Former Apple Store Employees Provide Amusing Glimpse Into Company's Retail Culture

A trio of former Apple Store employees recently delved into some stories of their tenure at various retail locations of the company's well-recognized brand. Although their names were changed to keep their identities a secret, the group which spoke with Thrillist included: Lucas, a Lead Genius with five years of experience; David, who worked part-time as a Sales Specialist for four-and-a-half years; and Tony, a Family Room Specialist for five years at an Apple Store.

Some of the topics tackled by the former Apple employees were Apple's much-discussed secrecy that would sometimes trickle down from corporate, the comical lengths customers went to in order to get a product replaced, and the power dynamics inherent within every Apple Store location. David had some first-hand experience with a particularly extensive reach for secrecy implemented by Apple during the launch of the iPhone 5, which also ditched the 30-pin charging adapter for the now ubiquitous Lightning cable.

apple_store_genius_bar_official

David: “We were never given inside information on any new product releases or designs. I remember when the iPhone 5 came out, we got a shipment of the newer Lightning Cables a little bit before the announcement. Even something as simple as the design of the new cable was such a secret that when they originally sent them to us, they were disguised inside of a mock enclosure that mimicked the older, 30-pin cable design. When the new cable was unveiled, they sent us instructions on how to pry these enclosures open to reveal the newer connector secretly housed inside of the older ones. Crazy stuff.”

All three of the former employees chimed in on the awkward stories surrounding customers bringing in "completely destroyed" Apple devices and attempting to walk out of the store with a new replacement. Lucas mentioned a man who claimed an iPhone "erupted into flames," while further evidence suggested it was microwaved in a misguided attempt to remedy accidental water damage. Tony and David provided weirder tales still.

Tony: “I had a guy try to convince me that the liquid damage was some kind of E.T. fluid from when he was abducted [by aliens]. It was hard to keep a straight face during that.”

David: “One time we had a guy bring in a completely destroyed iPhone in a plastic bag. I mean this thing was 100% unrecognizable. He told us it wasn’t working right, so he took it out behind his house and shot it with a rifle because he was so fed up with the thing. We did not replace it.”

Lucas and David went further into the specifics of the "distinct hierarchy" of the Apple Store, detailing an "odd" dynamic imbalance between entry level employees and those higher up. Most of the full-time positions were "seen as an accomplishment" due to Apple's extensive training program that flew out applicants to Cupertino or Austin for a few days. This created an "off-putting" atmosphere for new employees trying to get by in the store and still years off from being able to take advantage of the company's perks. According to Lucas, no one at an Apple store -- seasoned or newly employed -- could tell any customer "no."

Lucas: "Under no circumstances could we tell a customer directly, 'No, I cannot help with this issue.' This was a tricky one in certain situations. For example, if a customer had to pay $199 to replace their broken iPhone screen, they’d get very upset. If they say something like 'So you’re telling me you can't help me with this, you can't fix my phone?!' we were trained to reply with 'Yes, I absolutely can help you and I'd love to. The replacement is $199.' This could loop around in circles for quite awhile."

Earlier in May, Apple celebrated the 15th anniversary of the first two Apple Stores, which opened their doors on May 19, 2001 in Tysons Corner, Virginia and Glendale, California. Since the opening of those two pioneering locations, Apple has expanded to operate nearly 500 stores in over a dozen countries -- spearheaded by Senior Vice President of Retail, Angela Ahrendts -- which undoubtedly contributes to unique stories like the ones that have been divulged to Thrillist.

Tony, Lucas, and David go into detail about many other areas of working at an Apple Store, including the wayfaring strangers who take advantage of the store's multiple internet-connected computers and the sometimes sensitive material discovered during data migrations of iPhoto. You can read the full article detailing a few slice-of-life stories from the former Apple Store employees here.

Top Rated Comments

Kobbr Avatar
64 months ago
I remember going to the Genius Bar last year and this dumb lady was complaining that they wouldn't replace her iPhone 5 with an iPhone 6S because the iPhone 5 broke. The guy helping her was super polite, saying they'll repair the phone for $xxx but they can't give her a new device. She demanded to speak with a manager who said the same thing.

She was becoming verbally abusive to the point where I almost stepped in and said something. I don't like when people are disrespected for doing their job and following procedures. But it wasn't my place so I didn't say anything.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deany Avatar
64 months ago
I've always found apple retail staff extremely competent, pleasant and helpful.
Truly a pleasure to visit an apple store Liverpool or anywhere.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
64 months ago
Yep, people can be so bitterly ignorant about processes and exceptionally rude to retail staff.

Carry a smile in with you and be courteous. You'd be surprised how helpful people want to be when you treat them like a human being.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
icanhazapple Avatar
64 months ago
tldr; retail sucks.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WiiDSmoker Avatar
64 months ago
Everyone should work retail or fast food once in their life
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Brian Y Avatar
64 months ago
Hate to knock the credibility of this, but the lightning-in-a-30-pin-case just isn't true. The iPhone 5 was announced over a month before launch (stores get stock a day or two before), and lightning was featured in that year's keynote - so it was no big secret.

