Anonymous employee tells of life in the Apple Store

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.

Comments closed
    • Kulith
    • 9 years ago

    Wait a minute, why are you using iPhone earbuds in the first place? Of course they’d give you another free pair, they cost a whole 2 cents to make.

    Seriously, use real headphones.

      • Palek
      • 9 years ago

      Indeed. I don’t think I even removed the original earbuds from their packaging when I bought my iPod. Even a cheap $30 pair of Sony earbuds is magnitudes better.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 9 years ago

    A typical write up of working retail nothing really new here. I don’t by the “Drug Dealer” part though, that is a load of BS or coming from the mind of a really sheltered and/or closeminded individual who has no clue about modern society in a large city. I like how “Drug Dealers” is really code for thugs. Drug Dealers can afford to buy iPhones and don’t need stolen CC’s also most drug dealers use pre-paid phones or phones that don’t require a contract. I also don’t buy that “they run” when being called out on using a stolen CC or a fake ID even more so when there are ex-police (or so it states) as security.

    This whole write up sounds like a piece on Faux News.

    • Corrado
    • 9 years ago

    I think the difference between most electronics stores and Apple is that the people that work at the Apple store generally use and like/love Apple products. This makes for a generally more knowledgable sales person. They may not be experts, but they can easily let people know how things work and how to do most things, as opposed to going into Best Buy and asking about cameras or TVs or stereo equipment, the sales drones usually just spew a bunch of bullshit because they haven’t really ever USED the product they’re trying to sell you, and could really not care less about said product, just making the sale.

    • MixedPower
    • 9 years ago

    [quote<]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.[/quote<] That reminds me of a thread I came across on the Mac forums where some unfortunate user wanted to know if OSX would be supporting TRIM in the future since they were thinking of buying an SSD. Multiple moderators chided the person for violating forum rules and even threatened them! Needless to say, the user decided to switch to Windows. On a side note, blue shirts? The employees at the local Mac store wear red.

      • UberGerbil
      • 9 years ago

      [url=http://i364.photobucket.com/albums/oo84/mp_2027/crips_vs_bloods.gif<]Uh oh[/url<], homie, there's gonna be a [url=http://verydemotivational.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/129174773294963270.jpg<]war[/url<]! Watch out for those geniuses putting on the do rags and throwing down the gang signs, yo!

    • rika13
    • 9 years ago

    Instead of lining bad Steve’s pockets, buy a real product and a net, to remind you not only of the money you have saved, but also the karma from not allowing evil Steve to exploit people for a monstrous 15.6% profit (as % of revenue).

    [url<]http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/fortune/compare_2010.jsp?id=670&view=b[/url<] Feel free to enjoy your not leashed phone/mp3 player/incompatible computer that you were able to purchase from the store of your choice.

      • mcnabney
      • 9 years ago

      Only 15.6% profitability?

      That isn’t really that good. In fact, it sounds really low for how much Apple charges. My company hovers between 40-45% PROFIT off of revenue.

        • yogibbear
        • 9 years ago

        I think they were being sarcastic.

    • steelcity_ballin
    • 9 years ago

    Nice try, Apple PR team.

    • rephlex
    • 9 years ago

    How many pieces of flair are the Apple Store employees required to wear?

    • blastdoor
    • 9 years ago

    I think Apple Store employees are the best in Big Retail, bar none. Sure, there are always going to be people who have a bad experience, but in general, the Apple store employees that I’ve encountered have been a cut above.

    Also, when I read some of the b!tchy posts about retail employees in forums, I can’t help but wonder what the other side of the story is. There is definitely a special type of person who gets their jollies by bullying retail employees and then acting as if they are somehow a victim. And I can’t help but think a lot of those folks then go “brag” about their “exploits” in forums like this.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 9 years ago

      I have to agree. And as someone who worked in computer retail, I know it happens. My boss was great, though – he on more than one occasion stood up to “bully” type people who would get louder and louder. As long as I didn’t retaliate verbally, he was on my side. Really rare in the retail business, by the by.

        • blastdoor
        • 9 years ago

        I once saw this happen in an Apple store. The customer clearly headed in there with a confrontation in mind. I think maybe he thought he was showing off in front of his girlfriend (the dispute appeared to be about her laptop), but she looked absolutely mortified. Dude was clearly some rageoholic a-hole.

