Workin’ For The Man: Apple Retail Employees Scrutinized In New York Times Profile [Report]

Workin’ For The Man: Apple Retail Employees Scrutinized In New York Times Profile [Report]

Let’s look at a few facts.

Apple Retail stores were the number one retailer last year, taking in more money per square foot than any other US retailer, including number two Tiffany, which made a bit more than half of that. Sounds good, right? Then take a look at what a retail employee, Jordan Golson, has to say.

“I was earning $11.25 an hour,” he said. “Part of me was thinking, ‘This is great. I’m an Apple fan, the store is doing really well.’ But when you look at the amount of money the company is making and then you look at your paycheck, it’s kind of tough.”

The disconnect between the incredible success of the corporation and the relatively low-end pay scale of its retail employees, as well as the reasons those retail employees continue to work for Apple, is the subject of a report in the New York Times today.

According to the Times, Apple employs 43,000 people, around 30,000 of whom work in the retail stores. Many of those earn only $25,000 per year, as compared to, say, CEO Tim Cook, who is worth more than $570 million at the current Apple stock share price.

The Times makes it clear that Apple is still offering their retail employees a better deal than most retailers like the Gap. Apple also offers better benefits than other retailers, according to the report, including health care, retirement account contributions, the ability to buy Apple stock, and a discount on Apple products. Can this be such a bad thing?

Says the Times, “Divide revenue by total number of employees and you find that last year, each Apple store employee — that includes non-sales staff like technicians and people stocking shelves — brought in $473,000.” These are seriously high rates of return per employee, none of whom receive a commission on sales, as compared to wireless retailers like Verizon and AT&T, both of whom carry Apple products.

Can this continue? Will the current economic climate allow Apple to increase salaries beyond the reported amounts shared anecdotally with the Times? Why is the New York Times focused on Apple, and not, say, The Gap, who pays less than Apple does?

My thought on this is twofold. One, Apple is winning so hard right now that they’re the biggest target in sight. The Times is simply hinting at it’s own weight. Second, the disparity between the corporate and retail employee pay is striking. It’s hard not to root for the underdog, here. It’s ironic that the underdog company of the 1990s is now “the man” keeping it’s employees down. It was inevitable, however, with the incredible amount of success Apple has had in the past ten years.

Be sure to read through the Times article in full; it’s full of great quotes and ideas about our favorite company.

  • urf

    The “each Apple employee brought in $470K” is bollocks. As if they could have possibly brought that in by themselves, they’re just sales reps, they’re selling what the store has pretty much. It’s not like they’re really the ones who are making it all happen… It’s a big team effort (engineers, marketers, chinese factory workers, sales reps, app developers, users, etc), you can’t take the big whole and divide it by one subfaction in any meaningful way.
    Numbers like that are inherently meaningless, yet they get thrown around often, and by “serious” outfits.

    Next step: calculate the $ amount per Apple engineer, per Foxconn employee, per iPhone user, per iOS developer, per Walmart employee, per US citizen… you’ll get a nice big number each time, and you can gawk at it in awe.

    More fun numbers: divide Apple market cap per employee, or square foot, or the number of apples you have in your kitchen, or whatever you got :)

  • WeHola

    “Apple is still offering their retail employees a better deal than most retailers like the Gap. Apple also offers better benefits than other retailers, according to the report, including health care, retirement account contributions, the ability to buy Apple stock, and a discount on Apple products”

    Talk to best buy workers and see how they compare. Or even Frys, Target, Walmart, etc … I am sure they don’t make 1/30,000th of company profits.

  • ConstableOdo

    I think they should look at it in a way considering the plight of the economy where plenty of employees from other companies are losing their jobs, I’d say these Apple employees would seem to have a solid job and a steady income and for that they should be grateful. I’d sure like to be able to buy Apple discounted products if I were an employee. I’m not sure what is meant by those employees have the ability to buy Apple stock. Anyone has that privilege if they can afford the price of Apple shares. Forget trying to fathom the disparity of salary between the average employee and the CEO. No way that disparity will ever make sense.

  • nolavabo

    Tim Cook’s salary is $1 a year.

  • LTMP

    No mention of the fact that Apple just gave their retail employees raises of up to 25%?

