Lots of people work retail. And most of the time, the job is more or less the same, no matter what company you work for or what you’re selling. Unless you work at an Apple Store.
Those lucky few hired to sell these coveted gadgets serve as the gatekeepers into the notoriously secret world of Apple. They are the face of a company that has changed the world of technology and the way humans feel and interact with it. And, most importantly to us tech junkies, they must know something we don’t… right? They have inside scoop into what Cupertino’s cooking, yes?
To give us the real story, Popular Mechanics convinced one Apple minion — who remains anonymous — to break the company’s “code of silence” and give us the run-down on what it’s actually like to work for Apple — at least at the ground level.
As you might have guessed, Apple Store employees are kept “completely in the dark” about new Apple products “until they do a keynote speech,” said the anonymous Apple Store employee. (For simplicity’s sake, let’s call him “Ted.”) In fact, according to Ted, the keynote is so important, employees can skip work to watch it from home. But if Apple Store workers try to guess what Apple might have in the pipeline, they could easily be fired.
“I am asked five times per day about the next iPad or iPhone, and I quite simply don’t know,” said Ted. “But I would be in huge trouble if I said something like ‘The next iPad is going to have a camera.'”
The job has other hazards, too. Like customers who “have complete meltdowns” in the store in an attempt to get what they want, or swarms of “drug dealers” who try to buy iPhones with fake credit cards and stolen Social Security numbers.
When the iPad first launched, says Ted, the Apple Stores were flooded with “tons” of Chinese resellers who would create email addresses from the stores’ public computers, so they could reserve an iPad for purchase (a requirement at the time). “We’d get a lot of weird e-mail addresses, like firstname.lastname@example.org,” Ted said. “And they tried to haggle us on the price for iPads! This is Apple—no way would that work.”
Apple Store employees aren’t the only ones getting the raw end of the deal. According to Ted, Apple workers regularly lie to customers about unlocking their phones. “We usually have to tell them that if they unlock their iPhone, it won’t work,” Ted said. “That it’s going to be like a $700 paperweight, and that the antenna will fry itself on T-Mobile. Of course, that’s not true, but that’s what we tell them.”
And while Ted admits that Apple can sometimes “feel like a cult,” it’s really the competitive nature of the place that gets you. “Normally I’m pretty low-key,” Ted admitted, “but when I’m at the store, it’s all sell, sell, sell!”