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Secret retail documents show Apple's 'intensive control,' meticulous planning

post #1 of 91
Thread Starter 
A new look at secret documents and details related to Apple's highly successful retail operations reveals inside information on the employee interview process, pay rates, training and store rules.

The information was obtained by The Wall Street Journal and detailed in a new report from Yukari Iwati Kane and Ian Sherr. Among the details included is the fact that employees are forbidden from correcting a customer if they mispronounce a product name, so that they don't feel patronized.

In keeping with a positive theme at Apple's retail stores, those who hold the title of "Genius" are reportedly told to say "as it turns out" rather than use the word "unfortunately." This choice of language is intended to sound less negative when a Genius cannot solve a customer's problem.

Geniuses earn up to about $30 per hour, the report said, while other employees are said to be paid about $9 to $15 per hour at the sales level. The report also said that opportunities for employees to move up to a corporate position are "rare."

Even Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs is said to closely have a hand in Apple's retail operations. Citing a person familiar with the company, Kane and Sherr reported that Jobs decided what kind of security cables would be used in stores to keep devices tethered to tables.

"When the CEO grappled with a liver transplant two years ago, a person who visited him at the time said Mr. Jobs was poring over blueprints for future Apple stores," the report said.

Just getting a position at an Apple store is said to be difficult, as the process usually requires at least two rounds of interviews. Apple is even in the unique position of not having to seek out staff, as most stores are reportedly "flooded with applicants."

Employees are also said to go through extensive training, including classes that "apply Apple's principles of customer service." New hires must also silently shadow more experienced employees for weeks, and are forbidden from speaking to customers until they are appropriately trained.



The Journal's profile of Apple's retail success comes as the head of the company's retail operations, Ron Johnson, was revealed on Tuesday to be departing. Johnson will serve as the new president and chief executive of the J.C. Penney Company starting Nov. 1 of this year.

Johnson was lured away from Target by Jobs in 2000 to spearhead the company's fledgeling retail business. He had spent 15 years at Target as a key merchandising executive.

Johnson is renowned not only for crafting an international chain of retail stores that are among the world's most profitable per square foot, but also for pioneering the extremely successful "Genius Bar" concept found inside those stores, in the face of initial stiff opposition from Jobs.

In issuing a statement to wish Johnson well on Tuesday, Apple also revealed that it is "actively recruiting" a replacement for its newly departed executive. The corporate shakeup comes just after Apple's retail stores celebrated their tenth anniversary.
post #2 of 91
1) Apple has so much mindshare it's ridiculous.

2) I like these rules. The last thing customers wants is to be put down.
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post #3 of 91
I don't think I've ever heard anyone mispronounce an Apple product name. They are often written wrong though, e.g. MAC, Imac.
post #4 of 91
Hmmm maybe these 'geniuses' can explain to me why when I export photos from iPhoto - any photo that's in portrait orientation ends up inheriting the wrong file permissions...
post #5 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph L View Post

There are good reasons why Steve wants this stuff to remain secret. Revealing this information is against Steve's wishes.

Revealing this stuff is bad for the entire Apple community.

Why?? There's nothing in this that's particularly surprising to me.

I think it shows that Apple takes care of the small things. Always being positive for instance is something that just makes good sense in retail, and generally in life. It can come across as cheesy to cynics but it's hard to argue against it. It's this attention to detail that makes Apple the unique company it is.
post #6 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by pondosinatra View Post

Hmmm maybe these 'geniuses' can explain to me why when I export photos from iPhoto - any photo that's in portrait orientation ends up inheriting the wrong file permissions...

Hmmm....that clearly sounds like a bug. Maybe instead of posting here, you could visit:

http://www.apple.com/feedback/macosx.html
post #7 of 91
This is how to succeed.


And making great products doesn't hurt either.
post #8 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

I don't think I've ever heard anyone mispronounce an Apple product name. They are often written wrong though, e.g. MAC, Imac.

This article refers specifically to product names but I assume it goes beyond that. I know people refer to their entire PC as specific components such as hard drive, RAM and CPU, and often get their mixed up. Unless it's prudent for what is begin discussed, like in a workshop, then it's not important what they call it so long as the Apple employee and customer understand each other. After all, Apple wants the components to be invisible to the user and their devices to "just work" so it's a double whammy to point them out.
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post #9 of 91
Steve Jobs uses the 6 "P"s. Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance
post #10 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by addicted44 View Post

Hmmm....that clearly sounds like a bug. Maybe instead of posting here, you could visit:

http://www.apple.com/feedback/macosx.html

Pretty pathetic how you would choose this thread to ask such an asinine question, having absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter.
post #11 of 91
Wow, Apple keeps secrets better than the CIA. As someone who used to work Apple Retail, I can tell you all of this stuff I learned in like the first week of work - in 2001!
post #12 of 91
So in essence Apple took Best Buy's training and reversed everything
From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
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From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
Long on AAPL so biased
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post #13 of 91
Anyone in the Apple community already knows most of this.

