Apple Tweaks Operations For Holiday Season

October 27, 2009

The last three months of each year always bring a rush of shoppers to Apple’s stores, creating record revenues but also challenging the stores to maintain the “surprise and delight” that visitors have come to expect during the holiday buying season. This year, Apple will update its operations to reduce visitor confusion and streamline sales. First, Apple will drop the aircraft carrier-like T-shirts that are color-coded to indicate the employees’ skills. Visitors have reported that seeing orange, dark blue, light blue, medium blue and black T-shirts is simply confusing. Beginning soon, the entire store staff will wear the same color T-shirt, with that color changing from time to time. Next—and more dramatically—employees will ditch the current EasyPay portable computers made by Symbol Technologies, and will begin using an iPod touch with an advanced scanner accessory and point-of-sale (POS) software. First, the iPod touch scanner will allow employees to capture data from products that have multiple barcodes using a single pass, including the UPC, Apple serial number and product code, cellular IMEI and ICCI numbers. Second, the new set-up will allow employees to accept cash for purchases without hiking to a central register position. The switch to the iPod touch is made possible by this year’s V3.0 software update, reported by AppleInsider back in April, that includes support for external devices. It’s not clear if Apple has programmed its own POS software or is using an application from another vendor. Apple debuted the current EasyPay POS system for the 2005 holiday buying season. It’s been generally successful from Apple’s perspective. However, employees have voiced many criticisms of EasyPay over the years, saying it suffers from crashes, loss of Wi-Fi connectivity and sluggish operation. The EasyPay devices run a version of the Windows CE operation system, feature a black-and-white screen and require a stylus to write signatures or make menu selections. Update: Tipsters say Apple developed the POS software that will run on the new iPod touch devices, and also designed and had built the battery pack for the device.

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe October 27, 2009 at 2032

Cash? Am I missing something?

They’re going to look like the gas-station attendants here in Oregon, with leather cash pouches in their back pockets? I don’t understand how iPod touches can suddenly allow them to hold cash, please reiterate a bit?


Guest October 27, 2009 at 2200

Cash drawers throughout the store, located under tables. Some stores got to pilot EasyPay cash over the past few months with great success.


Specialist October 28, 2009 at 0023

Finally! This EasyPay devices have caused us some serious problems. The managers at our store like to push it, but most of our people just boycott this thing. The only thing what I really will miss is that I can’t ditch the systems with customers…

So what I’m confused about is the T-Shirts. How do they plan to separate the Concierge team from the rest of the store. They are essential for the flow in the store, this could bring us some major issues. I’m interested in how the planned for the different teams to make it clear for customers what they are here for.

Anyway, it’s gonna be a interesting holiday season.


Specialist 2 October 28, 2009 at 0633

Thanks GOD! These EasyPay devices are HORRIBLE! And of coarse, everyone knows its going to be horrible since they are created by Microsoft!

Cash transactions on the go…check!

iPod Touches (not iTouches) taking EasyPays place…check!

T-shirts (I have heard some confusion complaints from customers as well)…check!

@specialist Think about it. Although the same t-shirts throughout the store may confuse people at first it also forces us specialists to manually walk each customer over to the person that they need to deal with. Opposed to just saying “please see the girl in orange at the back of the store” It’ll lead to better customer service.



Current Specialist October 28, 2009 at 0648

@Specialist 2, I like the way you’re thinking. Preventing us from just passing customers off on a particular colored shirt will lead to better customer service.

@Guest, I wasn’t aware of the EasyPay cash drawer pilot. Very interesting, though I would think that a liability. Cash drawers out on the floor, not behind some counter? I’m curious to see that in action.

Regardless, I will be so very, very excited to ditch the current EasyPay system. Hand-held registers are a fantastic idea. These Symbol devices are slow and clunky.

Also, it bears repeating: “iPod touch,” not “iTouch.” Christ. Even some of our own employees call it that.


Previous Specialist October 28, 2009 at 0746

I suppose that this will be better. I preferred the single color shirts to the current multi colors.

Time will tell if a change in shirts to one uniform color will affect the service at the Atlanta Lenox location. On my last visit, not one person even acknowledged my walking in the store. I was looked at by a couple of staff standing at the front door, though it made me feel that they were sizing my up more than welcoming me into the store. They appeared to be wrapped up in reviewing a document together.

