34. I was able to visit the Mall of the Mainland yet again with the hopes of doing some quiet Christmas shopping and I had some interesting observations. First, the jewelry store over at the far end of the opened part of the mall (where the rest of the mall is blocked off) was indeed open for business during my visit. I'm not sure why it seems to be open sometimes and why it seems to be closed during other times, but it does appear to still be in business.

    I don't know if this is new or not, but there was something called a "convention center" across from the food court in one of the old stores. It had a lounge in the front of it and it had a wall of diagrams, photos, and sketches of other malls and office buildings that were probably from a real estate company with lights focused on the diagrams. This "convention center" wasn't open, but the door was slightly open and there was a scissor lift in the lounge. I don't remember seeing this "convention center" before. I certainly don't remember seeing the commercial real estate diagrams. Is this something new?

    While this "convention center" is probably pretty small, I think that one of the old anchors at the Mall Of The Mainland might make for a good convention hall. The mall already has a few decent hotels out in/near the parking lot outparcels and there is room to build more. Plus, there are a few outparcel restaurants (nothing fancy though) already too. The mall is pretty close to being right off the freeway for easy access and I believe the bus line that runs through Galveston County uses the Mall of the Mainland as a transit hub already. Plus, Texas City is located pretty well to take advantage of business tourists that may be interested in seeing Galveston and Clear Lake area attractions.

    Another oddity that I saw was that someone turned on all the lights (on the first floor at least) inside the old Macy's when I walked by it. It was very interesting being able to see inside the old store very clearly. It still looks like it is in good condition in there. I made a loop around the mall corridor and most of the lights inside the Macy's were turned off again when I walked by it the 2nd time about 3-4 minutes later. I don't know why they turned them on in the first place, but it was good that they did so that I could take a look inside.

    It was raining quite heavily when I made this visit, but I didn't notice any major leaks in the open part of the corridor. Perhaps there were a few leaks as there were a few orange buckets on the floor, but those were there during my previous visits when it wasn't raining.

    The mall was much busier during this visit than it was during my previous two visits combined, but I guess that isn't saying much and this visit was during a more favorable time for mall visitors. I did see a couple of people buying stuff from the relatively obscure inline stores in the mall so that was good to see. The Sears had a relatively decent number of paying customers too.

    1. The convention center has been there for over a year now, I have never seen any events going on there. There was a sort lived clothing store in that spot that did not reopen after the tornado hit the mall and flooded that section of the mall in early 2012. I have visited the mall around 10 times in the past two years, but this was my first time there in around 6 months. Seeing the inside of the old Macy's is very difficult since they boarded up the outside windows. I had another set of photos from the inside of the store during the closing sale that I lost when my old computer crapped out on me. I lost several other photos but I was able to retake photos of the rest of the malls that I lost from that computer. Thanks for clarifying the Jewelry store mystery. Another store that was being used for dance classes and other events is now empty. That store was a Camelot Music that converted to an F.Y.E. and still has the art on the walls from the former store. It is the large empty store next to Bath and Body Works.
      The night I went it rained but after I left the mall so I did not see the buckets. I also passed by the closed off entrance near the Dillard's anchor and snapped a photo of the hallway there.

  35. That is some interesting information regarding the Mall of the Mainland convention center. I do not know why I did not notice it during my previous recent visits. Maybe they didn't have the lights on in it like they did during my last visit or maybe the photos of commercial real estate weren't there. It's hard to say.

    Yes, I was very surprised that they had all the lights on inside the Macy's when I visited, but I was happy to be able to take a good look inside the place if nothing else. It would have been nice if I could have taken a picture of it, but oh well. Most of the lights were already turned off again when I looped around to that part of the mall just a few minutes later.

    I was actually wondering if that tropical juice store was still in business or not. I've never seen it open during my visits (then again, it's possible that the employees were just sitting in the back since there weren't customers), but I've seen the ceiling fan in that stall running at least twice during my visits. I wonder when they open that place.

    A pizza and corndog joint sounds interesting. I'm kind of disappointed that I missed such an oddity. Granted, it's probably better for a low traffic mall like the Mall of the Mainland to have a couple of vendors that sell a variety of foods instead of having several vendors sell some sort of niche and have all of them end up struggling for customers. I saw a couple of people ordering food from the Hello Josephine during this last visit. I'm not sure what exactly they sell aside from cheesesteaks and ice cream since I only took a very quick look at their menu. It would be nice to have a pizza and/or hamburger place if nothing else, but I don't know if they serve either.

    The newer Texas City ex-Kmart is now an office for Marathon Petroleum. I believe that Marathon brought out the BP refinery in Texas City a few months back so I guess that office came with the package. The older ex-Kmart still looks very much like a Kmart. It's a very interesting building especially since it still has at least one vestige of vintage Kmart signage in the form of that in sign. The Clear Lake/Webster Nasa ex-Kmart also has the same mansard slice type facade still up I do believe.

