Apple Stores suffering from 'cult' atmosphere, advancement barriers, says UK staffer

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For some workers, Apple Stores don't pay that well, don't leave much room for advancement, and sometimes produce an extremely difficult climate to work in, according to an interview with a U.K. staffer published on Saturday.




Staff at the company's U.K. stores, at least, have been hindered by policies preventing part-time people from going full-time, or advancing into management positions, the staffer told Business Insider, preferring to stay anonymous because Apple might pursue legal measures. The company makes retail workers sign a confidentiality agreement preventing many job details from becoming public.

"We had between five and eight store managers during my time at the store, of varying kinds," the person said. "Only one of them had started at Apple, the rest had been recruited from elsewhere -- from, say, Dixons or HMV."

The company reportedly tried to improve the situation with a "Lead and Learn" program, offering hands-on experience in manager duties, but over the course of several years no one was actually promoted at the staffer's store.

Base pay at a U.K. Apple Store is said to be about ?8 ($11.70) an hour, without any sales bonuses, meaning that many workers can't afford the devices they're selling or will go into debt to do so. While there are job positions that can generate higher pay, such as being a Genius Bar technician, the staffer commented that many of their colleagues hated being a Genius because it involved dealing with angry customers, some of whom would make death threats.

Apple Stores are moreover said to feel like a "cult" because of the worship of the company's products and leaders like Steve Jobs, plus policies like "Fearless Feedback," in which workers give very specific positive or negative feedback to their peers at least once per day.

The latter is often said to come into play for things Apple wants pushed on customers, like AppleCare warranties or in-store carrier sign-ups, even if they're irrelevant to the individual people clerks are dealing with. A clerk selling someone a Mac, for example, might later be chastised by a manager for not telling the customer about carrier sign-ups for iPhones.

Clerks are also expected to develop "personalized" connections with each customer, something the staffer complained can waste time for all involved and actually make it more difficult for customers to get help.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 63
    pulseimagespulseimages Posts: 101member
    I wouldn't want to work at the Genius Bar either. Some Apple customers are elitist jerks that have no respect for anyone. Life is too short to deal with that daily nonsense.
    singularitylord amhranai46
  • Reply 2 of 63
    I have only good comments for the Apple staff. I've shopped in Apple stores in various UK, UK and Australian cities and they've always been helpful. I usually know what I want but on my last visit whilst out of country on business I needed to replace a bricked iPad (motherboard failure) which was out of warranty (my kid's iPad) & they offered me a refurbed at a great price. I replaced a MacbookPro power supply which was 3 years old and had just died on the road (my spare was at home) and the sales person showed me some neat features on the iPadPro absolutely relevant to my business when I made an enquiry . No company is perfect, but I've never seen any signs of disrespect at a Genius Bar and if someone is being obnoxious I'd expect the management to back up the staff and kick the customer out.
    calichiamwhiteRayz2016bobschlobai46baconstangpropodjustadcomicsmagman1979
  • Reply 3 of 63
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,115member
    This was a filthy, unprofessional, agenda-driven interview by Business Insider. A sampling of the Qs posed, meant to shit on Apple and elicit negative responses. In 90% of the cases, the interviewee didn't bite. I've never, ever seen a less professional interview with so little journalistic integrity and contempt for objectivity. He actually disagrees with and argues with the interviewee whenever he says something positive about the working environment or Apple, and tries to swing things back to negativity. 

    BI: So why is Apple not promoting these people?
    BI: I struggle to understand why Apple wouldn’t promote from within.
    BI: How do the staff internally talk about that? The retail staff can’t afford the products.
    BI: But it’s still the case that the majority of the people working at the store simply cannot afford the products on a regular basis.
    BI: Do staff talk about how ridiculous it is to work for Apple and not be able to buy anything?
    BI: Do Apple employees regard this as political in any way? Because this is how inequality works. You’re selling devices worth thousands every day and you’re not being paid enough to live in a one-room flat near the store.
    BI: £8 an hour — that is sad.
    BI: Is it like a cult?
    BI: There’s almost a Thought Police aspect to it.
    BI: At Business Insider we give feedback to people, but we don’t have a ritual where I’m forced to give positive and negative feedback to every single employee every single day. That would be insane.
    BI: Wow, it’s like Maoist China where you sit in a circle and critique your comrades.
    BI: So let me just show you this massive, beautiful phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 5, in ivory gold, with a stylus. You don’t look at this and go, “Wow, if only Apple could design a phone like that”?
    BI: So you’re being paid £7 an hour, and a customer comes in looking for, say, a cable, and you’ve upsold them into a sale over £100,000. And there was no bonus or recognition for this whatsoever?