Previously, the store employees were told, I believe, to greet customers. Now it appears they stand around and model. I recognize the difference in allowing the customer to wander around and ask for assistance rather than staff being too aggressive in assisting. Though I would think there is a way to greet a customer to welcome them, and then retreat until needed.

That last visit did not set to well.


Ex-Specialist October 28, 2009 at 0835

Wow! I was hearing rumors of this forever when the iPod touch came out. I’m glad that my former fellows will now have this tech to better service and sell the touch family of devices.


politeprober October 28, 2009 at 0840

Yes. The multi-colored shirts sure are dorky. Everyone in one color was the way it used to be. That was when it was cool to work at the store. I always liked the black shirts. Now everyone looks like a worker at a Chuck E Cheese or something. Only the Genius and Creative shirts are decent.


Johnny Mozzarella October 28, 2009 at 0905

I think the concierge should be a different color than everyone else. I think it makes it clear who you should see first with questions.

I agree with politeprober as far as black tshirts just not for christmas.

I wonder if they will use a stylus to sign or their finger?


Previous Specialist October 28, 2009 at 0927

Yes, and will Microsoft follow suit?


Concierge October 28, 2009 at 1146

So apparently all Concierge are now Specialists? This makes absolutely no sense. The Concierge is the most important role in the store, seeing as how they control the flow of the store. With the lack of this, what is going to happen?

This makes no sense whatsoever and I am pissed.


Specialist October 28, 2009 at 1232

So the shirts… Yes, I agree with Specialist 2 that we could do better. But I see big confusion coming, when the Concierge team has to explain, that they are here here to keep the flow going and can’t help, when a customer intends to buy something. Without a visual difference to the Specialists, it’s gonna be crazy.

I’m looking forward to our Store Meeting in mid November. I can’t wait to hear how the Retail Team does explain this and wants us to handle the store.


Marktrek October 28, 2009 at 1251

@ Concierge
It is a t-shirt, not a job change. The customers complained. Let them decide.
I personally believe that if you don’t know enough to sell anything on the floor you should not be working there. It is bad customer service to say go talk to someone in an orange shirt.
And do you really think that it won’t be the Concierges greeting people first, and if they can’t help, then connecting them to someone who can? It is just a t-shirt.


Concierge October 28, 2009 at 1316


It hasn’t been said here yet, but Apple Retail is indeed getting rid of the Concierge role.


Ex Specialist 7 October 28, 2009 at 1355


Marktrek is right – the specialists did the job of Concierge prior to the position being created. Everyone on the floor should know information about the products on the floor as well… Many Concierge simply don’t.


Genius October 28, 2009 at 1455

@ all the Apple employees above;

we will have same T-Shirt but hopefully we will get DIFFERENT color name badges…


Specialist / former Concierge October 28, 2009 at 1457

Aside from the customer confusion. I think part of the shirt change is to differentiate our selves from the MS stores. They too have different colour shirts.

I can see problems with customers pulling a Concierge aside to ask them a product question and then the Concierge not being able to help direct a different customer or check them in for an appointment. There may be a different colour badge. The iPhone activation team has green badges as well as a little green iPhone icon on the back of their shirts. If a similar icon is on the Specialist and Concierge shirts then I dont see a problem. If not, then yikes 0.o

@ Concierge 1:16 pm. There is no way Apple is getting rid of the Concierge role. Concierge is essential; it can be argued it’s more difficult than a Specialist position. It’s certainly essential for a healthy store ecosystem.


CrazyTalk October 28, 2009 at 1457

It didn’t make sense when Apple started taking reservations at the genius bar. It didn’t make sense when they released the iPhone and could only sell it on Easy Pay. It didn’t make sense when Concierge was introduced. We say all these things don’t make sense and in the end it always works. If you think Apple hasn’t thought out this decision, part of a long term retail strategy, you’re crazy. Apple was a pioneer introducing the Apple stores and what they stood for when they opened and, as they do with products, will continue to grow and develop, leaving others, like the copycat microsoft store in its dust.