    I didn't realize that the North Oaks Half Price Books has audio cassettes placed so prominently. Have I been overlooking them all this time? Maybe so I guess. I'll certainly look out for them the next time that I'm there. I've looked at the VHS tapes there, but I guess the audio cassettes aren't too far from them.

    I didn't realize that you still had a Walkman. That's interesting. Yeah, you can hook those up to some computer speakers. Hopefully you have a good set of computer speakers so you can get some good sound from that. You could also listen to some headphones like the way the Kmart Walkman woman does! It would be funny to shop in a Kmart that still has the Walkman woman up while listening to a Walkman.

    1. I wonder if the last food court restaurant or the bar got some of the food or drinks left over from the pizza place?
      I wonder if more stores are just holding on until Christmas and they will be leaving also after the holiday?
      I have been to a few other Half Price stores in the area and found the Copperfield one to have a large selection of games and almost as many cassettes as the North Oaks location.
      I guess I could also wear a retro t-shirt to Kmart and ask where their tapes are and see what happens.

  36. You might be right that some of the remaining stores at the Mall of the Mainland may end up closing after Christmas. That would not be too surprising. I'll try to keep an eye on that. The Mall of the Mainland is one of the I-45 malls that is near where I work so I should be able to check it out again in January or February to see what is going on. I'll probably go there before Christmas again too and see if I can remember what is open and what isn't.

    It's quite possible that some of the food that was left over got moved over to the bar. It's hard to say I guess. It probably would have been smart for the pizza parlor owners to not invest much in inventory given the amount of business that the Mall of the Mainland gets, but who knows.

    That is good news to hear that the Copperfield Half Price Books has a large selection of cassettes. They do have a lot of video games there as well. I would say that the North Oaks location may have a tad more, but perhaps things have changed since my last visit to both locations. Anyway, I really do wonder if they have just started to sell audio cassettes again because it seems like they have a lot of them based on your descriptions, but I honestly did not see any during my previous visits earlier this year. I may have a chance to go to the Copperfield location sometime soon so I'll report back on my findings if I do go there.

    It would be interesting to live retroly during a visit to Kmart. AFAIK, Kmart does sell blank cassettes (Sony HF I believe) so they would have something to sell you if you did ask for cassettes. I'm sure they don't have any prerecorded cassettes, but then again, it is Kmart so I would not be shocked if they have some unsold Backstreet Boys cassettes (or maybe even Milli Vanilli) sitting in the back somewhere.

    But, yeah, you should rock out to some cassette tunes on your headphones on your next visit to Kmart just like the kid in this 1984 Kmart commercial. Just stay away from the chainsaw guy. It seems like he might have some issues! But, yeah, you can see a genuine Sony Walkman if you look carefully at the start of that commercial. It's next to the Canon AE-1 SLR camera (I still have one of those). There's certainly a lot of nice pieces of 1984 electronics in that commercial including a few different cassette players. There is a guy on YouTube who used to work for Kmart that collected old cassettes Kmart used to play over the store PA system. It would be funny to get one of those and to play it while shopping at Kmart just to add to the retro Kmart experience.

    Interestingly enough, there is an audio cassette forum that I read and someone made a post this week asking if anyone still listens to cassette Walkmen in public. There were many responses to the question. It was kind of interesting to see that. I don't post there, but it would be interesting if someone linked a picture of the Kmart Walkman woman on that post just to show that the Walkman isn't obsolete technology for everyone. Kmart still thinks that Walkmen are hot items!

    1. Going to Kmarts and some of those North Texas malls in Marshall and Nacogdoches wearing a Walkman and dressing in late 80's and 90's gear would be fun. I wonder if anyone would notice? Many people have their face in their smartphones and might not even notice. I noticed that many of the brand designs in the video are still the same today nearly 30 years later. The chainsaw guy, is someone who I don't want to run into in the back of a Kmart for sure.

  37. I think people would notice if you wore a Walkman prominently enough on a belt clip or something like that. Of course, some Kmarts have so few shoppers that it might be hard to get noticed even if you dress like RuPaul. I don't know how many shoppers go to the vintage looking small malls of North/East Texas, but it's probably best not to dress like RuPaul in places like Marshall anyway!

    I'm actually a bit surprised that portable cassette players have not become more of a fashion statement. It would seem to separate one from the smartphone/iPod listening herd for sure. I suppose one could also get one of those vintage Discmans. Remember those in the early 1990s? People used to use belt clips to show them off like a rodeo belt buckle. They were very big in size and they would skip everytime you moved your leg, but that was the big fashion statement for a while. Anyway, perhaps Walkmen will become a primetime vintage device here soon.

    I was reading the latest issue of Consumer Reports last night and I noticed that there was a blurb in it asking people to send in stories and photos of vintage electronics (they listed TVs, stereo equipment, computers, gaming systems and stuff like that) that people still use. I guess they are planning on doing a story about that. I'm looking forward to seeing that if so. Maybe people are becoming bored with the new electronics so they are interested in looking back on old stuff.

