Considering their nearly ubiquitous status in retail cuture, it’s easy to forget that the Apple Store is a relatively new creation. Although Apple brought in over $7 billion in revenue last quarter across 400 physical locations, the first one was opened in just 2001… but ever since then, the Apple Store has spread like wildfire across the planet.
Here’s a great reminder of how far Apple has come, courtesy of Business Insider. Watch this animated map showing Apple Stores’ openings internationally. Check out how far the greatest retail success story since Wal-Mart has come!
This is the very first column for Cult of Mac written by an actual Apple retail store genius. Our genius must remain anonymous, but other than “Who are you, anyway?” ask anything you want about what goes on behind that slick store facade.
To start this off, we asked the Genius, “What are the top 3 questions you get asked at work at the Apple Store?”
Here they are:
1. When is the new iPhone/iPad/Mac coming out?
We’re not allowed to divulge anything about upcoming products, or address rumors. If we even talk about rumors with customers we could lose our jobs. When a customer asks if I know when a new product is coming out, my response is simply, “We don’t know when it’s coming out. We find out when everyone else does, when it’s announced.”
But don’t you really know?
No. We all read the same rumors as you do, but Apple’s not going to tell employees at the Apple Store when stuff is coming out because how many of us would leak it? We would instantly tell our friends and ruin Apple’s marketing plans, so they won’t tell us until the day Apple announces it publicly.
2. Do I have to make an appointment? Can’t I just come in?
Company policy is that yes, we can accept walk-in appointments. But truly, can we? Not always. Some days we have a full day of open reservations for customers to fill in as scheduling allows. Other days you might have to come back a couple hours later for an open reservation.
The Genius Bar is a lot like a car dealership service center. You can’t just drive up to Toyota and ask for your Camry to be serviced without an appointment. Most of the time you need an appointment for those things because there’s a limited number of technicians.
Bottom line, the easiest way to get into the Apple Store Genius Bar is to make an appointment. Go onto the website or use the Apple Store app and you can get seen right away instead of waiting for hours if you just come by.
3. Am I really getting a NEW iPhone when I pay $49 for Apple to replace a broken iPhone covered by AppleCare+?
My line is that, yes, it is a new iPhone, but Apple terms and conditions state that “Apple may use parts or products that are new or equivalent to new in reliability and performance,” meaning the iPhone you’re getting is really “reconditioned,” not straight from the factory like it is when you buy a brand new iPhone.
We’re told to say that they aren’t “refurbished” because they’ve been totally gutted down to the frame. Apple’s stance is that they really are brand new devices, in the sense that they get a new enclosure, display, and innards, but there are a lot of parts that have been recycled from old iPhones, like the metal frame and some other parts.
We know they’re just rebuilding them. I’ve seen some that had a screw missing, others with a bad display, but it’s only been a small percentage. I’ve seen reconditioned iPhones that lasted twice as long as a new iPhone, so they’re not necessarily worse.
Since 2011, Cory Moll has been in charge of the Apple Workers Union, an initiative that has worked to help improve working conditions for thousands of Apple Store employees around the world. Moll has been an Apple employee since 2007, and today is his last day at the company.
It’s a bad time to purchase one of Apple’s latest iMacs if you’re living in Europe. Shipping times for the all-new, all-in-one have slipped for the second time in under a month, and customers are now facing lengthy waits for both the 21.5-inch and the 27-inch models. The former currently has a 3-4 week shipping delay, while its bigger brother will keep you waiting 4-6 weeks.
Jerry McDougal (right) outside of an Apple Store in 2004.
The recent departure of John Browett has left Apple searching for a new senior executive to lead its retail division. Internally, Apple has had a couple of execs who could fit the bill. One of the top contenders, retail VP Jerry McDougal, has now left Apple for personal reasons.
McDougal’s replacement will be VP of Finance Jim Bean, according to an official statement provided by Apple.
John Browett didn’t last long at Apple. He was brought on by Tim Cook at the beginning of last year to lead Apple’s retail division and then he was fired 9 months later. The former Dixons CEO didn’t mesh well with Apple’s culture, and he caused unrest among Apple Store employees.
Since legendary retail guru Ron Johnson left Apple for JC Penny, Apple hasn’t been able to find the right executive to fill his shoes. Now that Browett is gone, who should Apple give the reigns of Apple retail to?
Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at today’s iPhone event and opened with an update on the company’s retail presence. Cook started by showing off Apple’s new Barcelona store and playing a video of the store’s launch.
Apple now has 380 retail stores in 12 countries. The company’s first Swedish store will open on Friday, September 14th. 83 million visitors walked through Apple’s retail stores last year, making the Cupertino company one of the most successful consumer electronics retail chains in history. “Apple stores offer the best buying experience and customer service on the planet,” exclaimed Cook.
While Apple retail is definitely a force to be reckoned with, the company’s digital downloads are also setting the industry standard. Apple customers have downloaded 7 million copies of Mountain Lion since its launch in July, according to Cook. That figure makes Mountain Lion the fastest selling OS X release in history.
Apple made a conscious and important choice about sales commissions and customer experience
Over the weekend, The NY Times posted another investigative piece in its iEconomy series that about Apple. This installment focused on Apple’s retail stores. As with previous articles in the series, this one focuses on legitimate concerns about the American economy in an age of globalization. Like the other pieces, this one targets Apple specifically and ignores the range of Apple competitors that employ similar practices.
The primary issue that the Times brings up with regard to Apple retail stores is that employees can sell thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of Apple products and still earn a relatively modest wage. The underlying sentiment is that if a retail employee sells so much hardware, he should earn more because he is contributing to Apple’s vast revenues.
The only way for things to shake out that way and remain fair would be if Apple offered performance-based awards or commissions. Apple chose not to do that because doing so would have delivered a fundamentally different customer experience than the one envisioned by Steve Jobs – a fact that the NY Times chose not to explore in any real depth.
Companies challenged by BYOD should consider Apple’s Genius Bar as a tech support model
One of concerns for IT departments as first iPhones and then iPads and other consumer-focused technologies began creeping into the workplace is how to support the personal devices and apps of employees. That issue took center stage this week as security vendor Fortinet identified that most millennial workers feel that support and security for their mobile devices and other technologies is their responsibility and not the responsibility of an employer or IT department.
What that means is that many IT departments may need to rethink what technical support means. That isn’t a new concept. Various studies and reports have shown that members of Gen-Y prefer to engage support resources using a range of technologies beyond a helpdesk phone line including email, texts, and social networks. As this new vision of support emerges, one model for the future help desk is the Genius Bar from Apple’s retail stores.
These guys might look more prestigious than your usual retail employee, but they're often far worse suffering.
For many Apple fans, there’s a hypnotic allure to the idea of working for their favorite tech company, even if it’s just a job manning the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store. But what happens when you actually get called in for an interview? What’s it like to actually work at the Apple Store?
The truth is few applicants will ever know, as it’s almost impossible to get a job at an Apple Retail store at anything besides an entry-level, part-time sales position, no matter how qualified or educated you are. Once in, it’s almost impossible to move up the ladder, you will be poorly paid, you will probably never see a raise above basic inflation, you will be overworked and you will be abused day-in and day-out by customers. If you soldier through and rise up the ladder, the job can be rewarding, but more often than not, it’s not just retail hell… it’s worse than retail.