Many of us have made the pilgrimage. We know the gray walls, the large wooden tables, the sterile lighting, and the blue-shirted employees. What's it like to actually work in one of Apple's hundreds of retail stores, though? Thanks to Popular Mechanics, which scored an interview with an Apple Store staffer, we now have a rough idea.
If we're to believe the anonymous staffer, Apple Stores blend a lax attendance policy with strong internal competition and some "cult"-like elements. (One training session allegedly involved "separating people into those with an external focus and an internal focus.") While lateness is tolerated, employees can get fired on the spot for speculating about unannounced Apple products—about which, incidentally, they receive no information ahead of time.
Unsurprisingly for a retail job, it sounds like customers provide the most frustration and occasional entertainment. The article mentions drug dealers who attempt to buy iPhones with fake credit cards, Chinese resellers who try haggling to get a better price on an iPad, and as icing on the cake, "some really scary homeless people who come in and listen to death metal really loudly on the Bose speakers." Abuse from customers doesn't sound uncommon, either, with the staffer claiming, "I've never been treated so badly in my life."
As surreal and potentially unpleasant as Apple stores might be, I dig the concept. The other day, when my iPhone earbuds stopped working, all I had to do was walk over to the downtown Vancouver store and ask for a replacement set. A friend of mine also made several trips to try to get a misbehaving MacBook fixed. I ultimately had to intervene, but still, having the option to get tech support locally is a huge plus—and I think it definitely justifies a chunk of the Apple tax. All too many gadget and PC makers force users to wait on the phone and perhaps ship a product back if something goes awry.