    Many electronics companies use the same logos that they used in the 1980s (and well before that in some cases). Of course, many of those logos are now iconic. A few use lightly modified logos. Samsung would be an exception to this, but the current Samsung logo is about 20 years old so it isn't something new either. That Kmart commercial didn't have any Pioneer stuff in it (and I'm not sure if Kmart has ever sold Pioneer stuff even if Wal-Mart has), but I thought that it was a real shame that they dumped their old logo for this sometime in the late 1990s. BTW, that cassette deck with the old logo is the same model as the one that I picked up for $8 at the thrift a few weeks back.

    It's interesting that we discussed the Kmart chainsaw guy and Marshall because someone attacked people with a hatchet at a Marshall Wal-Mart today. Maybe the Kmart chainsaw guy did what most Americans did between 1984 and today by switching from Kmart to Wal-Mart. I guess he also traded in his chainsaw for a hatchet.

    1. In addition to the Kmart/ Sears article from the previous article, I guess they will lose their NFL gear also with the Nike decision. I guess they are phasing it out right now because I saw a bunch of Green Bay, Chicago, and Pittsburgh NFL gear at the Kmart in Longview and Shreveport.
      I remember how badly all older disc players used to skip, that is one of the main reasons why I stayed with cassettes until you could not get new music anymore.
      I will just have to wear the Walkman without the Rupaul look, it might not go over well for me.
      I can see people getting tired of modern technology, it is all so similar. All smartphones and tablets are all so similar from Apple to Android technology. TV's, Blu-ray players, and streaming services are adding features that computers and smartphones have, so the potential is there for information overload. It seems to get worse every year, and people want a break.
      I can't believe that someone would just go into a Walmart and attack people like that. I guess you never know these days.

  38. Mall Of The Mainland has announced its officially closing on january 31 2014. I hate to see the mall go i will make my final trips to the mall before it close for good. Sears is still going remain open after the mall closes for good. heres the link to story.

    1. It looks like the Cinema and Palais Royal will also stay for a bit longer. Both of those leases will end over the next couple of years.

  39. Part I:

    It should be noted that the article I posted in the Sears Midtown post about Sears and Nike was from 2005. I don't know what Sears' relationship is like with Nike now, but it would not shock me if it is still not that good given the fears with their link to Kmart. It seems that Sears/Kmart struggles to properly merchandise their sports apparel. The Packers and Steelers are national teams, but I don't know if they have a ton of fans in places like Longview. Maybe there are some Steeler fans in Longview and Shreveport obviously due Terry Bradshaw (Longview isn't too far from Shreveport), but I would think that Longview is Cowboys country and that Shreveport would be a mix of Cowboys and Saints. On the same note, I don't know if places like Iowa are Cowboys country, but it seems like Kmart has a lot of Cowboys stuff up there. I don't know, maybe Kmart has a good formula for stuff like this, but it just does not seem right to me. Of course, it is nice for fans of non-local teams to be able to buy gear. Then again, I don't see much Giants gear in Kmart pictures that I've seen and that's what I would be interested in (it would stay in the closet this year of course).

    People do odd things in stores. I think a year or two ago someone went into the Lowe's or Home Depot near Copperfield and tried to cut their arms off with a saw that was for sale or something like that. I guess that's better than cutting other people, but still. I guess the point is to stay away from questionable characters like the Kmart chainsaw guy!

    I know we discussed some of Kmart's low-brow celebrity product lines before. Well, it seems that Kmart is the exclusive seller of Snooki's perfume. Wow. Maybe that would go well with one of RuPaul's outfits! But, yes, dressing as RuPaul might be a bit over the top.

    1. The Lids locker room store would be your best place to get Giants gear and it may be on sale this time of year since they are trying to clear out space for basketball and baseball gear already. I always found it to be strange that Shreveport/ Bossier City has such a split between fans of both teams. I guess I can understand it though because of the previous success the Cowboys had, and the inability of the Saints to win championships until recently. You will not find too many Texans items for sale in Lake Charles, but they are also a newer franchise that is just recently getting a strong fanbase.
      I will never look at those departments the same again after these stories. I will make sure to double check and leave the aisle quickly if someone is showing way too much interest in the saws.
      Snooki perfume, well I guess somebody will buy it but would someone admit to wearing it? I can think of several other celebrities that would be a better choice for a named perfume.

  40. Part II:

    I think that it is quite possible that the smartphone craze will settle down here in the next couple of years. This isn't to say that people will stop using them. People will still buy new phones, but it seems like the buzz about phones is leveling off. The new Motorola Moto G phone may be signaling a new trend in the industry. It's a low-cost bloatware free unlocked smartphone that has pretty much everything that most people want. I'm sure that it will be popular and it could really hurt the sales of more expensive higher profit margin phones that people have been forced to buy in the past. It also lessens the needs for people to sign long-term contracts just to get a cheap decent phone. That could also push more people to get pre-paid type plans since some pre-paid carriers are now introducing "bring your own device" plans. So, yeah, the phone manufacturers and carriers may start hurting here soon. OTOH, increasing popularity of unlocked phones could benefit stores like Best Buy and Sears since they can sell phones without having to go through a carrier medium. Of course, the profit margins may not be great so it's hard to say what the benefit would be.