        While there are certainly some bad retail employees out there, the low-end of the customer distribution is far worse than the low-end of the employee distribution (just because low-end employees can be fired, but low-end customers cannot).

    • swaaye
    • 9 years ago

    Instead of Apple tax, you can go to Best Buy and buy a service plan. 😀 I’m thinking that gets you better service. In my experience they don’t mess around much with service plan people. For high usage cameras it is completely awesome. Got a free EOS 50D upgrade out of them a year ago. When I’ve had to have them send things off for service it has been very expedient, few questions asked, and completely positive. But that could just be my local store.

    I’ve never been to an Apple store. I don’t know if there are any around here.

      • DrCR
      • 9 years ago

      Best buy is clueless when it comes to servicing Apple computers. If you get a service plan with a Mac from them, you just wasted your money. It’s also a great way to void your ALW.

    • orcman893
    • 9 years ago

    Whats wrong with Death Metal? Cannibal Corpse FTW! XD

      • BiffStroganoffsky
      • 9 years ago

      The ‘really scary homeless people’ who listen to it. :p

      • burntham77
      • 9 years ago

      The fact that it is called “Death Metal” doesn’t give it away?

        • orcman893
        • 9 years ago

        Nope, sure doesn’t. It’s just music.

        • CampinCarl
        • 9 years ago

        Mostly a derivative of the fact that Death was the pioneering force of the musical style. Scream Bloody Gore is just…awesome.

        • dmjifn
        • 9 years ago

        Man, I suppose you have something against Death Jazz, too? 🙄

      • internetsandman
      • 9 years ago

      Canibal Corpse? Honestly? I don’t wanna get into a huge musical debate about it, bu there are seriously better metal bands you could have mentioned

        • orcman893
        • 9 years ago

        The comment was for fun?… No need to be a snob… really… Now you can go back and listen to your boy bands.

          • Sikthskies
          • 9 years ago

          Cannibal corpse aren’t that bad! Saw them a year ago; gig was great until i got a warm cup of something over my head. No wam drinks were being sold…:(

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 9 years ago

    I see the RDF is strong even with retail employees. Apple is ridiculous with their brainwashing, I wouldn’t want to work there let alone purchase their products.
    Remember the iphone leak? They busted into that guys house with a swat team, and their manufacturing plants are basically prison sweatshops. Not to mention the purchasing limitations and background checks for buying their products. Apple gets my vote for evil company of the year.

      • GrimDanfango
      • 9 years ago

      Well, as much as I’m no fan of Apple, I highly doubt the manufacturing plants of any other multinational electronics giant are any less prison sweatshops than theirs. Or the manufacturing plants of just about any of our affordable manufactured luxury items.
      When all said and done, if you live in a western capitalist society, and buy stuff… it’s highly likely that you’re indirectly ****ing on some underpaid factory workers somewhere in the world.

      Everyone loves to bash their own set of “evil corporations”, but they’re usually happy enough to turn a blind eye to the ones they favour.

        • NeelyCam
        • 9 years ago

        So true.

    • PixelArmy
    • 9 years ago

    [quote<]A friend of mine also made several trips to try to get a misbehaving MacBook fixed. [b<]I ultimately had to intervene[/b<], 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.[/quote<] Emphasis my own. So what if it is local...? doesn't sound like they fixed anything! My experiences with the "geniuses" are similar. They can easily replace stuff (under warranty), but they do not seem knowledgeable on "real" problems.

      • BiffStroganoffsky
      • 9 years ago

      Since they are ‘magical’ devices, you need the services of a Grand Wizard and not a ‘genius’. All hail Cyril!

      • bender
      • 9 years ago

      I was just gonna bring that up.

      Huh?

      There’s a bum on the street corner who can also -not- fix your computer. That certainly justifies Apple tax somehow. This is the very essence of Apple zealotry.

      Besides, most of the country does not live by an Apple store.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 9 years ago

        he isn’t necessarily saying he fixed it, he’s just saying he had something to do with getting it fixed. That may mean as little as talking to the “genius” for his friend.

