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Competitive, secretive world of Apple Store employees profiled

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
A rather tame accounting of the life of an Apple Store employee has detailed the kinds of customers and corporate policy that the company's retail workers cope with in their jobs.

A report by Popular Mechanics, written by a Apple retail employee, described a culture of secrecy while working with difficult customers.

"They have a really lenient attendance policy," the writer says. "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."

Speculating about what might be in the pipeline is so dangerous that the writer says employees play dumb and sometimes work to remain ignorant. "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 difficult public

"Its amazing how badly behaved some customers are," the writer said. "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."

Other customer hazards include drug dealers trying to set up a phone account using phony IDs, fake credit cards or a false Social Security number. Call them out on that, the writer said, and they run.

Chinese resellers trying to negotiate deals on iPads, random people who just visit to use the computers, and shoplifters were also noted, requiring undercover security guards who are "paid really well" to "deal with people doing things like wheeling in strollers and trying to use them to roll off with Time Capsules and iPods."

Sales push

Apple Store employees aren't paid commissions, but they are tracked for sales performance. "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."

One metric is the attachment rate, measuring how many copies of AppleCare and MobileMe an employee sells compared to the amount of hardware transactions they complete.

"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," the employee said.

For better or worse

Along with other comments made in the report, the employee's remarks were tame compared to the anonymous complaint blog CrApple Store, which details horror stories of terrible customers and often portrays store managers as inept.

At the same time, one reader commenting on the story wrote, "I read some of the crapplestore posts and, honestly, that just wasn't my experience at all. I'm guessing that the store managers make a huge difference, but I worked in one of the Chicago stores and was truly impressed with how well the store was run and the high quality of the employees and managers. I'd worked in Magnolia Home Theater at Best Buy prior to the Apple Store, and the difference between the two was night and day."
post #2 of 27
Austin, the Domain, top notch folks. The manger is friendly, Genius Bar folks rock.

I don't even ask anymore about products, they won't even hint.

And, I have to say, that observing customers, you usually get the type of reaction you provide. Being respectful and nice get's great service as much as being a jerk.
post #3 of 27
This sounds like nothing new to people who've worked in retail. Ups and down. Hell, that's many industries. I am just amazed at how adult people act like spoiled little brats to get an old iThingie replaced that's well out of warranty. I think I'd be the Ron Artest of retail if I actually worked in that industry. Instead, I work in IT.
post #4 of 27
The Apple Store dude convinced me to purchase Applecare for my daughter's computer. Now I feel worked... But it is a good deal, right?
post #5 of 27
Sounds pretty normal for retail almost any job you take has performance targets.

Selling MobileMe?

Piece of cake, " this comes with a free 60 day trial, give it a try and if you like it keep it going, it does blah, blah, blah, want me to set it up for you?"

Done, if you don't ask the question they won't buy..

I've been selling phones and plans for a long time now, commission based which is a driver to figuring out the best way to sell the things the company I work for wants sold.
Better than my Bose, better than my Skullcandy's, listening to Mozart through my LeBron James limited edition PowerBeats by Dre is almost as good as my Sennheisers.
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Better than my Bose, better than my Skullcandy's, listening to Mozart through my LeBron James limited edition PowerBeats by Dre is almost as good as my Sennheisers.
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post #6 of 27
It should almost be a requirement that everyone works in the service/retail industry at some point in their lives. lol

My dad loves his One to One appointments... he's a gentleman and thinks "all the young kids there are great" So, if any Apple store employees are reading this- know there's plenty of us who appreciate you!


On the negative side.... After reading this article- I FEEL TERRIBLE that one time I got into a lot of speculation talk with a business phone support employee... Yikes. Hope he didn't lose his job!
post #7 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Muncie View Post

The Apple Store dude convinced me to purchase Applecare for my daughter's computer. Now I feel worked... But it is a good deal, right?

Speaking from personal experience, if it's ever needed, the benefits are first rate.

"Be aware of wonder." ~ Robert Fulghum

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"Be aware of wonder." ~ Robert Fulghum

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post #8 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Muncie View Post

The Apple Store dude convinced me to purchase Applecare for my daughter's computer. Now I feel worked... But it is a good deal, right?

I've used macs for 16 years. I always buy Applecare. I haven't used it on most computers, but when I have needed to use it, its easily paid for itself.
post #9 of 27
I was a part time employee who was part of the group that opened one of the first stores in southern California. It was a good experience. I was working full time as a teacher at the time, and as a long time Apple enthusiast it was more about the experience than the money. We went through several days of training at a hotel before the store opened. As someone said in an earlier post, everyone should have the experience of working retail at some point in their lives. This was mine. Apple was very early in their retail experience (2001) and was still figuring it all out. As it turned out, we were somewhat overstaffed, and after about six months I was laid off along with several other part timers. There was plenty of hours for the full timers and they could work extra to cover any open times. I don't even know if they still even have part timers.