New products are just shipped in black wrap with a "do not open until xxxx" on it. Nobody's going to open it and lose their job. No fake cases, or anything like that. But I guess it takes a fancy story to get your name in lights ;)
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

macbook air orange

Apple Developing a Whole New Kind of MacBook Air

Monday June 21, 2021 2:15 am PDT by
Apple is believed to be working on a completely new, high-end version of the MacBook Air, according to recent reports. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who often reveals accurate insights into Apple's plans, has repeatedly discussed the company's work on a high-end MacBook Air. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and leaker Jon Prosser have also referred to a similar MacBook Air model. The high-end...
iOS 15 Users Underwhelmed Feature

Users Underwhelmed by iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, Survey Suggests

Monday June 21, 2021 7:17 am PDT by
Users appear to be underwhelmed by Apple's upcoming iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 updates, according to the findings of a new survey by SellCell. The survey asked 3,000 iPhone and iPad users, evenly split between men and women, aged 18 or over in the United States, what they thought of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and the naming of the upcoming iPhone 13 lineup. Over 50 percent of all of the survey's...
purple iphone 12 and 12 mini

iPhone 12 Mini Production Reportedly Ended Earlier Than Expected Due to Relatively Low Sales

Monday June 21, 2021 7:07 am PDT by
Following widespread reports that the iPhone 12 mini has experienced poor sales performance, at least relative to other iPhone 12 models, Taiwanese research firm TrendForce today claimed that production of the device has already ended. According to TrendForce, the iPhone 12 mini "reached End-of-Life ahead of time" during the second quarter of 2021, suggesting that Apple will focus on selling ...
Dark Sky App Featured

Apple Updates Dark Sky Weather App With Apple Watch Improvements and More

Tuesday June 22, 2021 11:58 am PDT by
Apple today updated the Dark Sky weather app for the first time since November with improved VoiceOver support and other bug fixes and performance improvements. In addition, Dark Sky complications on the Apple Watch now update more frequently. The full release notes for Dark Sky version 6.8.6:• Improved VoiceOver support • Complications on Apple Watch update more frequently •...
iPhone 12 v Android 2020

Apple Executive Says Users Who Want App Sideloading Already Have That Option With Other Platforms

Wednesday June 23, 2021 5:07 am PDT by
Apple earlier today published a detailed report outlining in blatant terms the negative impact that sideloading would have on the iPhone and iPad, specifically calling out the impacts it would have on user privacy and security. Now, the company is continuing its PR push, with an executive noting in an interview that users who wish to sideload apps already have that option thanks to other...
iOS Spam Calendar Feature

iCloud Users Continue to Be Plagued by Calendar Spam

Monday June 21, 2021 8:51 am PDT by
Despite previous attempts to put the situation at rest, some iCloud users continue to experience spam calendar invitations, causing their calendars to be filled with random events. The situation received widespread coverage in 2016, where Apple said that it was "actively working to address this issue" by "identifying and blocking suspicious senders." Victims are targeted in various ways. The ...
primeday2020 feature3

Amazon Prime Day: The Best Apple Deals

Monday June 21, 2021 6:15 am PDT by
Amazon's annual Prime Day event has officially kicked off today, beginning 48 hours of discounts, offers, and tons of savings across Amazon's storefront. This includes everything from home electronics to clothing, jewelry, video games, movies, and much more. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment,...
ios wifi settings

iOS Bug Causes Specific Network Name to Disable Wi-Fi on iPhones

Sunday June 20, 2021 4:15 am PDT by
A wireless network naming bug has been discovered in iOS that effectively disables an iPhone's ability to connect to Wi-Fi. Security researcher Carl Schou found that after joining a Wi-Fi network with the name "%p%s%s%s%s%n" his iPhone's Wi-Fi functionality was left "permanently disabled." Changing a hotspot's SSID did nothing to correct the problem, with even a reboot failing to make a...
iphone 13 lineup dummy models

iPhone 13 Dummy Models Depict Repositioned Camera Modules

Wednesday June 23, 2021 4:12 am PDT by
New alleged dummy models of the upcoming iPhone 13, shared by leaker Sonny Dickson on Twitter, depict a modified camera layout on the standard iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, with two lenses in a diagonal arrangement rather than the vertical arrangement seen on the iPhone 12 models. The dummy models generally line up with iPhone 13 schematics previously seen by MacRumors, which showed that the ...
iphone 13 yellow

TrendForce: iPhone 13 Lineup Will Remain Limited to Maximum 512GB of Storage

Monday June 21, 2021 6:33 am PDT by
Apple will likely unveil its next-generation "iPhone 12s" or "iPhone 13" lineup in around two and a half months from now, and ahead of time, Taiwanese research firm TrendForce has outlined its expectations for the devices. A summary of TrendForce's expectations:Apple will unveil four new iPhones in September, including a mini model, a standard model, and two Pro models. September is the...