        • demani
        • 9 years ago

        Apple is in most of the population centers in the country- I bet they cover more than 50% of the US population. And I’d bet its as much a case of Cyril bringing it in and saying “Hey, fix this part here, nutbag!”- sometime’s that’s what it takes (if you’ve ever had to deal with repairmen-especially technical ones- sometimes a good wrench waving is what they need. But when your Dell smokes it, who can you take it to? There is a big plus to that stuff. It’s cerainly not perfect, but I’ve yet to find another computer vendor who treats consumers better. Do you know of one?

          • SomeOtherGeek
          • 9 years ago

          Yes, I know one, me and myself. I treat me the best. 😉

      • Darkmage
      • 9 years ago

      Eh. My limited experience has been pretty good. They have been able to restore & update my iPod Touch when the new software invariably causes a total device lockup. Sure, they hook it up to one of their magical MacBooks and do pretty much the same thing I was trying to do and wipe my iPod in the process… but it doesn’t require replacing the device.

      Granted, they also try to sell me a $600 laptop so I can update the firmware on my $200 music player… but I don’t hold that against them. I DO hold the fact that Apple has created a buggy piece of bloatware in the form of iTunes against them.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 9 years ago

    Lots of good that local “support” is. I know someone whose Macbook’s hard drives died after exactly a year, and they were told, to their face, that it was a known issue, but their warranty was up and they wouldn’t be covered. Oh, but they’ll recover the lost data for only $700! How helpful!

    The one time I went into an Apple store to buy something, I had a gift card someone gave me and looked on their website first to see if there was anything I could possibly find that I’d want to use it for. I found some headphones that seemed decent. The store had them, with a big price tag showing the exact same price I’d seen on the website.

    Well, the cash register believed otherwise. I didn’t notice at first because it was conveniently just high enough to still fit on the gift card, so they rang it up incorrectly, anyways, and put the receipt in the bag, handed it all to me, and sent me on my way.

    Before I walked away, I got out everything out of the bag, noticed the price on the receipt, showed them, and pointed to the tag on the box and said that couldn’t possibly be right. They said that must have been from a previous sale, and the register’s price was the correct one. I said I’d just looked on the website, and the price was the same as what the sticker said, so there definitely wasn’t some phantom sale of the past involved.

    A manager came over and told me they could refund the difference, but the lower price I saw was a “mistake,” and the higher price absolutely must have been the correct one. They went out their way to just lie to my face and make excuses.

    Best Buy has better service than that. That’s pathetic.

      • albundy
      • 9 years ago

      I gave you a +1, because your story merits a complaint to the BBB for their stores defrauding customers.

      • demani
      • 9 years ago

      Given that it was just out of warranty you should tell your friend to go back and get a refund for the drive install, since that ended up being part of a known recall. And I don’t know a single computer company or hard drive company that will recover data for free if the drive fails. Not one. So Apple is simply right there with everyone else.

      Of Course Apple is crazy neurotic-it’s one reason they’ve been able to sell ridiculous amounts of stuff per square foot- that ratio isn’t a bad metric by any measure, and says that people do respond to good service (which by and large the support staff in the stores does).

      Apple: $100= up to 26 sessions with a trainer over a year at the retail location (possibly more).
      Microsoft: $100= 1 hour of training at their retail location.
      Apple gets it; other retailers don’t. I’m not saying they are perfect, but expecting a high level of customer service has paid off handsomely, and anyone going to Apple Store to work should think of it more like a high pressure sales position, not like a WalMart job. Same as selling Mazda vs. Lexus: one has a lot higher expectations for customer service.

      And I’ve had Best Buy screw up plenty of times (USB extender cable=$144.99 for reals? obviously someone miskeyed. Or a drive shows as $79 online but you get to the store and its $109? “That’s the web price, sir.”).

      Retail jobs just suck, no matter what you are selling. This article just gives particular details about one retailer. I’m sure Dell kiosk folks, or Microsoft Retail folks would have similar stories (and I know Best Buy people do, having worked at a similar type of store myself).

      • KoolAidMan
      • 9 years ago

      And a friend of mine, with a MBP that was almost out of a 3 year warranty, got a brand new Macbook Pro, no questions asked, after the second attempt to fix the motherboard had failed.

