In a titan of a story in last Sunday’s New York Times, David Segal provides a balanced look at the life of workers in Apple stores. On the up side, you have better wages than your average retailer — wages that Apple is raising, according to Segal and others; robust benefits, ”for a retailer”; and the cachet of working for a company whose products everyone wants.
On the down side, you have wages that look menial when compared to the revenues processed by Apple sales associates; mayhem — crowded stores mean overburdened workers and skipped breaks; a lack of upward mobility; and at one big quarterly meeting employees were promised a “surprise,” which everyone took to mean a free iPad but actually turned out to be two free tacos per employee.
To the indignities facing Apple store employees, I’ll add this passage from Segal’s piece:
Apple prohibits its staff from talking to the media, but several former employees who spoke for this article said they had fond memories of their jobs, and regarded them as ideal for people in their early 20s who aren’t ready for a full-on dive into the white-collar world.
A couple of paragraphs later, Segal goes into detail about the other side of the equation: Former employees who don’t look back on their work so kindly. A great deal of this piece — and virtually all of the highlights — rests on their juicy testimony.
Thus arises a question of corporate strategy. Why gag these employees? Why not serve them up to a reporter? As Segal demonstrates — and as Apple store visitors can see — the salespeople are commonly true believers, folks who’d be inclined to tell a reporter all the wonders of their bathed-in-technology work lives.
The media prohibition, instead, drives Segal toward former employees, a group that per force is going to have a dimmer view of Apple. They left the place, after all. Apple appears dedicated to a strategy of putting its worse foot forward. (An inquiry to Apple about the policy has not yet been answered.)
Reporters love to chat about access denial. How they tried to get so-and-so to cooperate with a story but ultimately failed. So I sent Segal a number of questions about the situation with Apple, whose policy may be rubbing off: “Because the series is ongoing,” replied Segal, “I can’t answer your questions.”