  • LTMP

    Tim Cook’s salary is $1 a year.

    No, Steve Jobs took a salary of $1 per year.

    Cook’s salary is $900,000 per year. Which is still well below the norm for a CEO of a company the size of Apple.

  • MacAdvisor

    Judging by the comments below, America is lost. The goal of our economy is not to make Apple, or other large corporations rich. The goal is to provide a good, middle class life to all who work. Our mechanism for this has been the large corporation. Corporate giants like AT&T, GM, Kodak, Ford all provide their workers with solid middle class lives in exchange for their labor. The vast, overwhelming majority of us (the much overused 99%) are not now and never will be rich. Most of us really don’t want to be; we want to spend time with our family, friends, and hobbies. We want to go to school plays, camping, watch TV, and enjoy life. To that end, we want a job that provides a middle class income, but also the time to live life.

    Unions provided the necessary mechanism where corporate wealth was disgorged to make our middle class. Where their problems with unions? Of course. Are their problems with corporations? Of course, yet stockholders are still rather found of the corporation because it remains the single most efficient mechanism for creating and deliverying wealth ever devised. Unions are the only effect tool workers have ever devised to force corporations to share the wealth.

    If those Apple employees had a union, they’d earn $50k per year, not $25k. Apple would still be wildly profitable, but it would also be contributing to the great middle class in America. Had we not destroyed the unions in this country, Apple retail would most certainly be unionized.

    As usual, the corporate media has convinced a vast swath of workers that they don’t need unions. These simpletons believe the propoganda on the evils of unions and the benovalence of their corporate overloads. Because of them, the middle class has not improved its lot in nearly 40 years with all economic gains going strictly to the top earners.

    Just remember:

    Look for the union label
    When you are buying that iMac, iPad or PowerBook.
    Remember: somewhere our union’s selling
    And our wages going to pay the rent and buy food to cook,
    We work hard, but who’s complaining.
    Thanks to the A+ Union, we’re paying our way.
    So, always look for the union label,
    it says we’re able
    to provide employment in the U.S.A.

  • mewcomm

    Karl Marx would have shamed these Apple employees as Tim Cook’s lackey’s. Still the employees are not really necessary. Nor are the bricks and mortar stores. Apple could move the entire sales chain online and save their paltry salaries.

    Yes, yes, I know. It’s in their interest to have the stores. The modernist interiors. The help for those new to smart devices, the projecting of the brand, etc.

    But no one really believes you establish a “career” on any retail sales job. Only the desperate take a retail sales position. Even if it is with a “reality distortion company” like Apple.

  • nolavabo

    No, Steve Jobs took a salary of $1 per year.

    Cook’s salary is $900,000 per year. Which is still well below the norm for a CEO of a company the size of Apple.

    Actually the $900k figure is for 2011 when he was COO. Upon being made CEO, he dropped his salary down to $1. Anyway, this is is small potatoes compared to him turning down the dividend that his RSUs would entitle him to, and that was something like $75 million by itself.

  • technochick

    I hope the Times paid Jordan really well for that quote, because talking to them is a guaranteed way to get fired. Especially when you mention things like your salary

  • technochick

    If those Apple employees had a union, they’d earn $50k per year, not $25k.

    There’s no guarantee of that at all. In fact when it comes to your salary the only thing that is guaranteed is that you would be paying a chunk of your pay in union dues that you typically have zero control over their use.

    Unions will lobby, and often successfully, for minimum pay amounts but that’s all. They also work on minimum health benefits, standardized and enforced break periods and so on. Much of which is already covered by state and federal law. So rarely outside of multiple employer scenes like in Hollywood is a union really that amazing a gig to be playing.

  • technochick

    But no one really believes you establish a “career” on any retail sales job. Only the desperate take a retail sales position. Even if it is with a “reality distortion company” like Apple.

    Amusingly I have been in various stores in the LA area when some employee was leaving at the end of his/her last day to riotous applause from their now former coworkers. As one person put it “Apple is probably the only company that celebrates when you finally found a way to get the hell out”

  • Tallest_Skil

    Actually the $900k figure is for 2011 when he was COO. Upon being made CEO, he dropped his salary down to $1.