The hardest part for me was being on my feet for sustained periods. I was in good shape but 55 year old feet just didn't have the stamina they once did. I loved the idea of the free chilled water the Geniuses used to give out. Sorry to see that nice touch pass. I recall being outraged when some jerk walked off with a Sony video camera. There was no security in those early innocent days. The whole vibe was idealistic and cool. I really liked sharing my enthusiasm for Apple products with newbies. It was Apple evangelism with an instant payoff. Good times.
A.k.a. AppleHead on other forums.
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A.k.a. AppleHead on other forums.
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post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by zzyzx View Post

I've used macs for 16 years. I always buy Applecare. I haven't used it on most computers, but when I have needed to use it, its easily paid for itself.

Applecare is definitely a good deal if you can afford it. Way too many things can go wrong, and although I've had Apple take mercy on me and replace my stuff for free, just as often I would be stuck. I think its definitely worth it, technology breaks, its just a fact of life.
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Muncie View Post

The Apple Store dude convinced me to purchase Applecare for my daughter's computer. Now I feel worked... But it is a good deal, right?

Applecare def pays for itself. I've had mostly macs since the late 90's and purchased apple care for them all (usually wait until 9-11months after I purchase the computer). I've used it twice. The first time was for the dome iMac. My hard drive failed like 5 days before the Apple Care was to expire. No questions asked, they replaced it. This was before all the retail locations, so an authorized agent picked up my computer and then dropped it off to me when fixed. The next time was when my MacBook Pro had some dead pixels on it. No questions asked, they replaced the screen, an $800 replacement at the time. Well worth it! I usually wait because I might want to sell the computer before the year is up, but it is transferable.
post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

This sounds like nothing new to people who've worked in retail. Ups and down. Hell, that's many industries. I am just amazed at how adult people act like spoiled little brats to get an old iThingie replaced that's well out of warranty. I think I'd be the Ron Artest of retail if I actually worked in that industry. Instead, I work in IT.

Thats not surprising at all, people act like the world revolves around them when they purchase anything. Time and again ive seen people make complete fools of themselves over a phone bill, or people raising hell simply to try and get a free meal.

Whats sad is that people get their tantrums rewarded for acting like a jackass
post #13 of 27
It should be mentioned that the UK store managers are particularly appalling (speaking from experience having worked at the Regent Street store). They dont care about Apple, just their bonuses (yes because managers actually get a bonus! Other employees do all the hard work and sell the required percentages of attachments, they dont care about hardware sales, which most people dont need. They threaten your position within the company if you fail to meet targets and if youre a new employee your three month probation is extended to keep you on your toes and even then they will probably let you go). Obviously Apple only hire the best leaders from the UKs failed or failing businesses such as HMV, Dixons, Zavvi, Borders.

The managers and their little sisters are more than happy to strap on their crampons and thrust a piton into a coworkers back to get to the top. The latest one, I hear, has a lust for little cubby boys and is personally seeing to his development within the company while more experienced employees are overlooked. This is just typical behaviour in regard to getting promoted, you either have to sleep with someone above or be someones personal little sycophant.

Im glad to be free of that place because I have never felt more under-appreciated or used and tossed aside in my life.
post #14 of 27
NYC store is well run. Mgmt helpful and always available.
Employees are for the most part curtious and seem to be well educated in all Apple products.


More companies should bring back that old fashion customer service.
post #15 of 27
Apple care always worked for me (Although Apple always been nice to replace if any of my toys were broken) , But my MacBOOK PRO SCREEN WENT DEAD in Taiwan , while I was in Business trip, I found a Mac store and in one day they replaced my Screen and they gave me a loaner in between
Apple care took care of everything , Another time my G3 Modem died in S korea , same thing one day turned around , My First Generation Iphone had green Camera and was replaced twice .

So I have nothing bad to say about Apple Care and gladly without hesitation have suggested to all friends and family who have bought Apple stuff.
Mobile me , I cant do without as my Email is .Mac or .me and it is so easy and all my Calendar , Contacts on my Macs and Iphone are all synced constantly .

Apple store employees in Valley fair and Los gatos , CA where I shop I know and their manager , and they are the best..Both employees and the Manager .....

I am a Tech support at my job and believe me some times it is really hard talking to some
People , But that is what we get paid for and the payoff in solving people's problem is rewarding.
post #16 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by VivianPotthasth View Post

Thanks for info on this issue. I dont know that

want a little spam to go along with your post?
post #17 of 27
Applecare is good when it's cheap. Being a student rocks.

The attendance policy was really strict in my experience. It was three strikes you're out.
I can confirm the attachment metrics... no commission but ALWAYS pressure to do better with something.