    Case closed. This interview was nothing but a hit job meant to generate a few clickbait quotes. 


    I've been to dozens of Apple stories, in many cities and countries. If employees are truly unhappy, they do a hell of a job hiding it, since they almost always have the best attitude and the most enthusiasm and helpfulness I ever experience in ANY store. 

    edited May 2016 ericthehalfbeechialatifbpairbubblemejsricMacProanton zuykovlarryjwwilliamlondonbobschlob
  • Reply 4 of 63
    nomadmacnomadmac Posts: 95member
    Well, they could go "work" at the Microsoft store and be bored to tears.  :)
    latifbpmejsricMacProanton zuykovcaliwaverboybaconstangjbdragonpotatoleeksoupicoco3
  • Reply 5 of 63
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    slurpy said:

    BI: How do the staff internally talk about that? The retail staff can’t afford the products.
    BI: But it’s still the case that the majority of the people working at the store simply cannot afford the products on a regular basis.
    BI: Do staff talk about how ridiculous it is to work for Apple and not be able to buy anything?
    BI: Do Apple employees regard this as political in any way? Because this is how inequality works. You’re selling devices worth thousands every day and you’re not being paid enough to live in a one-room flat near the store.

    Yes, definitely a case of framing the questions to elicit a desired response, but I wouldn't expect anything more from the click-driven online press these days.

    The interviewers reasoning is biased simply because it applies to just about every retail chain in every country.

    How many car salesmen at Lexus can actually afford to buy a Lexus?

    How many retail staff at Harvey Nichols can afford to buy their clothes at Harvey Nichols? 

    How many estate agents can actually afford to buy the houses they sell?

    And as for being able to afford to live near an Apple store? Has this idiot seen where Apple stores are built? How much does this journalist (and I use the term loosely) think you'd have to earn to live anywhere near an Apple outlet? About £100,000 a year I reckon. 

    I think this article really leads to a much broader question than the relative wealth and happiness of Apple's retail staff; the real question is, what can we do to get professionalism and integrity back into journalism.

    mejsricMacProanton zuykovlarryjwradarthekatwilliamlondonai46calibaconstanganantksundaram
  • Reply 6 of 63
    applesauce007applesauce007 Posts: 1,603member
    I have been very impressed with how Apple Stores are managed and the employees perform their jobs.
    All you have to do is compare the Apple Store customer experience with a Best Buy or Target or Sears etc... to appreciate the difference.
    I have been particularly impressed with the managers of the Apple stores that I have dealt with.  They are very sharp and knowledgable people.

    Some people want to just go to work and slack off all day and get paid, it does not work that way.
    Some sales people are just rude or just don't care about a sale or the customers.  
    I usually get the feeling that I am dealing with the store owner who's daily bread depends on the store's success when I deal with AppleStore sales person.
    I guess they are better trained and better managed.

    For example I have been to a few BMW dealers for service and in my opinion, none of them compare to BMW of Manhattan.  I later learned that BMW of Manhattan is the only one in the country that is owned and operated by BMW.  From the way they dress to the way they comport themselves and interact with customers, you can see the difference in management.
    edited May 2016 radarthekatai46baconstangjbdragonicoco3
  • Reply 7 of 63
    radster360radster360 Posts: 540member
    It is not just Business Insider, but you should read MarketWatch or read or watch CNBC. Especially on CNBC, majority of their folks, especially Melissa Lee (who I believe is Korean-American), try so hard to make Apple look like crap, even when the person they have on show is explaining positive information on Apple. When all fails, she will abruptly check the subject and move on find another angle to beat up on Apple. 
    irelandMacProradarthekatai46calijbdragonjustadcomicsicoco3jony0
  • Reply 8 of 63
    Slurpy, far from it being agenda driven it highlights the challenges companies have with retaining and inspiring staff even for the halo brands.

