Why Apple’s Geniuses seem so glad to accept lower pay

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Apple store
Apple Store employees are partially compensated with intangible benefits.
Photo: Apple

Anyone who frequents Apple retail stores knows they can always count on knowledgeable and sympathetic help from an employee. One might assume that Apple retains such people with high salaries. Nope.

Instead, the Geniuses — as some employees of Apple Stores are famously called — work there because they are a select few who believe they are helping customers by selling them Macs, iPhones, etc.

It’s hard to get a job at an Apple Store

Sales commissions are standard in retail, but not at the Apple Store. This means that employees are there to assist customers, not just sell them products. But the other side of the coin is that Apple salespeople are paid below industry averages, according to The Guardian.

People apparently take these jobs because Apple gives them nontangible rewards. According to Ron Johnson, who pioneered the Apple Store as SVP of Retail operations, one of these rewards is respect.  In 2011, he told the Harvard Business Review:

“Getting a job on the sales floor at Apple today requires six to eight interviews, including with the person who runs the entire local market. One result of that intensive process is that when people are hired, they feel honored to be on the team, and the team respects them from day one because they’ve made it through the gauntlet. That’s very different from trying to find somebody at the lowest cost who’s available on Saturdays from 8 to 12.”

New hires start their first day of work with a round of applause from the other employees for successfully passing the gauntlet of interviews.

Always helpful

Apple’s salespeople are trained to be helpful and sympathetic, which is what most customers are looking for. Again, because they aren’t paid on commission, their goal is to assist people, not sell them products.

As a result, people can go into an Apple Store with a malfunctioning computer knowing that it’ll be fixed if that’s feasible, and they won’t automatically be steered into buying a new one.

While CEO Tim Cook is the public face of the company, almost no Apple customers will ever meet him. They will meet Josh at their local Apple Store, though, and if he’s helpful and not pushy then the customer will likely go away happy.

A happy customer today is one who’ll probably buy another Apple product in the future. And that’s the whole goal.  Apple is running a business, after all.