Computers 101 owner serves her customers

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Computers 101 is not your ordinary computer store.

Janis Marston-News-Bulletin photo: Owner Monique Valenzuela, right, and former intern, Donavon Perea, left, display a grand opening sign in front of Computers 101 in the Tri-Square Plaza in Los Lunas. The event is scheduled for this month.

Look around. Where are the shiny electronics gadgets and gizmos? There aren’t even any computers for customers to buy.

This store, and its 26-year-old owner Monique Valenzuela, isn’t about sales. It’s about taking customer service to an art form.

The sign over her door says it all: “Educate — Consult — Repair.”

A former member of Best Buy’s Geek Squad, who also worked at Apple and Staples, Valenzuela says she got sick and tired of profit margins overriding common sense or customers’ needs.

“We were told to push certain products, whether (the customer) needed it or not,” Valenzuela says.

Now that she’s calling the shots, Valenzuela wants to suit the computer to the customer. For $20, she’ll go to the store with the customer and pick out the best model for the money and their needs.

If a customer needs a computer fixed, Valenzuela will do the repairs and then spend 15 minutes teaching the person how to keep his or her computer running at tip-top shape, without viruses or other annoying glitches.

Teaching computer skills is her passion, she says. She’s been doing that since her days at Los Lunas High School, starting with helping children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

“If they have Vista, I’ll teach it,” she says of an operating system for personal computers. “If they have Windows 7 … (or) Windows 8, I’ll teach it. I’ll even teach XP.”

She wants people to feel comfortable with their equipment, to be able to run the computer rather than the other way around.

“I teach how to use email, your smart phone, Skype,” she says, noting how the cirruculum is too advanced for some senior citizens in structured classes, whether at a community college or senior center. “I fill in the gaps.”

Recently, she taught a 76-year-old man how to get the most out of his computer, including expanding his email skills.

She and her instructors are certified, she says, and certification and training is available for more advanced students, like her intern Donavon Perea.

The UNM-VC student took a four-week internship at Computers 101 and received the A+ rating which, he says, will go a long way after he gets his information technology degree.

Valenzuela offers customized courses, on the spot, and at discount prices for students and low-income customers. Bring cash for the best deals.

“If someone comes in needing a resumé for a job interview, I’ll do that,” she says.

She eventually wants to keep some inexpensive computers — in the $100 to $150 range — in stock for students or low-income customers to buy.

“I’ve been there,” Valenzuela says. “I know what it feels like not to have money and still need a computer for your everyday needs.”

Computers 101, at 1930 Main St., is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.

A 24/7 emergency repair service is offered to businesses. For more details, call 573-4943.