    All major companies have annual internal surveys, they act as a temperature check for the company. Apple is no different and certainly not perfect. Having worked for one of their past Directors of Learning and development you understand the use and power of 'cult of brand' it has strengths and weaknesses. They aren't the first to use cult or hero brand to control staff. Disney wrote the handbook. 

    Apple work in a retail market, typically with extended hours an Apple store can have several hundred people working there. All with dreams and aspirations both internal and external. Advancement will generally drive from development in role or change of job role in store or head office. Those opportunities are limited and with such numbers there is naturally frustration for some. Apple like other retailers will try and create development paths by creating several roles with increased responsibilities, pay and reward but can still have challenge to providing meaningful opportunity. 

    Like most retailers Apple link pay to additional sales targets, these can be difficult for some as cross sell, up sell does grate at some individuals sense of customer service (if the customer has insurance why should I try and sell to him). Companies are driving their sales staff to form life style relationships with customers. Pick up the phone to any bank and they'll be asking any questions from "what are you doing this weekend, to how's your week been". Some customers like this, many don't, it's about trust. 

    360 feedback has been a popular tool for major companies. Some encourage 'frank' feedback based on the theory of high performing teams. Others will look to draw constructive feedback. Daily feedback is ritualistic and frankly tiring to both individuals giving it and receiving it. Far better that the manager working with their team gives daily feedback through coaching. 

    Slurpy, Apple has a brilliant brand and it is far from perfect, try to step from under your Apple duvet and see the validity of the article. 
    kernapsterblitz1mac_128
  • Reply 9 of 63
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member

    I think about 50% that currently work at the Montreal Apple stores are lazy useless dweebs, overpaid at ANY price and certainly not worth what they're paid now.
    These are the kind of people that whine a hell of a lot and being sacked is too good for them.
    The rest are fine and sometimes even excellent.

    When I go there, I have to provide sales and tech service for god damn many clients (and they see me do it), which is embarrassing for Apple.
    I was at the Ipad Pro table and it was like they'd deserted the whole neighborhood for god knows what place! (On a thursday evening when stores are full!).
    A person selling and Ipad Pro had a seemingly superficial knowledge of the setup process ! Just incredible!
    I hope that it's only the Montreal store that is like that.

    I think the fact they need a lot more manpower now than 8 years ago has really meant that they get a lot worse recruits than before, since they do have to hire somebody eventually.

    edited May 2016
  • Reply 10 of 63
    £8 per hour. Geez, I think one of the major German supermarkets operating the the UK pays more, probably for less hassle. £8 is standard for anything customer facing and unskilled in London - even for agency work. From a UK customer perspective, we find up-selling embarrassing and humiliating. The only time I ever set foot in Apple Store is for registering or collecting repairs. I find the open plan spaces and loud music in the flagship stores far from ideal. In fact I've found them rather tense. The Covent Garden store has a concierge, but that could be obviated by booking in yourself (via a booth if there was one) or signposting places to queue (prebooked and drop in). Without that, you end up floating around the front of the queue not sure where to do and the stairways became congested as a result. I feel sorry for the staff - I always joke and level with them but they can't say much. The lighting is nauseating. The people show a strong sense of entitlement (I've paid £100s for this, why doesn't it work?), there are endless numbers of them. If anything the staff seem weary. 
    blitz1waverboyronnmpw_amherstthepixeldoc
  • Reply 11 of 63
    blitz1blitz1 Posts: 412member
    It is not just Business Insider, but you should read MarketWatch or read or watch CNBC. Especially on CNBC, majority of their folks, especially Melissa Lee (who I believe is Korean-American), try so hard to make Apple look like crap, even when the person they have on show is explaining positive information on Apple. When all fails, she will abruptly check the subject and move on find another angle to beat up on Apple. 
    Having trouble with her being Korean-American? Is it any relevant?
    bobschlobwaverboysteveh
  • Reply 12 of 63
    zimmermannzimmermann Posts: 215member
    Why could all this not be true? Apple are really pushing their workforce to perform, and of course not everyone will be happy. And not everybody will be able to cope. And of course there will be stores with a less than healthy atmosphere for the personnel. So we are reading about an incident. It would be really news when many stores would suffer from a dis functional culture.
    ai46
  • Reply 13 of 63
    krawallkrawall Posts: 156member
    I do appreciate that (and I'm saying this because I want to be polite not because I truly believe it) Appleinsider tries to cover critical news both if they are
     positive or negative but I'm wondering should they change their name to Appleoutsider.