    But, yeah, phones might become like computers. These days laptops and desktops are very cheap and people buy based on price and not so much based on brand names, bling, and stuff like that. On top of that, there really isn't the need to buy new computers as frequently as older computers still run most programs just fine. The days of impressing your friends because your phone changes from portrait to landscape automatically by turning the phone are over since everybody's phone does that and there really aren't new technologies that are making most people salivate. Thus, smartphones might become a bit like a commodity. The Moto G probably has the carriers and phone manufacturers crying since it could be the first thing that really busts the industry. I'm sure that there will still be some demand for premium phones (perhaps from businesses if nothing else), but even the prices for those may fall some. I'm sure tablets will follow a similar trend as well. The industry is trying to push things like smart watches, but those have been a non-starter so far. Maybe smart glasses will have more luck, but that is to be seen.

    But, yeah, maybe people are getting bored with the current technology. Stuff like Smart TVs aren't impressing many people and they may be scaring off potential buyers. I think I mentioned in the past that it was found that it was quite easy to hack the cameras in Samsung Smart TVs so that people could snoop on TV users. Now it has been alleged that LG smart TVs "phone home" and give LG data about people's viewing habits and even the file names of files they view on the TV. The total lack of security on these devices should scare people from buying them especially since there is no proof that companies will provide patches for TVs that are a few years old if security problems are found. Even if they did, who wants to run updates on their TV? Besides, the "smart" features don't work well and are generally redundant given other devices that people have connected to their TVs like laptops, Blu-ray players, and game consoles.

    Yes, in cassettes were a better portable format than CDs in many ways. First there is the skipping issue that anti-skip technology somewhat reduced, but it was still an issue at times. Also, CDs tended to get heat damaged and scratched when used in cars. Cassettes tended to take that kind of abuse better especially if the tape deck was maintained properly.

    1. I have a Samsung phone that is less than a year old and the battery does not last nearly as long as it did when I first bought it. I don't keep programs running in the background and I shut off nearly all of the extra features that make the phone "advanced". Most of the new stuff such as the eye and motion sensors does not work right. The voice recognition software also does not work well either so I turned that off as well. With those features shut off, my phone does not do anything different that my phone from nearly 3 years ago. The only difference is the camera and the ability to get 4GLTE signal which hardly works.
      Sadly I am sure we will soon be forced into buying Smart TV's as the older technology sells off. I think that simplicity will eventually come back to TV's and a "Smart" company can make a good profit creating TV's that are just TV's.
      The newer game consoles especially the Xbox One have had to back off from making consumers stay connected to the Internet to use their systems. Right now the infrastructure is just not in place for reliable Internet access in all homes, and adding more connected devices will reduce the ability of the networks to keep up with the demand.
      My first three car CD players were terrible with skipping, my last one was good but my CD's will not eject anymore. I don't feel like replacing it so I left it as is and rely on radio and MP3's over the radio.

  41. The Kardashians are one thing, but that Snooki perfume makes me wonder if Kmart executives have gone senile. First of all, is Snooki even that popular these days? I don't hear much about her anymore. Second, who would buy that? It reminds me of the famed Gheorghe Muresan cologne commercial that Snickers made many years ago, but the Snooki perfume is actually real. Maybe Kmart is hoping that people will buy it has a gag gift (gag literally and figuratively).

    The Cowboys were dominant through most of the 1970s and 1990s and they had a lot of big name players then. The Saints during that time were just the opposite. Things are different now, but I guess that's why there are so many Cowboys fans in some places. One would think that the Giants would be a "national" team too given where they play and their success, but Giants stuff is pretty hard to find here. Lids is probably an option though like you say. Maybe Giants stuff will be really cheap this year, but who would want to wear it? I might need one of those paper bags that the Saints fans used to wear in the Archie Manning days. As for the Texans, well, it seems like Houston teams never have much of a following elsewhere. The Rockets are probably the biggest exception. The lack of winning probably does not help matters, but also Houston has a lot of fans that are only interested in good teams. Usually Houston does not have good teams though so there isn't much interest.

    There are "apps" that supposedly help to conserve battery life. I've never tried them so I don't know how well they work, but I do miss the pre-smartphone days when I could go a few days without charging my phone and still have a charge. But, yeah, maybe you can replace the battery in your phone with a larger capacity one. It may not help much, but maybe it'll help you get through the day at least. I think that it is true that phones have a lot of features that really aren't useful or aren't helpful due to limitations. The carriers and the phone manufacturers may have to up their game or else people will just buy cheaper phones (especially as cheaper phones get better) and not upgrade as quickly.

