Like Burger King, the UCSB Bookstore has decided to let customers have it their way.
The Bookstore’s computer department began offering custom ordering and assembly of computers late this summer, bucking the store’s long-standing trend of selling only Dell brand PCs. The new operation, dubbed Channel Islands Computers, now gives computer-knowledgeable buyers the option of choosing from a variety of name-brand parts, including processors, hard drives, DVD or burnable CD drives, video, sound and Ethernet cards, which are put together in-house by Bookstore employees.
Bookstore Computer Dept. Assistant Manager Clayton Riness, who spearheaded the project, said some customers complained about the Dell computers, which, he said, have trouble handling high workload levels.
“We weren’t happy with the quality of the Dell computers,” he said. “I was thinking that I’ve been building computers for myself for years and was hoping we could provide a better machine for students at a comparable price. We have the know-how to pick the parts and put it together.”
Channel Islands’ computers, which run around $1,200 to $1,800, have outsold Dell PCs, typically priced between $1,000 to $1,600, six to one since their initiation, Riness said.
“We can tailor a system to anything people want, whereas you can’t do that with Dell,” he said. “It’s financially better for the bookstore and we are offering a better product, so it’s a win-win.”
John Kono, computer department manager, said the Bookstore charges $30 for custom PC assembly, testing and software updating, compared to $100 usually charged by large computer chains.
“Pretty much [customers] are impressed with prices and quality of options. The majority who have ordered have been happy with their purchases,” Kono said. “We had a few glitches because it was a new program, but after that everything worked out great.”
Bookstore Director Ken Bowers acknowledged the lucrative nature of the new operation but downplayed the significance of the Channel Islands brand label.
“I see it less as a computer brand and more as a service to students,” he said. “We are really not a computer manufacturer – we just do custom assembly.”
Riness added that students can now configure and order computers online at www.bookstore.ucsb.edu.
Also new to the bookstore are 50 disc golf drivers, mid-ranges and putters for $8.95, which were stocked Monday.
“There are only four places in town that sell them,” said Asst. Gifts Manager Mark Valencia, who initiated the idea. “A lot of employees play, and with a course in I.V. and 10 minutes across the freeway, it seemed like a good idea.”