Confessions of an Apple Store Employee
Apple is famous for its secrecy, with a code of silence that runs from top management all the way down to its retail employees. One Apple Store employee decided to throw protocol to the curb and tell us what it’s really like working at the vaunted retail outlets
We are completely in the dark until they do a keynote speech. We have no idea what is coming and are not allowed to openly speculate. You can get into serious trouble if you speculate—especially to a customer. I am asked five times per day about the next iPad or iPhone, and I quite simply don’t know. But I would be in huge trouble if I said something like “The next iPad is going to have a camera.” I actually avoid the technology section of the newspaper so I have no points of view to accidentally comment with or drop into conversation. I’d rather just be dumb about it. The day of a big keynote, everybody at the store watches it. It’s also really easy to get out of work that day by saying you want to watch the keynote from home. They’ll never say no. Then they’ll start preparing us for the big launch and start scheduling crazy shifts. During the iPhone 4 launch, they brought us food—and good food! Somebody told me that the 5th Avenue store in New York had a masseuse during one launch, and that another store had a kiddie pool full of goldfish as, like, a Zen thing. They also really emphasize how important it is for us to stay hydrated, and we can get big bonuses if we work really long hours on a launch day.
Its amazing how badly behaved some customers are. I have seen customers have complete meltdowns and get phones exchanged that were like two years old. They scream, cry, curse. And it works. People can be horrible. Sometimes it’s like working at McDonald’s, with better pay. I’ve never been treated so badly in my life.
Dealing With Drug Dealers
We get a lot of drug dealers who try to buy iPhones with fake IDs. You can tell them instantly just by how shady they act, and they know you know, but you obviously can’t start accusing them of being drug dealers—they are customers, after all. But when they try to check out, they’ll use what are obviously fake IDs or fake credit cards, and it often turns out they’re using a dead person’s Social Security number or something. And when you call them out on that—then, they run.
We aren’t paid on commission, but you fear for your job if you’re not selling enough. We’re supposed to sell AppleCare product support with just about everything, and honestly, those aren’t that hard to sell, since they aren’t a bad deal. But we’re also supposed to push MobileMe, and that’s really hard to sell. Nobody ever sells it.
We have a posted list of our metrics, and you can see everybody else’s. It shows you how much money each person is pulling in for the company. If you aren’t doing very well, you start getting manager meetings, and they sit you down and try to figure out why you aren’t selling more.
When the iPad first launched, we got tons of resellers from China coming in and trying to pay in cash. Back then, you had to reserve an iPad before you could pick it up, so they would go to the computers in the back of the store and create e-mail address after e-mail address just to reserve an iPad on the spot. We’d get a lot of weird e-mail addresses, like firstname.lastname@example.org. And they tried to haggle us on the price for iPads! This is Apple—no way would that work.
The Apple Credo
Sometimes the company can feel like a cult. Like, they give us all this little paper pamphlet, and it says things like—and I’m paraphrasing here—”Apple is our soul, our people are our soul.” Or “We aim to provide technological greatness.” And there was this one training session in which they started telling us how to work on our personality, and separating people into those with an external focus and an internal focus. It was just weird.
There are security guards everywhere. They are undercover, so you can’t tell who they are. A lot of them are retired cops, and they get paid really well. They have to deal with people doing things like wheeling in strollers and trying to use them to roll off with Time Capsules and iPods.
How to Get Fired
They have a really lenient attendance policy. You have to be late like 15 times before they’ll fire you. But if you talk to the press or speculate to a customer about the next iPad? That’s the end of you. The Public Computers A lot of teenagers come in and use Photo Booth and then ask us how to upload their shots to Facebook. A lot of homeless people come in and do live webcasts. Those are fine. Then we have some really scary homeless people who come in and listen to death metal really loudly on the Bose speakers. My favorites are the teenagers who play Britney Spears really loud and start dancing. Not many people use the computers to access porn, but a lot of people change the languages on them. And it isn’t easy for us to figure out how to switch it back from Korean or Russian!
The Phone Room
The worst is when we have to work the Phone Room, which is where calls to the store are answered. The other day, I felt like I was working a suicide hot line. People sometimes call us up and treat us like we’re their therapists. Or we have women who want help with their computers as they try to prove their husbands are cheating on them. Usually I just transfer people to AppleCare so I don’t have to deal with them. Unlocked iPhones We get tons of people asking us for unlocked iPhones, which, of course, we don’t sell. We usually have to tell them that if they unlock their iPhone, it won’t work. That it’s going to be like a $700 paperweight, and that the antenna will fry itself on T-Mobile. Of course, that’s not true, but that’s what we tell them. And if they have an unlocked iPhone, we won’t touch it at the Genius Bar.
Working There Makes You Power Hungry
When I’m there, I get sucked into the competitive culture. Normally I’m pretty low-key, but when I’m at the store, it’s all sell, sell, sell! I wanna work my way up, get promoted and eventually get to the Genius Bar—which is where you want to be. Who doesn’t want to be a genius
Sourced from popularmechanics.com