Apple Store's worst feature? Customers, says ex-employee

Technically Incorrect: The customers are awful, workers get death threats, and the Apple Watch could use some work, a former Apple retail staffer tells Business Insider.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

The Apple Store is a joyous place. Until customers arrive, that is.
Enlarge Image
The Apple Store is a joyous place. Until customers arrive, that is.

The Apple Store is a joyous place. Until customers arrive, that is.

Josh Miller/CNET

You've always wondered what life is like at an Apple store, haven't you?

Behind the scenes and in an employee's heart and mind, what's really happening? What's he or she really thinking?

On Saturday, Business Insider published an interview with a woman who says she worked at a UK Apple store between 2011 and 2015.

She says a lot. Or, at least, uses many words.

At heart, though, she suggests that the very worst thing about the stores isn't the management, the products or even the cultlike nature of the Apple brand.

Instead, she said, it's the fact that you're simply a retail worker who usually gets treated poorly, "not necessarily by the store, but by the customers. It is an incredibly disheartening job."

Apple fanpersons are, it seems, not the most charming. She said people come in just to complain.

And how they complain.

"Maybe 60 percent of the time there's actually something wrong" with a product, she said. "But the point is, they'll come to you. They won't have booked a Genius Bar appointment or have looked it up online first. About once a day I was called a bitch for not knowing how something worked."

In fact, she said, on one special occasion, a customer offered her that very verbal nicety -- along with the modifier "lazy" and a demand that she travel to a certain legendary place of eternal misery (no, not Walmart on Black Friday, but close). And why? Because she'd apologized for not immediately knowing the exact issue with a device the customer had brought in -- a gadget that "wasn't even an Apple product, but a third-party accessory."

It's so easy to be critical of brands and products, isn't it? Perhaps we don't always stop to think about how sweetly we're behaving.

When it comes to Apple products, the existence of a convenient retail outlet seems to serve as a convenient emotional outlet for frustrated customers.

The employee said she even got death threats, such as one from an endearing customer who said that because Apple wouldn't repair a gadget for free, "they would wait outside until I finished work to run me down with their car."

I think Apple calls such extreme reactions "going thermonuclear."

Apple didn't respond to a request for comment on the BI interview.

You'll be wondering what kept such an employee working in the store for so long. It was, she said, her fellow staffers. Even though she admitted that Apple is, as many have suspected, cultlike, she said a lot of her co-workers were musicians and graphic designers who participated in "cool stuff."

When asked to single out the worst product Apple sells, she replied it was the Apple Watch.

"It's a bit like the first iPad, which lacked a load of features the iPad 2 had," she said. "My parents still have the iPad 2. They want to get a new one, but theirs works, and it does everything they want it to. The next Apple Watch will probably have far more features."

She said Apple doesn't appear to fire many people once they get a coveted job at one of its stores. Given this particular worker's fond remembrances, though, that sense of job security might not be so comforting.

Next time you wander into an Apple store and see an employee with Apple logo emblazoned over heart, remember this: You are the problem. In their minds, employees are happy to fix your gadget. In their hearts, they'd like to fix you.