    Hopefully some of the budget brands will keep making regular TVs if nothing else. It seems like most people have little desire for smart TVs (even if they are unaware of the security problems) so hopefully the companies won't make people pay for useless features. "Smart" appliances are another case of putting technology in places where they don't belong, but that is a different story.

    It is true that infrastructure problems in the US are holding back some technologies, but perhaps that isn't always a bad thing. Some of these services have some serious privacy and other anti-consumer issues. It's pretty scary to think of the privacy holes that some devices and services have.

    CD players were supposed to be more reliable than cassette decks, but that didn't always turn out to be true especially with cheaper gear. The big problem now are cars with touchscreens that don't work correctly and don't add anything useful. A lot of cars have eliminated knobs and switches for touch controls that have no tactile feedback and are often slow or unresponsive. Sometimes they need to be rebooted and updated to work correctly. These screens require a lot more repair and they seem to be less safe since you have to take your eyes off the road to change A/C and radio settings. Hopefully car manufacturers will come to their senses and build ergonomically friendly cars again, but it's slim pickings these days to find a car that has user friendly controls.

    1. I guess if Justin Bieber has a cologne then so can Snooki. Finding good mixes of sports products can be challenging, and Houston is a town with people from all over the United States so retailers have a difficult time especially if Houston teams are doing bad.
      Many of the battery saver apps keep your phone from sleeping and you waste more battery even though it is supposed to help save battery life. Most recent phones already have task managers which kill programs, or make sure to exit out completely using a back button to close programs.
      I hope I can still find a TV that is not a smart TV when I update my last tube TV if it lasts me a couple of years. I don't mind touchscreen technology, but I don't like the idea of the camera and the security risk.
      I did not know that there were problems with the car computers and that seems to be a huge risk for car companies to use unreliable systems that can cause accidents.

  42. Part I:

    I am sure that a lot of retailers and apparel companies were burned by the Texans this year. They probably expected to sell a lot of Texans stuff at the start of the year, but I'm sure that stuff isn't moving now. Houston has the combination of lousy teams, lots of outsiders, and lots of things to do that combines to mean that we don't have much of a sports culture. I don't know if it is true, but I've heard that TV ratings for sports are generally lower here than elsewhere. I'm sure fans like myself who don't root for the home teams have developed ways to follow our teams. The Internet helps a lot in that regard and I'm sure a lot of fans who don't root for the home team are used to buying their gear online. Cowboys fans who live near a Kmart (or a Sears maybe) seem to be in luck if they don't use computers though.

    You're probably right about those battery saving apps. I've never used them and I can't imagine that they do things that a savvy user doesn't do already like close out unused programs. I usually try to keep my phone clean of any "app" bloat. My latest phone was free of pretty much all bloat out of the box so that was a good start at least.

    I know you said that you liked Samsung products. I'm not sure if you heard about this then or not, but it seems that Samsung hired the former Apple Store designer. The rumor is that Samsung will open their own stores. It seems that Google might be interested in opening stores as well. Of course, Apple, Microsoft, and Sony already have stores. I don't know about this trend of company owned electronics stores. On the one had, it may fill up mall space with electronics stores. That's nice. OTOH, it may serve to eliminate "middle man" electronics stores like RadioShack and it may speed up the demise of electronics departments in department and discount stores. We'll see though I guess. Who knows if these stores will be successful. Some of the computer stores that opened up retail stores (like Gateway and CompuAdd) were burned by their retail operations. Maybe it curb the "phone kiosk plague" that serves to annoy mall shoppers though.

    I would imagine that you will be able to buy a non-smart TV a couple of years from now especially if you avoid the high end of the market, but who knows. Hopefully the TVs will still have legacy inputs for your vintage game consoles and VCRs though. They should still have them a couple of years from now, but who knows if they will still have them 5-10+ years from now. Stuff like S-Video and component inputs may go first if they have not already. Many TVs now have shared composite and component inputs so that those two inputs can't be wired concurrently.

    1. The good thing out of all the bad from the Texans this season is that the fans for now are still sticking by their team except for Matt Schaub who is no longer a fan favorite. I have not seen any deep discounts yet on Texans gear, but if they have another bad year it will be a different story.
      I think Radio Shack and Best Buy Mobile will hurt the most from these new company owned electronics stores. The new stores have so many displays that make the stores a destination to try out new products. At Radio Shack you will see phones with fake background stickers so you can see what the phone looks like when it is on. Those displays are almost as bad as the fake TV's that furniture stores used in the 1980's. You get an interactive experience at the company stores that a store like Radio Shack (with the exception of the concept stores) does not have. I think Radio Shack should look into adding departments to a store like Kohl's that does not have electronics to keep their brand alive. The cost of revamping every store is probably too much and the company has to find a way to compete. I think the cell phone mall kiosks will eventually go away, but for now companies are still funding them even though I hardly ever see anyone at one.
      It is interesting to note that to keep up with the screen movements while playing a Nintendo game you need to have a refresh rate of at least 120 HZ for an LCD/LED TV or use a tube TV.