WhatYouSay? October 28, 2009 at 1502

@Specialist / former Concierge

Yes they are… They revealed it today. That doesn’t mean people won’t be occupying those roles on a day to day. It means everyone in the store should be able to assist customers. When there are 3 Concierge around and all the specialists are busy, customers want help and having people in the store either unable or not allowed to assist is a detriment to delivering fast, reliable transactions. The stores that are smart will have a greeter, and people positioned throughout the store occupying certain responsibilities, but when all is said and done and customers need support, everyone on the apple retail team should be able to assist. that should be a requirement. if you don’t have the knowledge and ability to freely flow from a concierge type role to specialist and the other way around, perhaps that person should rethink if they’re able to be a part of a team geared toward delivering life-changing retail experiences


Specialist 2 October 28, 2009 at 1503

ALSO, keep in mind that this could just be a temporary holiday change to accommodate to the increase in traffic. Things do tend to change during the holidays…i.e., genius bar reservation restrictions, express zone, one-to-one closure day, etc.


Specialist / former Concierge October 28, 2009 at 1506

After a few more minutes of thought… Perhaps the position would be eliminated if all Specialists were allowed to check customers in. Still, no concierge would be rough.

The best change, hands down, is the iPod Touch POS. Countless people find the current EZ pay to be the definition of ironic. Even more since/after the 3.0 software came out (ability for peripheral additions).


Specialist 2 October 28, 2009 at 1510

@Specialist / former Concierge made me think of something else! If every single specialist HAS an iPod Touch…then they are ALL CONCIERGE!!! Think about how fast it really takes someone to be checked in and told “I’ll find you when your appointment is ready.” Maybe..just MAYBE APPLE will have some sort of “buzzer” to let the person know that their appointment is available?


Specialist / former Concierge October 28, 2009 at 1512

@ WhatYouSay? I agree with you completely. I think the Concierge should know the product just as much as the Specialists…. Incorporating the iPod Touch into the equation for check-in; removing the Concierge would be possible.


Concierge October 28, 2009 at 1555

People that are hired as Concierge typically have great customer service skills but not enough product knowledge. It takes a few months to grow into the role. What happens when the newbies that are hired recently are not worthy enough to be Specialists? And what about Specialists having to do the Concierge role? Some people can’t calm down angry customers quite like a Concierge.

I’ve heard “we would be nowhere without our Concierge” so many times and now it’s as if I’m getting slapped in the face. I do know my Apple products well, especially enough to sell, but it’s not what I was hired as and I don’t want to be forced into something I wasn’t initially asked to do.

Ron, what’s the real reasoning behind this?


Apple hell October 28, 2009 at 1600

Anyone remember Rhonda? Apple are permenantly trying to change retail, now they’re changing it back to bullshit. Working at the apple store is the fucking worst thing I’ve ever done. The stupid job roles and stupid t shirts and appointments, it’s fucking bullshit. No till? What a fucking joke


nychottie October 28, 2009 at 1752

concierge role is more important than a specialist??? ha ha ha, what a joke.


Josh October 28, 2009 at 1904

I agree, with “Apple hell” working at an Apple store is truly bad working conditions. I was told to ask “if I needed to use the restroom.” Also noting the recent near-miss strike in the northern Seattle area. I’m glad I don’t work for the Apple Store anymore. :)


WhatYouSay? October 28, 2009 at 1914

your experience is going to depend greatly on the management team in your store. some teams are more strict and gung-ho about carrying out all the policies and initiatives to a t and running things by the book. the best stores, while the results may not always be as strong, are the ones that have culture, where people look out for each other and the managers care about the employees. for me, apple retail is a god send and ive had nothing but amazing experiences. sure, it’s retail, its busy and its tough and it’s demanding to work for a retailer that has record quarters when the country is in an economic downturn, but working at apple is not the same as working at jcrew. if you’re a traditional retail employee who works in clothing stores or niche shops, you may not love working at apple. if you started working there because you love the technology and the people and the idea of making peoples lives better, i think you’re more willing to take the lumps.


Specialist 2 October 28, 2009 at 1951

Apple is no hell for me. It really does completely depend on the management!


Specialist October 28, 2009 at 2046

The new shirts will say “one wise man” & “one wise women” on there.


Concierge2 October 28, 2009 at 2130

@Concierge I completely agree! I think only concierge really know what the job entails and how much it really is integral to the store. I’ve also heard the comment numerous times about people not knowing what they’d do without the concierge!

Personally, I’m hoping that it’s going to be like people have said above that all we have is different color name tags and that I still get to keep the role i was hired in at!


anonymous October 28, 2009 at 2221

ITS CALLED AN IPOD TOUCH, NOT AN ITOUCH. comeon ifo, you’re starting to disappoint me.


anon October 29, 2009 at 0626

Anyone that bitches when they hear ‘itouch’ needs a slap. If you are that dogmatic you should seek medical assistance.

