How Apple’s push to rule the smartphone industry has made Apple Store employees feel like robots

Apple Store Fifth Avenue
Apple Store Fifth Avenue

In recent years, Apple Retail Store “employees have started to feel like the culture and spirit of the Apple Store has deviated from its original vision as they’re told to prioritize iPhone sales and upgrades. They say the company’s changing mission has hurt its customers,” Lisa Eadicicco reports for Business Insider:

Rich Zeug hasn’t worked at the Apple Store in more than two years. Yet he still remembers a particularly distressed college student with a liquid-damaged MacBook Pro. The customer’s roommate had spilled beer on the computer. “You can’t punish him for that,” said Zeug, who ended up giving the student a discount on the repair. He charged him around $300 for what would have been a $1,240 job…

It’s interactions like these that have defined the Apple Store since its 2001 inception… But since then, as the iPhone has grown to become an increasingly important part of Apple’s business, Zeug said he saw a change in what the Apple Store started to represent. Around the time he left in 2017, Apple started prioritizing metrics like Apple Pay transactions and the number of AppleCare attachments with sales, Zeug said. “It was less about the customer experience and more about the transaction and the sale.” Apple’s push for quantity has turned a once-rewarding customer service and IT job into something robotic.

MacDailyNews Take: In May, Bloomberg News reported that “in interviews, current and former Apple employees blame a combination of factors. They say the stores have become mostly an exercise in branding and no longer do a good job serving mission shoppers like Smith. Meanwhile, they say, the quality of staff has slipped during an 18-year expansion that has seen Apple open more than 500 locations and hire 70,000 people.”

As for Apple Stores, especially the mall stores, what used to be a draw have become something to be avoided for years now due to overcrowding of what seems mainly to be people dealing with broken iPhones competing with people straining to hear free courses due to poor/no acoustical design by Apple interior designers, and asinine wooden boxes strewn about for “seating,” to name just three repellents.MacDailyNews, April 15, 2019

When we walk into an Apple Store, we want to know where to go. Not mill about at random until someone puts us into some invisible queue. We also want a spacious Genius Bar (not “Grove”) where we can have some actual counter space to talk to an knowledgeable person while looking at the device in question together. It’s not that difficult. Steve Jobs, Ron Johnson, and – drum roll, please – Deirdre O’Brien got it right the first time. O’Brien was there from the outset. So, the good news is that there’s hope left after all. — MacDailyNews, May 7, 2019

28 Comments

  1. I agree 100%
    The Apple store rush to automation and robots answering calls has taken away some of the fundamentals that made the store unique compared to it’s competitors. Also,a poor experience
    at an Oakridge Vancouver store was really not good enough. Apple has some great workers in their stores and should get make to listening to them!

    Big mistake!!!!!!!

    1. A few months ago, I made an appointment at the Oakridge (Vancouver BC) Apple store to have the battery replaced in my old MacBook Air. They would not replace it when I brought it in. They made me book an appointment to bring it back the next week. So I came back the next week with my MacBook air and then they wouldn’t even look at my computer and sent me to an “authorized” dealer across town. It appears Apple dropped support for my particular model two days previous. Between the time they took my appointment and when my appointment came up. The authorized dealer was fine. I was just disappointed by the waste of time, effort and feeling like Apple dropped me like a hot potato. If they had told me to just go to the authorized service center instead of taking my appointment, I would not have been so disappointed.

  2. I worked for Apple retail part and full time from 01 until 12. The stores have changed dramatically. The products Apple sell are what is driving this change. I have to agree with the statement made,“It was less about the customer experience and more about the transaction and the sale.”
    The genius bar went from walk in and discuss the issue, to a fifteen minute queue. The stores had theaters, then it was removed and now they are putting them back. Ron Johnson was the best.

  3. The article described the denigrated experience accurately complimenting MDN takes. Lost is the personal touch Genius experience that cared and solved problems making you feel good. Also gone is the third party software and hardware items for sale that were recommended by staff to enhance the Mac experience. The dependence now on iPhone centric smacks of cattle with credit card…

        1. #ironic for irony’s sake. The obvious error to see if you would bite, you did. Don’t know if it means anything except that you have eyes and a brain. But make no mistake, the bae bit was on porpoise.