    In all honesty, this is just tabloid level. I'm wondering what kind of impact "news" like this have if they are brought forward  via a "fan forum". AI, you're not doing anything good for Apple (and us).

    And yes, I clicked. But more of this and AI is past (and I'm actually a paying subscriber to their app) for me.
    ai46calimwhite
  • Reply 14 of 63
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    £8 per hour. Geez, I think one of the major German supermarkets operating the the UK pays more, probably for less hassle.
    I think we need more information in all honesty. For one I never believe anything BI says. But secondly, we have no idea if it's £8 a first, then £10, then £12 etc. We need to know more. There's also even no proof they were speaking with an actual employee or what their beef was with Apple or what the BI employee's motivation was for this article. It feels very Mike Daisy.
    edited May 2016 radarthekatcalibaconstangjbdragon
  • Reply 15 of 63
    blitz1 said:
    It is not just Business Insider, but you should read MarketWatch or read or watch CNBC. Especially on CNBC, majority of their folks, especially Melissa Lee (who I believe is Korean-American), try so hard to make Apple look like crap, even when the person they have on show is explaining positive information on Apple. When all fails, she will abruptly check the subject and move on find another angle to beat up on Apple. 
    Having trouble with her being Korean-American? Is it any relevant?
    It could have been to subtle for you. It was an attempt to show that there might be a biased toward a certain Korean Company on the Part of Miss Lee.
    ai46jbdragon
  • Reply 16 of 63
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,142member
    krawall said:
    I do appreciate that (and I'm saying this because I want to be polite not because I truly believe it) Appleinsider tries to cover critical news both if they are
     positive or negative but I'm wondering should they change their name to Appleoutsider.

    In all honesty, this is just tabloid level. I'm wondering what kind of impact "news" like this have if they are brought forward  via a "fan forum". AI, you're not doing anything good for Apple (and us).

    And yes, I clicked. But more of this and AI is past (and I'm actually a paying subscriber to their app) for me.
    This is modern media's biggest problem today.  Simply reprinting (is that even a term we should use these days?) article from else where, without any frame of reference, balance or verification.  From what little I know of journalism, probably mostly gleaned from watching old movies lol, there seemed to have been a system where a newspaper (for example) had to have verification from more than one source before publishing any story.  Today we see endless examples of totally fabricated stories going viral.  This isn't limited to the tech media of course, it is the fundamental basis of political campaigns in the US too.  As to what can be done about all of this I have no idea!
    zimmermannai46calithepixeldoc
  • Reply 17 of 63
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,869member
    Every corporation have employees when compare to their peers don't deserve to be promoted but they work their so they think they should and leash out their disgruntlement.Besides that my every trip at Apple store in last 10 years have over achieved excellent experience. If you go to Apple store with water damage iphone that you bought cheap off eBay or Craigslist and wants Apple to replace it and if they deny than you are upset and think they are rude.Who to blame ?
    edited May 2016 jbdragonicoco3
  • Reply 18 of 63
    wigbywigby Posts: 688member
    slurpy said:
    This was a filthy, unprofessional, agenda-driven interview by Business Insider. A sampling of the Qs posed, meant to shit on Apple and elicit negative responses. In 90% of the cases, the interviewee didn't bite. I've never, ever seen a less professional interview with so little journalistic integrity and contempt for objectivity. He actually disagrees with and argues with the interviewee whenever he says something positive about the working environment or Apple, and tries to swing things back to negativity. 

