Apple Retail Store Employee on Product Launches, Store Culture, and Customers

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There are obviously quite a few Apple retail store employees and ex-employees around, many of whom are happy to share details of what it's like to work for the company, but a new "confessions" report published by Popular Mechanics summarizes some of the more interesting points and dispels a few rumors about what employees do and do not know and how their performance is judged. Among the highlights:

- Apple retail store employees know nothing about future product releases, and find out about them only as they are publicly announced. Speculating about future products is severely frowned upon, particularly in the presence of customers.

I am asked five times per day about the next iPad or iPhone, and I quite simply don't know. But I would be in huge trouble if I said something like "The next iPad is going to have a camera." I actually avoid the technology section of the newspaper so I have no points of view to accidentally comment with or drop into conversation. I'd rather just be dumb about it.

- Retail store employees have to deal with a wide range of customers each day, including "evil" customers who scream or curse their way into replacements at the Genius Bar, "drug dealers" trying to buy iPhones with fake IDs and credit cards, gray-market exporters trying to load up on iPhones for export to other countries, and non-customers who visit Apple stores to post Facebook updates, send out live webcasts, and listen to music.

- Retail store employees are expected to sell significant numbers of add-ons such as AppleCare and MobileMe as they close sales on hardware products. The so-called "attachment rate" is very high for AppleCare, but MobileMe is reportedly generally a tough sell.

- Apple's training and motivational materials can make the company feel like a cult, and while employees aren't paid on commission, their sales performance is publicly shown to all store employees and low-performing employees are taken aside by management to attempt to find ways to increase their productivity.

All in all, there aren't any real surprises revealed in the report, but it does offer an interesting look into what it's like to work at an Apple retail store.

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