Apple Store employee says it's 'like working at McDonald's, with better pay'

An Apple Store employee has broken the fruit-flavoured company's vow of silence. Click here to find out who's the worst-behaved: the customers, or the staff who lie to us.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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An Apple Store employee has broken the company's Jobsian vow of silence, revealing that "sometimes the company can feel like a cult" -- while at other times "it's like working at McDonald's, with better pay".

Popular Mechanics chatted with an anonymous Apple Store staff member about the highs and lows of the job, from the difficulty of selling MobileMe to the infamously hysterical launch events.

The launch of a new product means long hours coupled with overtime bonuses, good food and morale-boosting extras like massages and paddling pools full of goldfish -- but giving the game away early can get you fired. Speculating about forthcoming products, such as the iPhone 5 or iPad 2, will earn you a P45 faster than a habit of never turning up on time.

Employees are "completely in the dark until (Apple) do a keynote speech". The iWhistleblower gets "asked five times per day about the next iPad or iPhone, and I quite simply don't know".

That means Apple Store employees -- through no fault of their own -- are routinely recommending products that could be obsolete as little as a day later.

Tech-savvy shoppers will have an inkling of what's coming, from reading the latest gadget news here at CNET UK and those other gadget sites that aren't as good as wot we are. Even the non-tech-savvy don't have to look hard to know something's up, as the launch of the next iPhone and iPad is mainstream news -- and they arrive at the same time each year. You'd have to live under a rock to walk into an Apple Store with no idea a new phone is coming.

That's not the case, however, with other products such as iMac computers and MacBook laptops. They're often updated with no warning. Imagine paying thousands of pounds for a top of the range computer then a day later discovering it's been replaced by a better device.

But as anyone who's ever worked in a shop knows, the really bad behaviour comes from the customers. All the minimalist zen styling in the world can't keep out the weirdos, from drug dealers and Chinese resellers who create email addresses on the in-store iMacs so they can buy iPads, to homeless people and teenagers dancing around the shop to deafening black metal or Britney Spears pop.

If employees do well, they're promoted to the Genius Bar, "which is where you want to be. Who doesn't want to be a genius?" Who indeed?

Do you work in an Apple Store, or any other phone or gadget shop? Are the customers as badly behaved as this story suggests? Tell us your best, worst and weirdest retail experiences in the comments or on our Facebook wall.