Are Apple Stores a Terrible Place to Work?

apple-store-walkoutApple fanboys jumped all over this morning’s reports of a planned Apple Store employee walkout in Lynnwood, Washington. We tracked down a former employee of the Lynnwood store, Glen Bowers, who confirms that the management staff was less than friendly during his tenure there. "We were convinced we were making a difference and helping Apple, and the [management] took advantage of that," he says. "We were constantly threatened with being fired, and we were warned that once fired from Apple, we can never work for Apple again. New people who were hired knew nothing about Macs or any Apple products and were paid more than us. It killed us, but there was nothing we could do."

Store employees put in complaints to Apple HR for more than a year before any action was taken, according to Bowers. "I certainly applaud their willingness to stand up," he says. "I only wish I had thought of a walkout when I was there."

According to ifoAppleStore’s original post, disgruntled specialists, technicians, and geniuses, unhappy with management’s "abusive" behavior, are planning a walkout for 1pm next Saturday, Oct. 3. "Insiders" tell ifoAppleStore that complaints to Apple’s HR team have been under investigation, and that even after a talk with senior vice president of retail Ron Johnson, nothing has been accomplished.

Is this standard-issue griping from former employees, or is there trouble lurking beneath the bright and beautiful sheen of the Apple Store? Apple’s media relations didn't return our calls and emails. When we tried the store itself, the employee who answered said: "This is the first time I’ve heard of this."

The comment sections of today's blog posts lit up with tales of managerial bullying and holier-than-thou attitudes from people claiming to be former Apple Store employees and rejected applicants. Some commenters cheered on the employees’ efforts while others blamed Microsoft’s PR team for a conspiracy (especially considering recent reports of Microsoft allegedly poaching Apple Store employees for their own locations).

So what’s it like to work at an Apple store? Any Seattle-based readers or Apple Store employees in the know can email us at tips@fastcompany.com.

[via ifoAppleStore]

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7 Comments

  • John Bergquist

    Really my experience in different Apple stores have varied so much that I have suspected they have a management problem. In my experience in managing a customer service staff, the one way to ensure quality employee performance is through clear definition of their roles while treating them with respect and kindness. Bob Sutton (http://bobsutton.typepad.com/) has made a career studying how bullying and poor treatment of co-workers and employees results in loss in revenue and overall business performance. If these employees accounts of the store management environment IS accurate, then Apple needs to have a humbling look through Sutton's great resources.
    @johnflurry

  • David Osedach

    I am sure that these well qualified computer specialists would be in great demand at other stores like FRY's, and Best Buy.

  • Gabriella Sannino

    I applied at the Apple Store in SF a few years ago not for the money but because I am an Apple geek, I read and write five languages and I can sell a dog off a meat truck. So I thought it would be a great fit especially at that particular store. Yes, I love everything about Apple. I have been using Apples since 85 so I am knowledgeable but I am also "older" than most employees. Maybe I saw age discrimination but I have to tell you the way the manager talked down to me rather than ask me product questions turned me off. I called back several times to touch base and see if they had a chance to look at my resume. Never heard back from them... So basically I am not surprised by their bad management, employee choices or should I say lack of good choices.
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  • NoahRobischon

    @Joe: That's one more named source than any of the other stories out there bothered to contact. And we admit that all this may be "standard-issue griping," that the whole thing may be blown out of proportion. But Bowers is not the only former employee complaining, and the stores are an increasingly important part of Apple's business - if there are problems in the way they are managed it could become a serious issue for the company.

  • Jeff Sanders

    As a former Apple employee from Boston I will point out that this article has some merit. I've never heard of employees planning a walkout, but it could happen. Here's why: most Apple management has extensive retail experience, but little or no Apple product knowledge. Specialists, Geniuses, Creatives, and the like are, for the most part, extremely knowledgeable and deserve more credit than they receive. The dissonance between Apple staff and management is obnoxious, but not impossible to deal with and really no different than most jobs. I did notice before I left Apple that many new employees were clueless about Apple stuff entirely, which is a direct reflection of management making poor hiring decisions, not a lack of talent in the candidate pool. Is Apple a bad place to work, no. The opportunity to share your knowledge with others is unbelievable and the environment is amazingly positive and supportive. If you're an Apple employee complaining about your paycheck, change careers. Working for Apple is about passion, not money. If you're an Apple manager and you don't understand Apple products or how much your employees dislike you, change retail stores. You'll have that chance at Microsoft soon enough.

  • Joe Germuska

    Seriously. I think I see exactly one ex-employee from one Apple Store quoted. This is journalism?

  • Jensen Gelfond

    is Fast Company really stooping so low to be a low-class rag with stories like this? It's all speculation, and you're asking people to submit comments with even more speculation. Where's the beef?