The Apple Employee Who Says the Store Is Like a Cult

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Andre*, mid-20s
Apple Store Salesman

If you’re a pessimist, it’s going to be tough for you to work at the Apple Store.

I lead the sales floor. If somebody comes in looking to purchase a computer or iPhone, or has gone to the Genius Bar and their device is not able to be repaired, or it just doesn’t make sense to do that, I figure out the best options.

I applied through a referral. Three months went by and I hadn’t heard anything, so of course I assumed that I didn’t get it. And then they were like, “Oh, yeah, this is actually average for an application.” They’re very selective. You go through four interviews. Some people joke that it’s like Harvard — and we have a lot of applicants.

For a lot of people who work here, this is what they genuinely love to do. They love to solve problems. A lot of people live together. We have outings. People drink together. People generally care about their co-workers. We have a strong feedback culture. I could go up to the store leader, who’s the lead manager, and say, “Hey, can I give you some feedback?” and that’s encouraged. It’s built into the DNA of working at the Apple Store. I think that makes the team closer. Our mission statement is to “enrich lives.” We even have something called a “credo card.” I’m not sure if it’s public or not, but it’s about our core values. It’s nice. Obviously, it’s a piece of marketing, but it helps you reflect on why you’re there and helping people.

When I start a shift, I clock in — our phones have a system — and get situated with my email, which we can only access behind Apple’s secure network. We have to do it at work. Then we all assemble at the Genius Bar. The head of retail puts out videos talking about things to look forward to. We’ll talk about any changes to protocols, or if there’s been a recall. Then we open the doors.

It’s always busy. There’s going to be a wait. We try to model ourselves after the Ritz-Carlton. If you stay at that hotel and you’re walking in the hallway, you see a maid changing sheets, and you ask where the ice machine is, they’re supposed to walk you toward it. So if a customer comes in looking for an iPhone and we’re very busy, an “on-point” will generally take their name and a description of what they’re wearing, put them into our digital queue, which we can see through our iPhones, and help the people in the order they arrived.

Every day, I’ll come in and there’s something different — maybe a policy change, or we pulled a product. When a new iPhone is released, we don’t get any information ahead of time. They could drop a new product overnight without saying anything. We have a general idea that maybe something is coming because we see our stock dwindle for certain things. But even the managers don’t know until it’s announced. There are probably only ten people who know what the new iPhone is going to be.

On launch days, like when the iPhone 7 came out, we come into work earlier. We have to train ourselves very quickly on all its specifications. I find it pretty exciting. It’s not stressful because we can just be frank with the customers and say, “Hey, this just came out today. I haven’t even gotten a chance to play with it. Let’s find out about it together.”

It’s not unusual to work 12 hours on launch days. The company gives you lunch and snacks and all that. Some people might be a little freaked out when they see a thousand people standing outside. But people who have been through a couple of launches, they’re calm.

I have a degree in the liberal arts, and I was thinking about going to grad school, but I decided against that. I was looking for a job, and I knew someone who worked at the Apple Store, and they had a really good experience and were moving up.

I grew up building Windows-based PCs. I didn’t really like Apple. I can relate to people who come in and try to start a little argument. It’s a closed system, so we control a lot of what you can do. I guess I’m a convert. A year into working at Apple, I finally purchased a Macbook.

Because we’re so customer service–focused, we’ll almost never ask somebody to leave. They’d have to get violent. People come in with cracked phones. They’ll be like, “My phone just cracked itself on my bedside table.” We’d rather you level with us. I usually go, “Is there a good story behind this? Do you remember doing this?” Just level with me.

There have been times when people get out of control. This one woman, her computer was damaged. She just starts screaming at the Genius Bar. Screaming, screaming, screaming. We’re like, “Ma’am, this is a family store. I’m asking you to stop yelling. Let’s talk about this.” And she just started smashing it on the ground and screaming, destroying this computer to the point where we’re like, “Ma’am, we’re going to have to ask you to leave …” She was escorted out, and as she was leaving, she tried to stuff her computer into the trash, but the trash hole wasn’t big enough for it. So she started smashing it. It was just a mess out there.

Then the next day, someone came in and was like, “I have this Macbook and I think I broke it.” It was the same computer. We were like, “You found this outside, didn’t you?”

We talk about “verbiage” a lot. We are taught to avoid certain words like “unfortunately.” If you say “unfortunately,” you can blame somebody. So instead we say, “As it turns out.” That’s more optimistic. We never say that something’s out of stock. Keep it positive; instead say, “It’s available online.” Computer skills are not the first thing they’re looking for when they hire you. We look for people who are empathetic, compassionate, and able to explain complex things easily and use a lot of analogies. People who can connect with other people. Tech-savvy people who can’t really communicate are off-putting.

We always want to have “positive intent.” That’s an Apple phrase. If we suspect a customer is a fraud — which can happen with credit cards — we always assume positive intent. We never accuse somebody of using a stolen credit card.

If I’m dealing with a frustrated customer, I say, “I’m not here to argue.” And not in a mean way, but in a way that conveys, You’re in the Apple house. I don’t know what you’re trying to do.

It is kind of contagious, the optimism. I guess it just becomes a part of you. And there’s where the cultish part comes in. I find myself using Apple talk, saying things like, “Well, we don’t have that feature built in. But we can do this. There’s a way around that.” If I found out that they were going to remove the earphone jack from all their computers, I would say, “That doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.” This sounds very Apple-y and sounds very cultish, but I think at this point in time, you can trust the company. There’s probably a reason why they’d remove something.

One example would be removing the disk drive. That was insane. People were really upset; people vowed to never buy an Apple computer again. Here we are in 2017, and there aren’t many computers shed for that. We remove stuff and adapt things and take on different protocols. It’s part of the pain of moving forward.

I make about $45,000 a year. That’s before taxes. That will vary based on overtime, but that’s about average. That’s not including the stock that you get, or the sick time and the vacation time, or any of the discounts. Obviously, you can’t monetize that easily. They have really, really good benefits. I know someone at my former store who had brain surgery that would’ve been like $250,000, and they didn’t pay anything out of pocket. The surgeon was like, “Are you a senator’s son?”

*Name has been changed.


The Apple Employee Who Says the Store Is Like a Cult