updated 05:45 pm EST, Thu February 17, 2011
MobileMe not selling, person says
An anonymous Apple Store employee has come forward to Popular Mechanics with some information about working in the retail chain, which normally imposes a veil of secrecy. The person foremost claims that workers are kept "completely in the dark" about new products until they're announced during a keynote, at which point employees may gather around to watch, or else use it as an excuse to take time off. On launch days Apple is said to pay large bonuses for long hours, and in some cases provide extras like food.
The company is tagged as extremely strict, however, about speculating on future products with shoppers, even though a clerk may be asked several times a day about Apple plans. "That's the end of you," the anonymous source says. The person says he or she deliberately avoids reading the technology section of a newspaper in order to avoid potential slips.
While salespeople at Apple Stores are not paid on commission, the source says that they are nevertheless under heavy pressure to keep sales high at the risk of losing their jobs. They are allegedly pushed to sell AppleCare warranties with "just about everything," and often times MobileMe; the latter is claimed to be a particular problem. "Nobody ever sells it," the source says, which may back rumors that the company is planning a massive overhaul of the service.
Apple Store workers also reportedly lie to customers about unlocked iPhones, which are sold officially in some countries but not the US. "We usually have to tell them that if they unlock their iPhone, it won't work. That it's going to be like a $700 paperweight, and that the antenna will fry itself on T-Mobile," the source remarks. "Of course, that's not true, but that's what we tell them. And if they have an unlocked iPhone, we won't touch it at the Genius Bar."
Customers are described as a problem in their own right. "It's amazing how badly behaved some customers are. 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," the person remarks. More serious troublemakers may include shoplifters, people with fake IDs or credit cards, and Chinese resellers attempting to haggle or pay in cash.
One countermeasure Apple has taken is plainclothes security guards. "There are security guards everywhere. They are undercover, so you can't tell who they are," the source says. "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."
Apple's corporate attitude is described as sometimes akin to a cult. "Like, they give us all this little paper pamphlet, and it says things like -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- 'Apple is our soul, our people are our soul.' Or 'We aim to provide technological greatness.' And there was this one training session in which they started telling us how to work on our personality, and separating people into those with an external focus and an internal focus. It was just weird."