    Uh, source?

    Karl Marx would have shamed these Apple employees as Tim Cook’s lackey’s. Still the employees are not really necessary. Nor are the bricks and mortar stores. Apple could move the entire sales chain online and save their paltry salaries.

    Keep your commie crap out of our planet. Of course they need the stores. No, not only the “desperate” take sales positions.

    blah blah blah, unions, blah blah blah, degradation of society, blah blah blah, whining

    They’re unneeded. Period. There are far better ways to ensure worker safety.

  • rogifan

    Let me guess the next hit piece of the month by the New York Times will be on how most of Apple’s upper management is white males, and why are there no female or minority SVP’s.

  • lwdesign1

    Oh please, more socialist whining from the NY Times. Working at an Apple Store is a retail sales job, or if you’re at the Genius Bar, a tech support job. You need training for each, but it’s not a career-making job and your skill set includes being friendly, having good people skills and knowing your products. The Times is desperate to make something out of the fact that Apple is very successful, yet its poor employees make almost nothing, which is complete poppycock.

    This falls into the whole “entitlement” attitude that permeates socialism. Apple Store employees make fairly good wages for retail employees, and they get good benefits, and that’s really the end of the story. What would be an interesting story is researching the figures on how Apple Store wages and benefits compare to other leading retailers. But to try to correlate sales staff wages to what the overall company makes is ridiculous. Just because Apple is rich does NOT automatically entitle all employees to a large chunk of it. Pay should be commensurate to the value of the employee in the creation of sales of the overall company.

    I’m very pleased that Apple Store employees don’t get sales commissions. Can you imagine the disaster of the Apple Store experience with each employee having a car salesman attitude? What’s missing from the equation is that the products alone do most of the selling. The fit, finish, engineering, forethought and capabilities built into each Apple product make using them a joy, and this is what other companies completely miss. Apple sells the “delighted customer” experience. The products are so good and provide so much enjoyment, customers simply fall in love with them.

  • Ronald Stepp

    Maybe the guy should get off his ass and do something else if he thinks $11.25 is not up to his standards.

    You know, renegotiate his pay, apply for a google job, do some ios app development. That kind of stuff, or get his resume straight and get a better job doing something else. He MUST have a pretty good education to have that job, if not then he is probably getting paid what he deserves.

  • theobserving

    The “each Apple employee brought in $470K” is bollocks. As if they could have possibly brought that in by themselves, they’re just sales reps, they’re selling what the store has pretty much.

    yeah, it’s very easy to sell $470k a year. extremely. i worked at apple retail for 2.5 years and sold over
    US$1 mil a QUARTER. the average sale, at least when i was last there (in 2011) was $1500-1600, for a computer sale.

    break that down:

    $1100 – CPU
    $250 – AppleCare
    $99 – OneToOne
    $99 – printer (no longer exists)
    $150 – Office (yeah, most people buy office. whatever)

    pre-tax that’s $1698. not everyone bought Office; shockingly, not everyone took what essentially turned intoa free printer… and yes, it was a crappy printer. not everyone bought 1:1 or applecare (though, on the latter, they definitely should, and the former, depending on the customer, too.)

    now… let’s say a person works 150 days out of the year, conservatively. let’s say the sell 5 “complete solutions” in a day, on average, that’s all they do.

    5 systems at an average of $1700 (pre tax): $8500
    150 days of 5 systems? – ~$1.3million

    …or just under 4x the $478k the NYT states.

    this doesn’t take into consideration that some days you sell very little, that you might spend weeks just selling phones and ipads (trust me), and that “specialists”, as opposed to “experts”, perform other tasks including checking-in customers for appointments, running workshops, etc.

    $470k a YEAR (which is what it says in the NYT piece) is -extremely- plausible, if not lazy. In the position I held, if i had seen someone running $470k a year (~$118k/quarter), i’d have looked into helping them improve.

  • Ed_Kel

    This is clearly political hype from the Socialist/Marxist outlet “NYT”. Yet another article attempting to stir the usual idiots into hating Capitalism.

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, Creative Screenwriting, Shelf-Awareness, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef, and send him a cookie once in a while; he'll really appreciate it.

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