An ex-employee describes what it's really like.
Ever wonder what it's like to work in an Apple Store? So did our friends at Business Insider, and they found an ex-Apple Store employee in the U.K. who was willing to talk about the experience--anonymously. In a fascinating interview, she shares dozens of details of the day-to-day life of an Apple Store employee. Here are some of the strangest aspects of the job:
1. You're not allowed to discuss your work with outsiders.
Much like the CIA, Apple Store employees are not allowed to talk about their jobs. For instance, complaining to your friends over drinks about the bad day you had or crazy customers you encountered is forbidden. You're also forbidden to post a picture of yourself in your Apple T-shirt--or identify yourself as an Apple Store employee--anywhere on social media.
2. Death threats are routine.
Apple customers are passionate about the company's products, and that passion boils over into aggression surprisingly often. For instance, when the Apple Store told a customer that a product could not be fixed for free, the customer promised to wait outside until the employee left for the day and run over her with a car. Fortunately, she worked late, and when she left for the day, the angry customer was not in evidence. "Strangely, it's not that rare to get threats like that," she said.
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3. But you're not allowed to tell your co-workers about them.
"We're told not to discuss those kind of things with other people in the store," the ex-employee said. Not that she wanted to.
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4. The "Geniuses" are miserable.
Working at the Genius Bar (or Genius Grove, in the new Apple Store design) pays better than working the sales floor--but most people who do it are desperately unhappy because of constant interactions with hostile customers. "There's generally an uncomfortable customer interaction for an employee at least once a day that will need a manager to intervene," the ex-employee said. "For the Genius Bar it's higher." One friend of hers who worked there was actually pushed by a customer.
5. You're required to critique your co-workers--and your boss--at least once a day.
In a program called "Fearless Feedback," Apple Store employees were required to give one another, and their managers, feedback at least once a day, ideally more. This feedback could be positive or negative but it had to be specific. This was such a serious requirement that managers would ask employees at the end of the workday what feedback they'd given, and what they had received.
6. Raises are minimal but you get good stock deals.
Retail salaries are notoriously low in general, and most Apple Store employees are required to work part time. Hourly rates are on the higher end of the retail spectrum, at least in the U.K., the ex-employee explained. But once you're in, annual raises tend to be very modest.
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On the other hand, there was a great deal on Apple stock. Apple Store employees would have the opportunity to buy stock twice a year, with money deducted from their salaries. Apple would sell them the stock at a 15 percent discount from the lowest price during the six-month period. This was "by far the most important" of Apple benefits, the ex-employee said.
7. You learn more about Steve Jobs than you do about Apple products.
Training at an Apple Store doesn't necessarily teach you much about the Apple products you're about to spend your days selling, the ex-employee said. On the other hand, you'll learn a lot about Steve Jobs. For example, that he designed the "floating" staircases in Apple stores, and the way the tables are supposed to line up with the floor tiles.
8. Most of your colleagues are graphic artists or musicians.
Apple Stores go out of their way to recruit students in these disciplines, the ex-employee said. It makes sense, given the Mac's strengths in both graphic design and music recording and editing.
9. You could get a personal email from Tim Cook.
It doesn't happen every day. But the ex-employee recalled proposing an idea for improving efficiency that the Apple CEO decided to use and he wrote her to tell her so. Other employees had similar experiences.
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10. You're supposed to ask customers their favorite flavor of ice cream.
Apple Stores go to extremes to make sure employees make a personal connection with their customers. After a transaction is completed, a manager will ask the employee to tell them about the customer--the person's full name, job, reason for buying a product and so on. "Come back when you know their favorite flavor of ice cream" is a common instruction. And, no, it's not a joke.
11. Everything you've just read is a closely guarded secret.
Some companies ask employees to sign a confidentiality agreement when they are hired. Apple demands that you sign one before you even interview for a job at a store, according to the ex-employee.
Given the company's famous love of secrecy, it's not really surprising, although it is a little over the top. Apple executives chose not to comment on what the ex-employee had to say. But they can't be pleased that all this information is now out there.
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