You know, they train you to think you are there to help people but deep down inside they PUSH in subtle ways to just sell the hell out of everything they have. Not a bad thing... just stressful and not paid well enough for a true expert.
post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

I don't even know if they still even have part timers.

Oh, they still exist.
post #19 of 27
I like Apple's products, but it'd be a cold day in hell before I'd work in one of their stores.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #20 of 27
Hope that employee was already fired. What an awful disclosure. This should never seen the public. AAPL price is going to take a serious hit.
post #21 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Le Chiffre View Post

It should be mentioned that the UK store managers are particularly appalling (speaking from experience having worked at the Regent Street store). They dont care about Apple, just their bonuses (yes because managers actually get a bonus!

I've only been into the Regents Street store once with a faulty product and the experience was pleasant. A bit of a wait (even though I'd pre-booked) but the staff were lovely.

I guess it's easy for a bad manager to get away with being a bad manager in such a popular store though.
post #22 of 27
On the important stuff, I've always found the staff at Apple stores to be really terrific.

My daughter's kid pushed her laptop screen way back and broke the hinges. The computer still worked, but they had to support the screen with a brick. Apple said it wasn't worth repairing- it would be too expensive (I think they quoted $1700). Then the video card died. She brought it in and told them to only fix the video card. She got it back and the entire machine was fixed. She freaked out because she thought they were going to charge her credit card for the full amount. They never charged her a penny.

My son-in-law had a Mac tower and the power supply died. He brought it in under warranty and they fixed it and it died again. He brought it back and they fixed it again, but again it died. On the third visit, they completely replaced the tower, but by that time, only a newer model was available, so he got a free hardware upgrade.

I had a problem with the DVD drive in my MacBook Pro. I got an appointment around midnight (NYC). The "Expert" recognized that I knew what I was doing and rather putting everything again through extensive testing, like setting up a guest account and then testing again, he asked a few questions, and I demonstrated how the drive wouldn't play several different DVDs. He took the machine for repair, but warned me I might not have it back for a few days. When I woke up the next morning (about 8 hours later), I already had an email that the machine was fixed.

When I bought my iPhone, the sales person asked whether I wanted the Apple Care, but I said "no" and that was that. There was no hard sell.

I think, as with any such situation, if you treat people with respect, you get back respect. There are certainly exceptions where loud, obnoxious people get service they don't deserve, but most of the time, being arrogant doesn't pay. All in all, I'd say that my experience in the Apple Store has been very positive especially considering that while Apple may pay slightly above average for today's retail, it's still crap pay, especially for the tech people, who could make far more supporting Macs in a corporate environment. When I read the stories of horrors and bad management at Apple Stores, I'm always very surprised, but maybe the NYC stores, because they're very high traffic, get better management.
post #23 of 27
From the references I see on the net, Popular Mechanics seems to have interesting articles on a regular basis. This makes me think maybe I should subscribe...
Does anyone have a link to the actual article, and is it online. I know I could go the the site and see, which I probably will, I'm just saying that it would be nice to add an article link at the bottom of the original post.
Anyway, from my experience, most customers are nice to deal with, but not all. I would think that dealing with the "general public" can be a challenge, to say the least!
post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"They have a really lenient attendance policy," the writer says. "You have to be late like 15 times before they'll fire you."

Actually, the policy isn't quite as lenient as the author implies. Apple retail employees can be terminated in as little as 3 late instances, depending on the frequency of the incidents.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"But if you talk to the press or speculate to a customer about the next iPad? That's the end of you."

True that... Customers always think the retail employees are lying when they say they don't know anything about upcoming product releases. But they aren't. Employees see for the first time, and get trained on new products the day they are launched. At best, they've touched the product 3 maybe 4 hours before store opening.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Speculating about what might be in the pipeline is so dangerous that the writer says employees play dumb and sometimes work to remain ignorant.

Ummm... no. Apple retail employees love Apple products, and are as up-to-date on the latest gossip as any other Apple-loving consumer. Most that I know read multiple gossip sites but are careful to never let on during customer interactions--so the "play dumb" part is right. The standard answer to any speculative question is: "If it's not on apple.com, it isn't official, and I'm not able to discuss it."

However, in comparison, way more employees are termed for time and attendance than for product speculation. In fact, I've never known anyone to be fired for talking about unreleased products, but about 5% of staff (my guess) get caught on the no-tolerence late policy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"Its amazing how badly behaved some customers are," the writer said. "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."

Clearly someone who's never worked in retail prior to his/her Apple Store stint.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

One metric is the attachment rate, measuring how many copies of AppleCare and MobileMe an employee sells compared to the amount of hardware transactions they complete.