I'm just surprised the WSJ feels this is newsworthy.
post #14 of 91
A case study on success.

The User Experience isn't just a one-time event. It doesn't just begin an end with the OS.

It's a journey, from cradle to grave. It begins from the moment you walk into the Store. First impressions.
post #15 of 91
The very word "Genius" still rankles me.
post #16 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

I don't think I've ever heard anyone mispronounce an Apple product name. They are often written wrong though, e.g. MAC, Imac.

You obviously don't have friends like mine who insist on talking about their iTouch - it's an iPod Touch damnit!
post #17 of 91
Amazing. So Apple runs their store like a real company instead of a typical retail store. It is sad that this isn't the norm for retail.
post #18 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

I don't think I've ever heard anyone mispronounce an Apple product name. They are often written wrong though, e.g. MAC, Imac.

Well, there is the age old disagreement about whether OS X is "oh-ess-ex" or "os ten."

You can always tell an old Mac user as they will rip your head off if you say "oh-ess-ex," (the 'wrong' way), even though that's the way it's written and Jobs himself says it often enough.
post #19 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

So in essence Apple took Best Buys training and reversed everything

LOL - they definately did not emulate the success of Circuit City for sure.

Does anyone have access to the full article on WSJ? The goon squad there will not me (a measly low level humble non-subscriber) read the full article.
post #20 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by ourstanley View Post

You obviously don't have friends like mine who insist on talking about their iTouch - it's an iPod Touch damnit!

I have no problem with iTouch. I often use that term on forums for brevity just as I also use iDevices, neither or which are a product or product category, respectively.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

Well, there is the age old disagreement about whether OS X is "oh-ess-ex" or "os ten."

You can always tell an old Mac user as they will rip your head off if you say "oh-ess-ex," (the 'wrong' way), even though that's the way it's written and Jobs himself says it often enough.

I'm an old Mac user and I almost always say "oh-ess-ex". If X is the Roman numeral for 10 then saying X is just as valid as saying ten, decem, deiz, or zehn.
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post #21 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by pondosinatra View Post

Hmmm maybe these 'geniuses' can explain to me why when I export photos from iPhoto - any photo that's in portrait orientation ends up inheriting the wrong file permissions...

1) check permissions on the hard drive and repair them with disk util.

2) you can always use CMHOD 771 on the directory and you will always have right to edit the photos.

Can I be a "geniuses"? Flee from my oppressive country and get a greencard and work with something that I love?
post #22 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

I don't think I've ever heard anyone mispronounce an Apple product name.

Mac OS X
Properly pronounced "Mac Oh Ess Ten", but commonly pronounced "Mac Oh Ess Ekks"

or

xServe - commonly pronounced as 'xserver'.
"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
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post #23 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post

The very word "Genius" still rankles me.

Maybe... but "Technician" is boring. So why not.
post #24 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

Pretty pathetic how you would choose this thread to ask such an asinine question, having absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter.

It's actually quite clear your insensitive criticism is the pathetic issue here. Don't ever expect to be hired at Apple until you've become more civil.
post #25 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by shompa View Post

1) check permissions on the hard drive and repair them with disk util.

2) you can always use CMHOD 771 on the directory and you will always have right to edit the photos.

Can I be a "geniuses"? Flee from my oppressive country and get a greencard and work with something that I love?

Why the extra execute bit?
post #26 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

Well, there is the age old disagreement about whether OS X is "oh-ess-ex" or "os ten."

You can always tell an old Mac user as they will rip your head off if you say "oh-ess-ex," (the 'wrong' way), even though that's the way it's written and Jobs himself says it often enough.

It's kinda like how people insisted there was a right way (the German way) to say Linux. Later Linus Torvalds said that both pronunciations are right.
post #27 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

xServe - commonly pronounced as 'xserver'.

I always want to strangle people who say 'xserver'. Anyone talking about one is supposed to be intelligent enough to at least read the name of the product properly. And I'm supposed to put my data and network in the hands of someone who doesn't know what product he's using? Not happening.

At least the product line is discontinued so that eventually we won't have this problem anymore.
post #28 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdsonice View Post

LOL - they definately did not emulate the success of Circuit City for sure.

Some companies, like some people, exist solely to serve as examples of how not to be. Be grateful for them

Quote:
Does anyone have access to the full article on WSJ? The goon squad there will not me (a measly low level humble non-subscriber) read the full article.

Here you go:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...955678908.html
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post #29 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Geniuses earn up to about $30 per hour, the report said, while other employees are said to be paid about $9 to $15 per hour at the sales level.

Never correct a customer's (mis) pronunciation is a good rule, specially in the tech world. Nothing worse than being patronized by some two bit know-it-all wizz kid nerd, and nothing more certain to drive non-tech customers away. That al seems old hat now but when the first Apple Store opened it was pretty much the order of the day in 'computer shops'.