  43. Part II:

    Touchscreens wouldn't work well on TVs since people won't want to get up off the couch so some Smart TVs use gestures instead. You wave your hands in a particular way and the TV will change screens. I'm not so sure how well it works in the real world, but it certainly looks goofy to see people using their TVs that way. Anyway, touchscreens may work well on phones (though I preferred phones that had hard buttons for text input), but I don't understand the appeal of them on desktop and non-convertible laptop computers. All it does is smudge up the screen and it isn't even comfortable to touch the monitor all day versus use a mouse. It seems like a gimmick to me, but then again I've been using computers since the time where you had to type in all commands instead of using a graphical interface with a mouse. Maybe my opinions aren't quite mainstream then, but I still can't imagine why one would pay extra for a touchscreen desktop. I have noticed that some devices of various kind are bringing back styli though which I think is a good thing. A touch-stylus combo may make sense for things like tablets and convertible laptops.

    The new touch-based controls on cars are causing a lot of reliability and usability problems. Consumer Reports had a nice write up about it. The article focuses on the Ford system since it is the most famous of the touch systems, but other companies have troublesome interfaces as well. Having said that, I recently rode in a 2013 Ford Fusion and it annoyed the heck out of me. It would take a few seconds from when I touched the control to when the control actually activated. This meant that I didn't know if I actually made the change I wanted or if I needed to touch again (sometimes that was necessary too). It was very annoying and distracting. It all seems foolish when mechanical buttons and knobs work just fine and still work fine on some models that have integrated technology and ergonomics well. I think Consumer Reports made a good point in saying that video game controllers still use physical buttons and joysticks since they can be used reliably, accurately, and quickly without looking at the controls. Car controls should be designed the same way for safety if nothing else, but that's not always the way things are these days.

    1. One of my old systems from 1997, had a touch screen, stylus, and several features that are common on most smartphones.
      I still think we are still several years away from functioning sensor technology. The Samsung phone sensors do not work as intended and are better turned off. I hope car companies offer people the option and let people know about the facts of the touchscreen accessories. Well from my experience with several Ford vehicles, they have yet to produce a vehicle with an air conditioning system that lasts more than two years without major repair. It is a good thing the windows still had handles or electric panels on those vehicles and not touchscreens because it sounds like I would have suffocated during my many summers without a functioning A/C. 3 out of the 4 Ford vehicles were new when we purchased them and the used Ford only had an A/C that would only work on the first two speeds with very little cold air if any. It is bad enough that people are already distracted by smart phones and texting while driving and the car computer will only add to the problem, especially one that is not responsive. Hopefully they will get these problems fixed before someone becomes a casualty.

  44. Part I:

    I think that you are right to say that RadioShack and the small Best Buy Mobile stores will struggle if manufacturer stores become more popular. You make a good point about the hands on experience. Plus, company store employees will probably be more knowledgeable about the products than a RadioShack clerk. It does seem like RadioShack is leaving malls though (at least in Houston) and maybe focusing on neighborhood stores will give them a niche. The mobile accessories business is still huge too and RadioShack is pretty competitive there. Maybe they'll have a niche there too. As far as Kohl's goes, I noticed that they were selling TVs this Christmas season. I thought that was odd. I don't know if that is a seasonal thing or what. Kohl's sells Tozai quality cameras and stuff like that year round, but maybe they are venturing into deeper waters. I don't know why they would want to do it, but it would be neat if Kohl's had a real electronics department. That would finally give us a 2nd mid-tier department/mass merchandise type store to go with Sears (though I don't expect Kohl's to sell serious tools anytime soon). RadioShack has done at least one store within a store, but that may be some one-off oddball. I don't think that it is a bad idea though.

    I wonder if these rumored Samsung stores may sell more than just mobile devices. This link indicates that Samsung has higher goals. Of course, selling appliances would have Samsung compete with Sears in one of their main departments so that could set off some animosity between the companies. We'll see. That link also indicates that Samsung, like other big IT companies, are putting more resources into developing software and services rather than hardware. That's just more evidence of the struggles on the electronics industry. As for the furniture store props, they still use them. This place sells them if you want some for your home. I like their slogan!

    Perhaps Texans fans are hopeful that the team will rebound next year especially with the #1 pick. The new coach is very well respected, but that could be said for any of the former Patriots assistants and they all turned out to be failures as head coaches. We'll see, but I think the team can rebound. I thought the fans treatment of Schaub when he was injured was disgraceful and it gave Houston fans a real black eye. It reminds me of when Saints fans did it to Wade Wilson. Maybe you remember that. Then Saints coach Jim Mora was famously pissed about that.