I have no idea at which store this person works, but my experience has been that underperforming in the One-to-One ad-on is the metric that usually leads to chats with management. AppleCare is a cakewalk to sell. MobileMe is a little tougher thanks to Google Docs. It's even more difficult now that Apple is giving away the most sellable feature: Find My iStuff (iPhone, iPad, iPod). Now anyone with an iTunes account can register to find their Apple iOS4 device for free. (Not all devices running iOS4 can take advantage of the free Find My iPhone.) One-to-One, on the other hand, has almost zero appeal to repeat buyers, especially if they don't see the value in the data transfer. It's also a tough sell to budget-conscious customers as well. It's simply a harder service to sell, but one that Apple pushes its sales staff on the most.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"I read some of the crapplestore posts and, honestly, that just wasn't my experience at all. I'm guessing that the store managers make a huge difference..."

Ya think....? THAT can be said of any company, any store.
post #25 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Le Chiffre View Post

It should be mentioned that the UK store managers are particularly appalling (speaking from experience having worked at the Regent Street store). They dont care about Apple, just their bonuses (yes because managers actually get a bonus! Other employees do all the hard work and sell the required percentages of attachments, they dont care about hardware sales, which most people dont need. They threaten your position within the company if you fail to meet targets and if youre a new employee your three month probation is extended to keep you on your toes and even then they will probably let you go). Obviously Apple only hire the best leaders from the UKs failed or failing businesses such as HMV, Dixons, Zavvi, Borders.

The managers and their little sisters are more than happy to strap on their crampons and thrust a piton into a coworkers back to get to the top. The latest one, I hear, has a lust for little cubby boys and is personally seeing to his development within the company while more experienced employees are overlooked. This is just typical behaviour in regard to getting promoted, you either have to sleep with someone above or be someones personal little sycophant.

Im glad to be free of that place because I have never felt more under-appreciated or used and tossed aside in my life.

As another person who worked a the Regent Street store during the summer of '10 I can say that I do agree with you on many of your points. They do treat you, despite what it says in their little handbook, as a resource to be sucked dry and discarded. The turnover in that place was HORRIBLE. Virtually NO training on computer related products. And you got the distinct impression from both management and HR that you were more of a nuisance than an asset. Oh sure, they talked a good game but actions speak louder than words.

As for attachments, this is the god's honest truth. I remember one particularly HORRIBLE training to teach us how to sell applecare. One of the EU bigshots for applecare came in and trained us on how to sell it whereupon he proceeded to tell us that the more applecare we sold (we get no commission mind you) the better his bonus would be. When someone made a joke about selling 100% applecare he said something like he wished we would do that because he could then retire early. . . he then thought about it and said well perhaps not but he could buy any expensive sports car he wanted. So we were supposed to bust our asses so that he could get a sports car? I think not. On top of it it was a profanity laced presentation which would not have been so bad but for the fact that on the other end of the second floor there were one-to-one trainings going on at the same time.

Another example of the "need for attachments" was a presentation by a lead who is now an Expert. During this presentation on how to sell one-to-one we were basically told that we could lie. Mind you this was with one of the Managers standing right there (hello GILLI!). What this expert said was that he routinely lied and told people how he had been transformed by the use of one-to-one even though he did not (at the time of the presentation) and never had owned a mac in his life. He also gave us other tips on how to sell the product that involved similar techniques of telling them about how we personally knew folks who this had transformed their lives or that it had transformed our lives even though the vast majority of us did not own a one-to-one membership (we would have to purchase it if we wanted one). Again, that little handbook instructs you to be truthful with your customers at all times.

Their management is THE WORST!!!!!!
post #26 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

This sounds like nothing new to people who've worked in retail. Ups and down. Hell, that's many industries. I am just amazed at how adult people act like spoiled little brats to get an old iThingie replaced that's well out of warranty. I think I'd be the Ron Artest of retail if I actually worked in that industry. Instead, I work in IT.

A friend of mine is the business manager at a car dealership. They had a customer who made a huge scene when picking a new car up because the fuel tank was only half full. My friend, the manager, came out and told the man that in his experience if a customer is that much trouble on the day he picks up his new car, he will be nothing but trouble down the road. He told the man he couldn't have the car, and had the staff give him his money back. So the man had to leave the dealership and go explain to his wife why they couldn't have the car.

The man came back a week later pleading with them to sell him the car. He was never a problem with them again.

When bullies are put in their place they stop. People raise a big stink and get away with it because that behavior is all too often reinforced.
post #27 of 27
I guess I'm harder on store employees than I thought. No, not crying or screaming. But I've never purchased AppleCare, and I never will. To begin with, I was taught long ago to never insure something you can afford to lose. Secondly, the few glitches I've had with Apple products have almost always been inside the normal warranty period.

If their quality ever drops to the point where AppleCare looks like a "good deal", I will start looking elsewhere for product -- not pay more to be ready for the defects.

The plan is fine if losing your desktop or laptop would break the bank. But insuring everything you ever buy is a losing proposition in the long run.
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