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Radio Shack Can't Overcome Life's Busyness

In 1963 Charles D. Tandy opened a nine-store chain that promised to provide supplies for electronic do-it-yourselfers. Tandy explained, "Leisure time is opening markets to us. The shorter workweek, human curiosity, idle hands—all offer opportunities in this business. Everyone's spare time is our challenge." At its peak, Radio Shack had 7,000 stores. But what Mr. Tandy couldn't know was that the real challenge his company would eventually face was the slow erosion of the very leisure time his company profited from by filling. The company, now known as Radio Shack, filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2015.

It's hard to believe this now, but according to "The Overworked American," by Boston College professor of sociology Juliet Schor, in the 1950s the shrinking workweek meant universities sprouted departments of leisure studies, to figure out what Americans would soon be doing with their ever-expanding supply of free time. Then, in about 1970, the trend reversed, and the workweek of the average American began to grow longer.

In 1979 the average worker put in 1,687 hours a year, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and by 2007 that number was 1,868. The net difference, 181 hours a year, represents more than a month of extra work every year.

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