    I remember the Tiger I think Tiger's reputation as a cheap handheld game maker held it back, but it was ahead of it's time in many ways. Of course, it had real buttons too. I think the touchscreen was mainly for the PDA functions. I had a Palm PDA that required a stylus, but it could be used by tapping with a fingernail. That PDA was quite advanced for it's time since it had Wi-Fi, an SD card slot (which not all popular smartphones have even today), and Bluetooth. There were phone versions of those PDAs too, but they were considered to be uncool compared to flip phones like the Motorola RAZR. It's interesting how tastes change like that.

    1. I went into a Kohl's briefly on the day after Thanksgiving but I did not see any TV's there. I only went to one part of the store though. It would be interesting if they got into the electronics segment.
      Samsung has so many brands that they could easily fill a regular sized mall space and then some as a showroom for their products. They would also have to deal with delivery options if they add large electronics and appliances to those stores, but it would help them to keep more profit if they can succeed in the new stores.
      Booing an injured player is about as classless as it gets. I can understand booing a bad play, but not an injury.
      The PDA's became obsolete so quickly after they were launched. I wanted to get one at one point, but phones such as Blackberries had the same features.

  45. Part II:

    I think the car companies with the touchscreens are trying to be like smart TV makers in that they want to turn a durable good that should last 10-15 years into something that people will throw away after 3-4 years. Maybe it's not that extreme, but the ideas are the same. I think they are hoping that the in-car tech will become obsolete and so people will want to upgrade. Good luck with that, but they may have to. Some cars now have all the radio and A/C controls (plus more in some cases) on the touchscreen. Those screens haven't had the best reliability record (even from companies that supposedly make reliable cars) and who knows how well they will work after 10-15 years in the hot sun and in cold winters. Replacements will be very, very expensive if they are even available. It has been said that owners will bring their cars in claiming that the touchscreens don't work, but sometimes the screens are operating normally. They are just designed so poorly (they don't register touches correctly, they are slow, and so forth) that they are supposed to operate as if they are broken.

    Ford's reputation was improving in the late 2000s, but they've taken major steps back in the last couple of years. The touchscreens are a part of that, but there's more to the story. Ford has gone to developing "global" cars instead of making different cars for each market where they do business. This is cheaper obviously and a lot of Ford cars are quite "European" now in that they have good driving dynamics and interior quality, but the reliability is also "European." This is to say that it stinks. Do you remember Ford's Merkur line of European imports sold here in the 1980s? Those are the source for many Jim Rome jokes. Well, many Fords now are Merkurs now without the fancy name. But, yeah, AFAIK, there aren't cars with touchscreen window controls (though maybe they exist). That's good for you because at least you can get some fresh air when your touchscreen radio and A/C control unit isn't working!

    Touchscreen controls often have many menus you must go through to do something, but some companies use single jog dials that are just as bad (or worse). Check out how many steps go into flipping through the FM dial on this BMW. Compare that to my car that has a discrete tuning knob that makes things very simple without even looking.

    There was a lot of talk earlier this week about Google developing Android for Audi cars. Apple is working on car integration with manufacturers too, but their method seems to be to link people's devices to the car instead of having the OS right in the car instead. I'm sure the in-car Android will be locked down so people can't install a bunch of games into the car and stuff like that, but there are still security concerns and questions about planned obsolescence. Luxury car buyers tend to lease so it may not be an issue for the first "owner," but user car buyers may be in for a hurting. I also wonder if car owners will have to buy data plans for their cars or if it can be tethered to a phone data plan. What happens if you drive somewhere where there isn't data service? What happens if the data network the car uses becomes obsolete after 10 years? Will the navigation, radio, and other features still work correctly?

    1. The computer technology in cars has a lot of what if's including what will happen if the car manufacturer goes out of business. People vote with their wallets and if car companies cannot get things together with their computers people will stick to used cars more than ever. I will not be one of the ones to try this stuff out unless it becomes absolutely necessary.

  46. Part III:

    120Hz may or may not help video game smoothness. 60Hz LCDs are technically fine for vintage games (and SD and HD TV and probably modern games too) since they run at 60 frames per second or less, but the LCD panels in 120 Hz TVs may have better response times and may give you better results regardless. It's probably worth trying out if you can because you really can't buy based on specs. Also, high refresh rate TVs may have smoothing options that may (or may not) help sports and games look better, but it'll make everything else have the dreaded "soap opera effect." My Samsung 120Hz LCD has that feature, but I disable it for everything because of the soap opera effect. High speed sports motion does look a tad worse than it does with CRT TVs, but it's not too bad. I don't notice any major ill-effects with gaming, but maybe I'm not playing the right kind of games. There is a trend of TV companies being sneaky about TV refresh rates though so make sure you do your homework and don't buy a TV with a "fake" refresh rate.

    1. Thanks for the head up on the refresh rates, I will just have to bring in my old game systems and plug them up before I make a purchase, lol. I will call Sears just before I go and see if they will let me do that. I don't think Best Buy, Target, or Walmart would be okay with me doing that. My 60hz TV's play Blu-ray movies well but all have a little bit of blur in very fast moving pictures.