      Replacing a 2006 MBP with a 2009 model is pretty damn good. This lines up with other people I know who have had technical issues with their Macs (knock on wood, I haven’t had hardware issues with any of my PCs or Macs since 2003). There’s a huge reason why Apple’s customer service ratings are so much higher than Dell/HP/Gateway/etc consumer businesses, and it isn’t because of people drinking the kool-aid…

      • DrCR
      • 9 years ago

      My impression is Apple employees don’t talk about their Quality Program or extensions unless you bring it up.

      That hard drive would have been covered (boots to a blinking folder with question mark issue? if so, yup, covered) … along with a replacement topcase if she (likely) had a plastic cracking issue.

      AFAIK, Apples doesn’t want anything to do with data recovery. I’m quite surprised they offered a data recovery option. In fact, I doubt that part of the story period. But no matter because if it was the above described issue, good luck getting data off if it, even if you went the Drive Savers route.

    • thermistor
    • 9 years ago

    As a person who has done assisted sales (as an outside “expert” brand representative) in venues like Computer City, Best Buy, etc. on and off for almost the last 20 years, I think IT/CE in general attract some of the most wild-a$$ shoppers this side of the looney bin.

    Just check out the people-of-Wal-Mart, add in a few effete snobs (sorry, just playing to the stereotype – don’t flame me!) and you’ve got the Apple store crowd, and a pretty decent cross section of IT/CE shoppers in general.

    • BKA
    • 9 years ago

    Sounds like a normal retail job to me.

      • UberGerbil
      • 9 years ago

      Exactly: this just in, retail work sucks, some customers are crazy, more at 11:00. Even the little psychological exercises (call them “team-building” or “motivational” or “cult-like”) aren’t all that unusual for the larger retail operations. Here’s a question, though (and I can’t be bothered to RTA to find out): do the sales floor-drones get to participate in any kind of stock purchase plan? Because (given AAPL’s performance over the past couple of years) I imagine many people would put up with all sorts of crap for that.

      • FuturePastNow
      • 9 years ago

      Yep.

      Abuse from clients? Check.

      Pushing unwanted warranties and services? Check.

      Low pay and firings over innocent comments? Check.

      Apple Employee Discount? Darn. At least they get 15% off.

        • Peffse
        • 9 years ago

        Does that even cover the Apple tax?

      • TurtlePerson2
      • 9 years ago

      I’ve worked in retail for a while now and I’ve found that the customers who make the biggest stink tend to not be your best customers financially. I don’t know why retail people put up with so much.

        • ludi
        • 9 years ago

        My favorite tale from early college days was the woman who bought a cordless phone battery in non-resealable packaging and then tried to return it a couple days later because her husband had already bought one, in clear contravention of our return policy for consumables. We politely but firmly refused. She made a huge stink over the $10, then demanded to see the store owner, who was out of town. We gave her his return schedule, upon which she came back and made an equally big stink to him, and then — in the course of trying to prove that she knew how [i<]real[/i<] customer service ought to be performed -- made the mistake of revealing that she was an airline customer service agent. Boss: "O RLY? Which airline?" She: "Uh..Xyz Airlines." Boss: "O RLY? Well I just flew on Xyz last week and had a terrible time with the flight attendants while trying to get my daughter's special booster seat taken care of. So let's see how good your customer service skills are..." ...upon which he barked her right back into her own corner within three minutes. She left with her tail between her legs and that was the last we saw or heard from her.

          • SomeOtherGeek
          • 9 years ago

          Awesome story, thanks for sharing.

          • internetsandman
          • 9 years ago

          Damn! That has got to be the best perk of being management of any retail location, is being able to snap back at customers who make a huge deal out of something without getting reprimanded for something. As someone who’s quite low in seniority in my retail position, it seriously sucks when you gotta deal with clueless asshole customers with a smile on your face acting like you care, when, if you had the power to, you’d yell at them to STFU and move on

        • paulWTAMU
        • 9 years ago

        that was my experience as well. We had chronic return people and I had no clue why managers didn’t just tell them to take a hike when they threatened to never shop there again–and all I wanted to do was point out that they don’t shop there anyway, they just rent!

    • yogibbear
    • 9 years ago

    It wouldn’t surpise me if Apple “leaked” this as part of their own sick advertising campaign.

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