“I found myself counseling or consoling people twice my age in a way I never thought I would.”
That’s what Peter, a former Apple “specialist,” told me about his years working the floor of an Apple store in Manhattan.
We very rarely hear from the amiable blue-shirted professionals who help Apple customers choose everything from the right size data storage plan to the strongest overpriced multi-colored iPad case.
As I found from speaking to these Apple salespeople, the job is unlike any other retail position out there because, as Peter explained to me, “we don’t have to sell anything. We could put up a vending machine and it would sell itself.”
Despite a strict Apple policy against talking to media, even after quitting, these ex-employees wanted to share the good and bad: all four confessed to love Apple products, were enthusiastic about the frenetic energy of launch day, and appreciated the decent wages (though they all preferred keeping their salary information confidential).
As for negative experiences, those seemed to stem from the basic cracks in our society: racism, privilege, and sexism. Physical fights between senior citizens. Impatient customers berating salespeople and one another. Even a stabbing by mechanical pencil. Many customers act entitled to an iPhone: “It’s as if on days when we’re low or out of stock, we’re denying them their birthright,” Peter wrote me.
Those were the horror stories. But I also heard gems of compassion, like this:
“I had to console weeping customers for a variety of reasons like, ‘my husband just died and I don’t know the password to his computer.’ Or, ‘I think my ex hacked my phone and I’m terrified.’ I helped a blind, older gentleman who was absolutely tickled with what an iPhone could do for him—read menus out loud using image recognition software. I’m eternally grateful for those experiences, and they’ve shaped who I’ve become.”
Peter goes on to describe those moments as truly gratifying, a intimate interaction between human beings rather than a soulless interaction between a consumer “and a dude in a branded t-shirt.”
You can hear Peter and the other former Apple store employees on what they really think of launch day (“you felt like you were were working a prison yard”) and their best iProduct advice (“do not buy your grandparent an iPad”) on this episode of New Tech City.