Technology Store to Close in December

The Oberlin Technology Store, located in the Mudd library basement, will shut down Dec. 15. The store has provided students, staff, faculty, and community members with discounted electronics and advice for the past 30 years.

The store’s one full-time employee, Director of Desktop Services Linda Iroff, was informed about the closing two weeks ago. Her position is being terminated.

“It’s not my choice,” Iroff said. “I have worked for the College for 27 and a half years; most of the time I’ve worked at the store. The store opened up 30 years ago. It’s moved around, and the store has grown. I think what I can say is that priorities are changing in terms of the services that the institution provides.”

According to an email sent to students by Chief Information Technology Officer Ben Hockenhull, the closure of the store is due to the effects of the retail evolution, in which “purchasing habits have been transformed by the Internet and the rise of online retailers.”

“In recognition of this reality and after much careful consideration, we have made this decision,” Hockenhull stated. “The closure of the store will allow CIT to reallocate resources to better support the College’s mission through facilitating innovative applications of technology.”

College first-year and Technology Store staffer David Martin recalled a speech given by President Ambar during parents weekend regarding future budget cuts, which he dismissed at the time. Now, Martin and his fellow student staffers face the loss of their positions as those cuts continue.

“[Ambar] tacked on that the school would have to make cuts to certain departments,” Martin said. “I didn’t think much about it. How can it affect me? Linda said last week that as of the end of December they are closing the store indefinitely and terminating my position. It’s all due to budget cuts. There has not been a lot of communication with us or from this school. They are nice enough and are trying to get jobs for us student workers.”

Administrators are hoping to transfer the seven student staffers to other jobs on campus, such as at the CIT help desk in Mudd and in other related positions.

“For those who want to continue to work for CIT, we are trying to find something,” Iroff said. “We have some projects coming up, but some of them may want to work at the CIT help desk upstairs.”

However, some believe the College and its members may lose more from the closing than what can be gained financially.

“To my understanding the tech store has netted or gained a profit every semester, which is unusual,” College senior and Technology Store staffer Lauren Distler said. “I think there are two aspects. Convenience, in terms of small items you need like chargers, earbuds. That sort of thing is replaceable. The expert unbiased advice on what you need, and the option of paying for it off over time, through the College, is not.”

The Technology Store offers several services that other companies, like Apple, cannot provide. Their services are also significantly cheaper than other electronics stores.

“The services we provide, the advice that we give in terms of computer purchasing, is not based on commissions,” Distler said. “We can offer advice based on what you actually need instead of what is the most expensive. We can walk you through what will be best for you, your needs, and your budget.”

The Technology Store is also the only organization on campus licensed to sell Safeware, a cell phone repair policy similar to AppleCare.

“Safeware was started by an Oberlin alum,” Martin said. “It’s like AppleCare on steroids. It covers stuff that actually happens, [like] water damage, damaged screens, keys [that] fall out. AppleCare really only covers system problems.”

If profits have decreased, they may have depreciated for reasons that benefit the Technology Store’s clients.

“The sales profit has decreased over the years, but there are reasons for that,” Iroff said. “We upgrade computers instead of replacing them. That shows up as a smaller profit.”

Iroff added that although the Technology Store competes with other third party companies, it has served and advised the campus community well.

“We face more competition from online sales,” Iroff said. “The fact is that we are here and can provide relevant advice. The relevance we can provide to faculty, students, and staff is impressive.”

The store will continue to operate from 1–4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday until Dec. 15, and by appointment only until Dec. 21. Returns will be accepted until Dec. 15, and the store will not restock items once they run out. Selected remaining inventory after this date is expected to be sold at a discount, but details on this liquidation sale are forthcoming.