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
71 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
71 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
71 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
71 months ago
tldr; retail sucks.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WiiDSmoker Avatar
71 months ago
Everyone should work retail or fast food once in their life
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Brian Y Avatar
71 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)

Popular Stories

AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature Red

AirPods Pro 2 Could Start a New Accessory Ecosystem

Friday January 14, 2022 2:34 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro could arrive alongside a new series of accessories, recent leaked images suggest. Alleged leaked photos of the next-generation AirPods Pro obtained by MacRumors showed a charging case with a metal loop on the side for attaching a strap. Apple has not used this design for any of its other AirPod models and it is unclear why it would be added in this...
netflix2

Netflix Again Raises Prices for All Plans, 4K Streaming Now $20 Per Month

Friday January 14, 2022 12:46 pm PST by
Netflix today updated the prices for its streaming plans, and all of its offerings are now more expensive. The Basic plan is now priced at $9.99 per month, the Standard plan is priced at $15.49 per month, and the Premium plan is priced at $19.99 per month. The Basic plan is $1 more expensive, up from $8.99 per month. This plan allows users to watch on just one screen at a time, and it limits ...
iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole 16x9 120hz

Analyst: All iPhone 14 Models to Feature 120Hz Displays, 6GB of RAM, and More

Friday January 14, 2022 7:02 am PST by
Apple is rumored to announce four new iPhone 14 models in September, and ahead of time, analyst Jeff Pu has outlined his expectations for the devices. In a research note with Haitong International Securities, obtained by MacRumors, Pu claimed that all iPhone 14 models will feature ProMotion displays, compared to only Pro models currently. ProMotion enables a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz ...
Unlikely Products 2022 Feature

Six Rumored Apple Products You're Unlikely to See This Year

Saturday January 15, 2022 2:06 pm PST by
Much has been said about what consumers could see from Apple in 2022, but the company is also working on a handful of rumored products that aren't expected to be unveiled for at least another 12 months, and in some cases a lot longer. Of course, that's assuming they get released at all. Apple works on many potential products some of which ultimately never see the light of day. With that in...
top stories 20220115

Top Stories: iPhone 14 Pro Rumors, iCloud Private Relay Controversy, iOS 15.2.1 Released, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 6:00 am PST by
Hole-punch? Pill? Hole-punch and pill? Rumors about what the front camera system on the iPhone 14 Pro will look like are evolving rapidly, and it now appears we might be getting a novel but potentially controversial design later this year. Other major stories this week included some confusion and controversy about iCloud Private Relay being disabled for some T-Mobile customers, increasing...
iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole thumb

ProMotion Now Expected to Remain Exclusive to iPhone 14 Pro Models, Not Expand to Entire Lineup

Sunday January 16, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Continuing the tradition set with the iPhone 13 Pro, only the highest-end iPhone 14 models will feature Apple's ProMotion display technology, according to a respected display analyst. Ross Young, who on multiple occasions has detailed accurate information about Apple's future products, said in a tweet that ProMotion will not be expanded to the entire iPhone 14 lineup and will remain...
iPad Pro Big Ol Logo Orange

Next iPad Pro Might Feature Large Glass Apple Logo to Allow Wireless Charging

Friday January 14, 2022 10:44 am PST by
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu last year reported that Apple had tested a new iPad Pro with a glass back for wireless charging capabilities. In a recent edition of his newsletter, Gurman said he expects the new iPad Pro to be released in 2022. While the new iPad Pro is still on track to feature wireless charging, 9to5Mac's Filipe Espósito today reported that Apple may have ultimately...
ipad air 4 video

New iPad Air Rumored to Launch This Spring With A15 Chip, 5G, Center Stage Camera, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 8:05 pm PST by
Apple is planning to release a fifth-generation iPad Air with similar features as the sixth-generation iPad mini, including an A15 Bionic chip, 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage support, 5G for cellular models, and Quad-LED True Tone flash, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. Citing reliables sources in China, the report claims that the new iPad Air could be...