PCs

I found my mothership - Frys Electronics


I have found my mothership. [Click here for photo gallery]

A couple months ago, I was driving through Indianapolis and I spotted something that left my mouth hanging open and nearly caused me to veer into the wrong lane on I-69. There was a new retail store that opened in Fishers, just north of Indy. I'm not much of a shopper (much to the chagrin of my wife) and I usually do NOT get very excited by new retail stores, but this one was different. This was Fry's Electronics.

For technophiles and electronic tinkerers, Fry's holds something of a mythical status, especially for someone like me who has never lived in California and so has never had Fry's as a regular shopping experience. I have listened with an envious heart as friends who have visited and lived in Northern California (where Fry's first opened in Sunnyvale in 1985) have talked about the endless rows of NICs, vats of hard drive jumpers and case screws, and unlimited supplies of rare PC and electronics components that can always be found at Fry's.

Thus, on my most recent trip through Indianapolis, I finally made a pilgrimage to the Fry's in Fishers, the first one in Indiana and only the second one in the Midwest (the other one is in Chicago area). Despite my boundless juvenile anticipation, I was still amazed when I actually stepped inside.

The sheer square footage of the store was unbelievable. It was bigger than Sam's Club and easily as big as a Super Wal-Mart, Super K-Mart, or Meijer (for those in the Midwest). The computer components section alone -- for custom PC builders -- was as big as the grocery section in a Super Wal-Mart. I made a beeline for the computer components first. I was awestruck when I saw a huge section of a wall filled with computer motherboards. And right next to them was a very cool display of case fans. One entire grocery store-like aisle was filled with different computer cases, although with all those cases to choose from I didn't see any of the real WOW cases that you can find online and I didn't find a slimline media center case, which I've been looking for. But right next to the cases I found plenty of whisperingly-quiet power supplies and CPU fans to keep me occupied.

After poking around the sections for computer parts and electronics kits, I made my way through consumer electronics where the section for TVs was over twice as big as the TV display at Best Buy and there was a larger collection of Xbox games than I have ever seen in one place. On my way to consumer electronics I also saw something that made be stop and chuckle. There was a cafe right in the middle of the store. That meant technogeeks like me didn't even have to leave for sustenance in the middle of a Fry's visit. I could just stop and get a meal and then go back to my geek-ish pursuits. Fortunately, my wife and son were with me on this trip, so I didn't get too endlessly absorbed.

My final jaw-dropping experience of the day came when I went to check out. It wasn't very crowded on the day that I was there but there was still a place for a long line and when I came to the end of that row there was a person waiting who said, "Hi there. You can pay at check out 14." Like a preschooler crossing the road by himself, I looked sheepishly to one side and then the other and saw rows of checkout lanes extending endlessly on both sides. Then, after I went to station 14, paid, and then walked toward the exit with my Fry's bag in hand, I realized that those weren't even the only checkout stations, but that an equal number of them curled around and went all the way up the other side behind them. At that moment, I knew with a certainty that I was not alone in the universe. And I'm guessing that a lot of other technogeeks felt the same way when they came through Fry's Electronics for the first time.  

If you want to see what I saw, I've put together a gallery of photos from my Fry's pilgrimage.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

15 comments
stevenmc9
stevenmc9

The Fry family had a chain of grocery stores in the Silicon Valley area. When one son's time came, he chose to instead sell 'computeries' in his store, in much the same way that his relatives sold groceries.

Tig2
Tig2

I can introduce you to MICROCENTER!!! The make Fry's look like a wannabe. MicroCenter has a wonderful staff that really cares about whether you walk out the door with the right thing or not. I have used them for years. Let me tell you about my Christmas shopping experience... We froze nearly to death behind the Best Buy in our area- we had gotten up at 2A to be in line by 3A for a particular thing that they had not publicised a limit on. We were mistaken, the last of the thing we were there for had walked out the door about 15 minutes earlier. To make it worse, when we went to pay for a second item (reasonably high dollar value) the clerk failed to recognise our Rewards Membership and refused to re-ring the item so that we could get the points. Done with Best (Worst?) Buy. We left there and went to MicroCenter- who also had a line. The local PD, paid for by MicroCenter, were there making sure all was orderly. They clearly explained how they were working and made certain that people understood. MicroCenter had several of the hot ticket items in stock. The only caveat was that you pick up your merchandise before 3 in the afternoon. They had traffic cops out to make sure that could happen and everyone was safe. We had a calm and reasonable shopping experience, good information from a knowledgeable staff, bought more than we expected to, and felt good about the whole experience. If you think Fry's is the mothership, you have not experienced the best in technology retailing. Go MicroCenter! No I don't work for them. I still think they're great! Edit- capitalisation error and an "r"

flavere
flavere

I have dealt with Fry's since the week they opened in Downers Grove, Il. Their support has deteriorated to the worst of all the electronic stores in the county. Try to speak with a manager and the staff treats you like a terrorist. Thank goodness we have Best Buy, Comp USA amd Circuit City in town. Done with Fry's