    BI: So why is Apple not promoting these people?
    BI: I struggle to understand why Apple wouldn’t promote from within.
    BI: How do the staff internally talk about that? The retail staff can’t afford the products.
    BI: But it’s still the case that the majority of the people working at the store simply cannot afford the products on a regular basis.
    BI: Do staff talk about how ridiculous it is to work for Apple and not be able to buy anything?
    BI: Do Apple employees regard this as political in any way? Because this is how inequality works. You’re selling devices worth thousands every day and you’re not being paid enough to live in a one-room flat near the store.
    BI: £8 an hour — that is sad.
    BI: Is it like a cult?
    BI: There’s almost a Thought Police aspect to it.
    BI: At Business Insider we give feedback to people, but we don’t have a ritual where I’m forced to give positive and negative feedback to every single employee every single day. That would be insane.
    BI: Wow, it’s like Maoist China where you sit in a circle and critique your comrades.
    BI: So let me just show you this massive, beautiful phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 5, in ivory gold, with a stylus. You don’t look at this and go, “Wow, if only Apple could design a phone like that”?
    BI: So you’re being paid £7 an hour, and a customer comes in looking for, say, a cable, and you’ve upsold them into a sale over £100,000. And there was no bonus or recognition for this whatsoever?

    Case closed. This interview was nothing but a hit job meant to generate a few clickbait quotes. 


    I've been to dozens of Apple stories, in many cities and countries. If employees are truly unhappy, they do a hell of a job hiding it, since they almost always have the best attitude and the most enthusiasm and helpfulness I ever experience in ANY store. 

    I agree that the interviewer seems to only push and ask for follow up on negative points but I don't see it as a hit piece. I don't think it even makes Apple look bad. If we agree that this interviewer is a "journalist", then they should be pushing in the negative direction. If they didn't , you would come away with a boring puff piece or commercial that offers nothing to anyone. I know there's supposed to be no bias in journalism but we all know that's nonsense. I prefer a little bias in my interviews and news. So long as they are transparent and I know where they are coming from, I know how to interpret their questions and style of the piece.

    i do think the author failed to highlight the fact that this is one employee in a specific store in one country.  Apple has thousands of retail employees and all of their experiences will differ. But we all agree that they have no trouble hiring employees so that says they are all mostly happy to me.

    Also, at times, it did feel like the interviewee was a composite of a few different people because they said contradictory things like "we are told not to push services" and then "we are only told to push services like Apple care". And at one point they said it was great to work there but then later said it was a terrible place to work. Not sure how to reconcile those discrepancies but overall an interesting and fairly believable piece.

    BTW, I've had stilted "ice cream" conversations with Apple Store employees before so I can believe that part especially.
    mac_128
  • Reply 19 of 63
    flootistflootist Posts: 13member
    New poster here, and I promise I'm not a troll. Hello to all. 

    Unfortunately this is all correct, and it has been their modus operandi from day one (which means it actually began under Jobs, though who knows? May have been Forestalls baby). 

    About ten years ago, I got hired twice at the local Apple store. I never accepted because of the low pay, which at the time was less than $7 an hour (though please note that geniuses make more than sales people).  No, there are no sales commissions or potentials for advancement. I actually made more working part time at a call center than I would have for the richest company on earth (and got benefits, too!). 

    I always assumed this was to keep their frontline comprised of young, 'hip' staff that don't need to rely on the job or just don't know any better, though I have seen the occasional employee over 30 since that time. 

    One last thing (no pun intended): Apple retail is a separate division internally, you are NOT working 'for Apple' proper. If you have fantasies of climbing the Apple ladder, forget it. The two divisions do not intermingle.

    Depending on a person's needs and temperament, it could be fun, but there are other non-professional jobs that offer more to their employees. Heck, you'd likely do better waiting tables or working for Geek Squad.
    kernapsteranantksundaram
  • Reply 20 of 63
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    flootist said:

    No, there are no sales commissions or potentials for advancement.
    No sales commission is understandable. Sales commission even for large business sales would bring about a cultural change within their stores that I promise you the customer would not like. It's why the ex-CEO of Dixons was not a cultural fit to run the Apple store business. If any employee knew their wages would rise this week/month if they made the sales they were in the middle of human nature would take over.

    No potential for advancement is another matter.
    edited May 2016 baconstangstevehchaickathepixeldoc
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