Tell me what the Illini Flash Drive is and what you do there.
I’m the coordinator for Illini Flash Drive, which is the computer store for the University of Illinois. We’re part of Central Stores (a unit within Facilities and Services), but we’re set up more for doing sales. Faculty, staff and students can buy computers and other accessories through us.
So what do you sell?
We sell four brands of computers – Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo. We also sell accessories such as toner, printers, headsets.
What do customers usually ask about when shopping for a computer?
Most of them – probably 50 percent of people looking at computers – already know what they want. The other 50 percent are kind of on the edge of whether they want a PC or a Mac. Some are looking for specific things such as a higher graphics card or something like that.
How many computers do you sell a day?
It’s pretty hard to say because right now we are selling a bunch because (freshman) orientation is going on. It’s the busiest time of year for us. Right now it’s nothing for us to sell 10, 15 or 20 computers a day. On average we sell three or four a day.
What’s something about the Illini Flash Drive that you think makes it stand out from other places people would buy computers?
No. 1, we’re very friendly. No. 2, they’re going to get a better deal through us because we’re an educational store, and we can sell computers at a bigger discount than other retailers. Our service and friendliness is probably a big part of it.
How do you go about helping people find the right computer?
We find out what they want to do with it. If it’s just searching the Internet, answering e-mails and doing a little Facebook, they don’t need a lot of computer for that. However, if they’re creating videos, they would need more power for that.
Has the store changed since you’ve been there?
When I started here, we remodeled the store. We never used to stock anything. People used to come in and we’d order for you. Now people can come in here and buy all kinds of computer stuff (off the shelf).
How many years have you worked at Illinois?
I‘m on my 10th year – I started at Stores on the office supply side. I’d send orders to Office Max. Most of my day, I was on the phone with customers looking for a pen or a particular ribbon – helping them find things. I’m starting my third year at Flash Drive.
Where else have you worked?
I worked for 25 years as a sales rep for two different optical companies, representing two different labs that made eyeglasses. I ran a retail business, a children’s shoe store called Bunny’s Shoes, in Champaign for three years. Before that, I did what I went to school for – I worked in the accounting department at a big corporation for three years in the late ’60s.
Do you like working at the UI?
Yes. I like the benefits, but I’m also having fun – it’s not quite the same pressure of being a sales rep. I’m enjoying it. I’m 65 years old, and I’m not going to quit yet.
Do you have any tips of the trade for other salespeople?
You want to be friendly with customers and be helpful – that’s the big thing. If you’re helpful that goes a long way. And, be proud of what you’re doing.
What do you like to do for fun?
Yard work, although I don’t do it a lot. I also like to do woodworking. I love to spend time with my two grandsons who are 4 and 10 years old. I also have some “adopted” grandkids that live nearby and don’t have grandparents around. We’re going to have our grandsons for a week this summer. We’re looking forward to that.
What kinds of things do you like to make with wood?
I’ve made shelves and wooden Christmas decorations in the past. I’d like to do more of that again.
What other activities are you involved in?
I’m the moderator of our church, the First Baptist Church of Mahomet. I’m responsible for running board meetings at the church, among other things. We’re very involved in that.
JOHN WELCH FAST FACTS
Family: John and his wife, Carol, live in Mahomet. His son, Chad, his daughter-in-law and two grandsons live in the St. Louis area. John is originally from Champaign.
Favorite places to eat: Steak ’n Shake, Cheddar’s (“they have fantastic onion rings”), Ted’s Garage in Clinton (“for ribs on Saturday night”).
Favorite things to watch on TV: Illini football and basketball, the Cubs and the Bears.