Gotta say the pay levels are low. With so many people wanting the jobs Apple obviously don't have to pay more but the entry level $9.- is lower than minimum wage in most provinces in Canada (Ironically Alberta, one of the better off provinces has a lower minimum wage). It's tough to stay afloat on 9 bucks an hour.
post #30 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by ourstanley View Post

You obviously don't have friends like mine who insist on talking about their iTouch - it's an iPod Touch damnit!

I don't know what you're talking about, iTouch myself all the time. Apparently, so does Michael Weiner.

But on a more serious note:
I applaud Apple for attempting to control the language that employees use in their contact with customers. I attempt to do the same thing in companies I consult for, especially in email communications, where a perceived strident tone can alienate clients. One trick I use in meetings is if someone (for example) makes an error in describing a product feature, instead of saying "that's wrong", I say either "but also..." or "...in addition, the primary reason we built that feature is to....", etc.

The $9 to $15 an hour that Apple pays floor staff (according to this report) is too low. I know there will be those who will say that "if they don't like it, they don't have to work there" and "whatever the market bares" and "if the wages are so bad, why do they have so many candidates", etc., , but the fact is that you cannot live decently in any major city in the U.S. on $30,000 a year. In NYC, it's likely that your rent is at least $18,000 a year, even if one lives outside of Manhattan and in a cruddy small place. Single young people earning this kind of wage have to pile up at least six to an apartment to make it.

There are McDonald's in NYC that pay $10 an hour. And Apple sometimes pays even less?

If these are kids still living with their parents, that's one thing, but for anyone who has to lead a household, these wages are impossible to live on in many regions of the U.S. As an extraordinarily profitable company, I think Apple should do better. Since Apple has more employees in retail than any other part of the company, it seems to me that Apple is building their spaceship on the backs of these employees.

My son-in-law consults as an Apple tech in companies that have mostly Macs. If this report is accurate, he earns more than three times what Apple pays the so-called "geniuses", although he obviously has to do more in terms of managing resources, budgeting, etc. than they do.
post #31 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Mac OS X
Properly pronounced "Mac Oh Ess Ten", but commonly pronounced "Mac Oh Ess Ekks"

Say it fast and it becomes "oh... sssex"

It's a not-so-subliminal marketing tool, and a very effective one. Many automobile manufacturers use the same strategy in naming their models. SXs and things that sound like it are common.

Or, perhaps I just have too much sex on the brain...?
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post #32 of 91
"Among the details included is the fact that employees are forbidden from correcting a customer if they mispronounce a product name, so that they don't feel patronized."

Not a bad idea. At Oxford University, I had a rather officious Bodelian librarian "correct" my pronunciation to that of quirky Oxford. I returned the favor by making a request that kept her around past closing time.

The sales philosophy taught is also good. Nothing irritates me more than a sales staff so intent on selling me something I can't get my questions answered.
post #33 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

I always want to strangle people who say 'xserver'.

;-) Would love to see you serve up a customer in an Apple Store
post #34 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post

The $9 to $15 an hour that Apple pays floor staff (according to this report) is too low.



Quote:
... I know there will be those who will say that "if they don't like it, they don't have to work there" and "whatever the market bares"



Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Just getting a position at an Apple store is said to be difficult, as the process usually requires at least two rounds of interviews. Apple is even in the unique position of not having to seek out staff, as most stores are reportedly "flooded with applicants."

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post #35 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Mac OS X
Properly pronounced "Mac Oh Ess Ten", but commonly pronounced "Mac Oh Ess Ekks"

or

xServe - commonly pronounced as 'xserver'.

They dropped the Mac part and now is simply OS X.
More specific - OS X Lion
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post #36 of 91
A large amount of this is BS, at least in practices at the store level. Being a former employee who was a Specialist for 3 years, I was never once told to not correct people's mispronunciations (although I rarely did anyway, except when people called the iPod Touch the 'iTouch'...shudder).

When training, you are encouraged to engage in conversation while shadowing. Never has anyone been "barred from talking to the customers".

The amount of money people make is pretty much spot-on, although 9 is a little low.

The Apple Store is a weird place to work, no doubt, but not as totalitarian as it comes off in these reports.
post #37 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph L View Post

Revealing this stuff is bad for the entire Apple community.

Why is it bad for the entire Apple community?
post #38 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post

The very word "Genius" still rankles me.

Careful. You don't want Slurpy to call your post 'Asinine'...
post #39 of 91
Apples retail operation and Customer Servive should be the standard that every company follows. Apples impecable standards are carefully thought out and provide another foundation level of their success.
post #40 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by addicted44 View Post

Hmmm....that clearly sounds like a bug. Maybe instead of posting here, you could visit:

http://www.apple.com/feedback/macosx.html

Ya I will. I just can't believe I'm the only person who's ran into this. But the question was topical - the few times I've been in an Apple store wanting to ask the Geniuses something there's always been a multi-hour wait. It's been awhile since I've been there though, so maybe it's not as bad these days.
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