  47. Part I:

    Kohl's actually advertised a lot of electronics for Black Friday. They had TVs, Xbox 360s, a printer, GPS systems, headphones, and more. Here's a copy of their Black Friday ad if you want to see it. I was at Kohl's about a week ago and I saw that they had a few unsold TVs stacked in a quiet spot between the men's department and shoes. I'm guessing that many of those electronics offerings will be seasonal again now, but who knows. I guess Kohl's figured that people want cheap TVs on Black Friday (or Thursday I guess now) so they offered them to help bring traffic to their stores instead of other stores. I'm not sure how that strategy worked.

    It would be odd to bring a vintage Nintendo to a store, but it makes sense to do it. I would rule out Target and Wal-Mart already. They mount their demo TVs in a way that it would make it very hard to even hook up anything to it without a lot of work by the clerks. Plus, you probably wouldn't want to draw a crowd which would be easy to do at places like those. Sears is probably your best bet. They put their TVs out in a way in which they are accessible (at least at some locations, I can't speak for them all) and the electronics departments there are somewhat quiet at least. Plus, at least in my experience shopping for a TV in 2012, Sears had the most remotes out for the demo TVs so it was easy to make adjustments for fair testing purposes. Also, Best Buy is so loud inside that it's hard to test sound quality there. It's very important to test that. I would check with Sears and see if they'll let you do the kind of demo that you want to do. It's probably best to find a location that has the TVs mounted in an accessible way.

    As for blur or ghosting on your LCD TV in fast moving scenes, that's not too surprising. It's important to test for than when shopping for a new TV because you can't really go by the specs alone. Blu-rays aren't bottlenecked by a 60Hz display technically, but a higher quality display with better response rates will look better and the TVs that have those displays are probably going to be at least 120Hz. This link and this link may provide some more insight, but I do get that it's not the easiest stuff to digest. The best thing to do is to try out TVs with different types of content (and play around with the settings like the smoothing options) to see which TV gives you the best video quality. It'll take some research and hopefully the stores will be willing to help you test the TVs the proper way. As far as I can tell, Sears may be the best option to do this amongst the mainstream options.

  48. Part II:

    You are right about about the delivery thing with appliances. That can be tricky to perfect and also some buyers want to take the product home with them the day they buy it and that might be tricky with mall stores if they use them. Plus, appliance stores have lots of sales and promotions. Manufacturer stores don't typically like to have promotions so that might be tough for them. It might be best for Samsung to leave the appliances for Sears, Best Buy, and company, but the profit margins may tempt them. Of course, this is assuming that there will be Samsung stores.

    On the topic of Samsung and European cars, we will soon have Samsung-built cars sold in the US. Well, kind of. Samsung has minority interest in a Renault/Nissan plant in South Korea. Renault-Nissan-Samsung have plans to design and build cars for Mitsubishi here in the US. It seems that there will be a mid-sized car (probably a return of the Mitsubishi Galant) and probably a compact car (next generation Mitsubishi Lancer probably). I guess those cars will be some strange hodgepodge of Japanese, French, and Korean engineering. Hopefully those cars will have Japanese and not French reliability. It'll be nice to have Galants back again if nothing else even if it isn't really a Mitsubishi design. But, yeah, Samsung has their hands in all kinds of things these days.

    The problem with cars is that car buyers are often wowed by the technology without actually trying it to see how well it works before they buy the car. Sometimes they don't know what they got themselves into until it's too late. Of course, the buyers will probably be smarter on their next purchase and may have higher expectations when it comes to ease of use. Hopefully that will lead to better ergonomics in future cars. Some manufacturers are better at designing interfaces than others (some still have buttons and knobs for almost all functions even if the car has a touchscreen), but it's a shame that smart buyers have to eliminate some models from consideration just because of the controls interface. I know I had to do that the last time we went shopping for a car.

  49. Here is some sad news from this past week. The whole Alco chain is in the process of going out of business after 113 years in business. I guess the closure of the Houston Alco stores was just a sign of things to come. This could be terrible news for rural shoppers as Alco may have been their only local B&M discount store option, but maybe this will open the door for others in the rural regions like Fred's and the "dollar" stores. At least we got to experience a very brief taste of what Alco was about. It's a good thing you documented this store as I'm sure Alco historians will find it to be interesting in addition to Houston retail followers.

    1. I still have more pictures of the Pasadena store to share. I took these photos on two separate visits during the closing sale. I was shocked to hear that the chain was moved from chapter 11 to liquidation so quickly, but I guess that was the only way to salvage their investment. I was hoping the company that bought Alco recently would take the brand and expand it, but I guess not. Fred's will probably be the most likely to get these stores since Family Dollar and Dollar General will probably close many stores in the near future. I have been absent from the blog for two weeks but I have not missed some of the big news coming out recently from some of our favorite stores.