Apple likes to keep a tight lid on things, including its employees who are often forbidden from blogging (at least in their official capacity) and from otherwise letting anyone know what they’re working on. This culture of secrecy even extends down to Apple’s retail employees, which is what makes the following expose all the more interesting.
Writing for Popular Mechanics, an anonymous Apple Store employee throws caution to the wind and writes what it’s like working in Apple retail from the inside.
First, and contrary to what many might assume, Apple retail employees are not privy to new products and become aware of them at the same time as everybody else – i.e when Apple delivers a keynote.
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.
But once a new product is announced and ready to go on sale, Apple retail soldiers go on overdrive. Encouraging employees to work as many hours as possible (along with the promise of bonuses), Apple will often times order in food and the Apple Store on 5th Avenue was even rumored to have brought in a masseuse during one particularly hectic product launch.
Interestingly, and not surprisingly, one of the key aspects of the job is navigating through a never ending labyrinth of difficult customers. The anonymous Apple retail store employee recounts how angry customers will sometimes go into full out meltdown mode and how adults will often act like small children, screaming, crying, and swearing.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
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.
Also lurking throughout Apple Stores are shady resellers looking to ship brand new and in-demand Apple products abroad for sometimes 4x the retail price. Then you have a contingent of teenagers and the like who like to plant themselves inside an Apple Store to browse Facebook and sometimes host live webcasts.
As for commission, the store employees get zilch, but you better be selling if you wanna keep your job. Employees are strongly encouraged to sell AppleCare product support (which apparently is an easy sell) and MobileMe (which apparently is a really hard sell). If you’re not carrying your own weight, “you start getting manager meetings, and they sit you down and try to figure out why you aren’t selling more.”
Lastly, for all the visible security Apple has on display, they also make use of undercover security personnel.
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.
Sort of like the Mossad agents being planted on El Al flights.
So there you have it, a view of Apple Retail from the inside out.