  4. I tend to avoid the Apple Store nowadays due to the crowds and the fact I can do most things online.
    The local mall store in Santa Clara is probably about 3 miles from Apple Park, yet it has not been expanded since I can remember. It is definitely due for an overhaul.
    My experience with the Genius Bar has generally been good. The best one was when I went in with a MBP charger that I had accidentally cut the cable. I told a sales rep that I needed a new one and she directed me to the Genius Bar manager. After confirming that I had the extended warranty, they gave me a new one for free. That was a few years ago so not sure if they would still do that. It helps to get there early when it is not crazy.

  5. Turning officious is not unexpected as an enterprise grows. A solution to increasing the level of shopping delight due to hightened accessibility and increased personal attention is to open a companion store, near by, in the same mall. I would like to see a test case.

    1. Growing officialdom is not unexpected as a government grows and progressivism goes into overdrive. A solution to the increased level of government disgust due to hightened accessibility and increased personal attention is to shrink government size, while forcing everyone to receive a subsidised piece of my art work so government waste would truly be rammed home. I would like to see a test case.

  6. Visits to the Apple Store in the Stanford Mall have been good experiences, but I make sure to go during off hours. As one of the flagship stores in Silicon Valley it has plenty of space, but even it fills up. I see the mechanization of the whole process as a byproduct of Apple’s success. The iPhone/Apple product user base has grown exponentially in the past decade, and there’s no way for the stores to expand and customer service to keep up. With increased, legitimate service requests there are also tons of scammers and leeches trying to get free repairs or attempting other ripoffs that gum up the works. I remember a guy insisting on a free screen repair for his new iPhone (no Applecare) because “I dropped my old one plenty of times and it never cracked”.

  7. Even Ron Johnson repeated the vision of the Apple Stores as destination locations where folks would come and spend time. I didn’t believe it as a GM and I don’t buy it now. Nobody wants to drive to a retail store to ‘hang out’. And if you did, it wouldn’t be a noisy, crowded, loud retail store.

    There is nothing wrong with the stores being a transactional location. A place to buy products and get service. But until Apple embraces this, the stores won’t evolve into a destination where Apple owners actually look forward to visiting.

    1. People ‘hang out’ at Starbucks, noisy crowded retail spaces. People ‘hang out’ at malls, noisy crowded retail spaces.

      Folks that DON’T like to be around crowds or around people in general preferred the Apple Store when no one was there. I do have a recommendation for them, though. Head over to the Microsoft store! No matter when I’ve gone to one, it’s never very busy 🙂

  8. All I can say is that I went to an Apple store to see how they could help me with my iPad Pro. The lightning port could no longer charge, no matter how much I jiggled the cable. It was also out of warranty by 8 months. I took it in store out of hope, wondering if they knew of a fix.

    The Genuis took a look, understood the issue, calmly said, “Give me a minute…” and walked into some back room. He came back a few minutes later and asked, “Would you like a replacement?”

    I nearly fell off the stool. The Genuis added, “It’s out of warranty but that’s okay. We’ll just replace it. Would you like us to set it up in store for you?”

    Again, I nearly fell off the stool. And I was lost for words. I literally couldn’t say anything.

    About ten seconds later I mumbled “Thank you…”

    And this isn’t the first time Apple has gone beyond their obligations to help me.

    No doubt others may not have received the same grace. Maybe I just got lucky.

    All I can do is offer my story.

      1. I think that helped. I have seen people speak loudly so others can hear them “Apple is a billion dollar company! You are so rich! I can’t see why you can’t give me a new phone!”

        I do not miss working in retail…

      2. I had a similarly good experience with a years out of warranty MacBook Air.

        I am anything but intimidating or aggressive, and I was prepared to pay 100 to $200, and instead ended up getting $400 worth of work for about 20 bucks.

        I have always caught more flies with honey than with vinegar, so yeah.

        (I also once owned a retail store, and the people who treated me like a fellow human being when they had issues almost always got further with me than the jerks.)

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