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

I used to write checks at Fry's. They had the slowest computer network inthe world and apparently had to scroll thru EVERY check I ever wrote them (none of which bounced). I then decided to use my credit / debit card. I would ask them, can I use it as debit card? their answer would always be to indicate that yes I could use it as it was a credit card too. Finally a bit later they accept debit cards so my credit card # is not spread all around tarnation. To compare, I'd go to microcenter in Tustin and they'd quickly take check no problem. One recent prob - I was looking for a new adesso wkb120 keyboard, the kind with the laptop mouse pad in the center, & only kind I use. Fry's for some strange reason carries every keyboard but this. This time, microcenter was out. I asked them to look up on computer and they said they had either one or three in stock, so I asked them to find it for me. No luck. That wasn't the problem tho, if they were out of stock they were out of stock. However I figured they would never get a new one in if they still said they had 3. I talked to the manager and asked them if they could correct their inventory so they would re-order my keyboard. I got the run-around like he didn't actually understand the problem. What is so hard about doing a physical count? Anyway calling a week or two later same thing, said in stock but not on shelf. Ended up ordering on the internet. Their other problem is they are not clear in the ads about what the price before rebate is. I avoid stuff with rebates like the plague because many simply don't send rebates. Their ads are misleading and they should clearly state the in-store price BEFORE any non-instant rebate. As you said, tho they are much better than Fry's. I would not buy a computer at fry's. however components like LCD screens, cards, hard drives, all have 30 days return so is great when you have a problem at Frys.

Why Me Worry??
Why Me Worry??

around the country. Also, the techs at CompUSA don't know a RAM chip from a hole in the wall, so asking them for help is like expecting a bunch of chimps to overhaul your car.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

I agre that their customer service is horrendous, but I still love the place. I can take my shopping list to one place and get everything I need. I haven't found a single vendor like it anywhere. There used to be a place in San Jose that was like that, but they have really cut back so Fry's is now number one. I mean really, where else can you find rechargable batteries, turntable belts, tape recorder drive wheels, CAT5 cable jacks, video splitters, multimeters, GPS units and any computer part in the world, and individual components under one roof??? A real candy store for the electronics engineer and loads of CD's and DVD's. Yes, the employees don't know where anything is except the time clock and the front door. Here in Fremont, very few even speak english so it wouldn't do any good to ask anyway. The language barrier is the only reason I don't work for them. I'm sure it's not that way everywhere, but after a few trips you get to know where everything is and don't need to ask.

robo_dev
robo_dev

They did this just to rub it in.....

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

is gone in my area. We had 3 or 4 stores, and customer service and tech support sucked rotten eggs at all of them. The techs who actually knew anything and were courteous and capable of treating a customers machine with respect never lasted long - maybe a couple of months at best. Good riddance I say. Don't know anything about Frye's. We could use a [better] replacement for CompScrewSA though.

Langlier
Langlier

is store to store. they get a lot of kids off the street to be thier techs/sales but they also normally have 1 or 2 guys that have been around computers forever. however frys at any department is horrible. if you know what you are looking for and can find its section youre great. but if you only have an idea of what you need youre in for a long day.

robo_dev
robo_dev

I would not buy any big ticket items from them, but the 'Radio Shack on Steroids' attraction is very strong. Where else can you get heat-shrink tubing, a cheap router, AND Orange Crush under the same roof??

robo_dev
robo_dev

we could all be posting our comments to a server near Bejing.

Why Me Worry??
Why Me Worry??

And how do I know you are the real TechExec2 and not the imposter you claim me to be?

bullcube
bullcube

I made the mistake of buying a laptop from them and compounded it by buying the service contract. I've had my laptop 2 weeks out of the last year and now they want money for the loaner I brought back because of some of the wear. Try calling corperate and they will just hang up on you 75% of the time. They will bury you with thoughtless drones till you just want to walk away...

Tig2
Tig2

And reference books, CAT 5 and 6, a punch down tool, wire scissors, a ream of paper, a Windows install and Apple peripherals. WALKING IN THE DOOR increases your geek factor by 100! :D