@Marktrek: It has nothing to do with what the customer wants. It’s what El Jobso wants. Hence no signage, after years of complaints.


Specialist 2 October 29, 2009 at 0635

@Specialist The “one wise man” & “one wise women” shirts are for Geni and FRS team, not specialists!


politeprober October 29, 2009 at 0728

Apple Retail needs to see the forest for the trees. When we went to Easy Pay the organization of the store was destroyed. When our store lost the Point of Sale stations customers didn’t know where to go. The stores exist to sell things and make money. And while in might seem altruistic to de-emphasize that by taking out traditional cash registers and pretend we are there to ‘educate’ folks, it makes it difficult for customers to know where to go.

People don’t want to come into a store and figure out the hirearchy of job roles that Apple has set up. What t-shirt color means what job. They want to pick out something and pay for it and go home.

Working @ Apple has been frustrating because (and I’m not trying to brag) I have been using these computers my whole life and I know a bit about them and I feel surrounded by noobs who would just as soon be working at Pottery Barn or J Crew in our mall. The talent pool is shallow and our managers don’t always make the best choices, which explains the high turnover rate I see. That’s what was wrong with the Concierge job. They should know MORE than a Specialist, not behave like a hostess at a restaurant.

People don’t want to be told to ask someone else. THey want help from the first person they speak to in the store.


Specialist / former Concierge October 29, 2009 at 1033

@ Politeprober

I would agree that the Concierge needs to know as much as a specialist. Customers do not like to be told “I cant help you, the person over there in the blue can”. However, if a proper hand off is done nearly all customers are ok with that process. When the store is too busy then this hand off process becomes a problem; as in it can properly happen, if at all.

My store opened with EZpays. So we and the customers dont know how it was. My customers love the EZ pay concept. Other than sometimes the EZ pay itself is garbage and doesn’t swipe the CC or is slow… After reading your comment I now understand why some stores EZ Pay % is so low.

For me, working for Apple is fun. I’d venture to say it’s one of the better jobs I’ve had. (I’ve been part of the work force for over 12 years and have been with two other multibillion dollar corporations, as well as a few mom and pops.) I do it as a second job, because I like the customer interaction, the product is very cool too (I dont have an iPhone). I look forward to it compared to my “real” job. Reading some of the comments from disgruntled former and current employees is disheartening. I hope the problems in your stores work out.


Spyneyes October 29, 2009 at 1211

I think the T-shirts are tacky myself regardless what color they are.

The company should give their employees some nicely colored quality shirts with a prominent logo on front and back.

Something with a little “style” and what one could be proud to wear.


Specialist October 29, 2009 at 2003

Just to remain all the employees, that it’s is against Apple rules to post information about Apple…..


John Anonymous October 30, 2009 at 0503

I wholeheartedly agree with everyone here that the whole dynamic of the store changed when they pulled out the POS counters.

Now the store is nothing more than a bunch of pissed-off, confused people wandering around looking for help. Once they get to you (me) they’re already agitated. Not good.

Hopefully the new iPod touch systems and the elimination of the Concierge role (thank God they finally saw the waste in that position) will help speed things up a bit.


RT October 30, 2009 at 0918

I will not go in any Apple Store !!! There are filled with people who are just ‘hanging out’ smiffing the employees. Order online and save yourself time.


wannabe October 31, 2009 at 1732

for all of those pissed off apple employees. do a favor for those of us who want jobs and aren’t afraid of a little hard work — quit! it turns my stomach to hear you cry like babies whose pacifier is taken away because your employer is about to tell you its reconsidered operations and want you to do something different, I know it’s life-altering to be told to wear a different colored t-shirt, or learn more product knowledge… grow up folks, its tough out here. try living through one down-sizing after another, and only to find out that after 3 rounds, your employer is closing an filing bankruptcy–that’s life-altering. make room for those of us who need and want a job and can help this company reach its goals by performing tasks as defined by its leaders.


Mr Man October 31, 2009 at 2017

Clearly what is really changing is Apple’s policy re: employees posting on rumor sites…

But seriously folks. Apple retail used to be an elite experience, for the customers, for the staff, for the management, for everyone, and life was good. Very good. I spent 2 years with the company and have never seen it such disarray. The retail division is flailing, every 6 months changing tactics, store layouts, position titles. They have been making superficial changes for the past year hoping to hit another home run. My general impression is that this is a team that hit it out of the park for 6 years and than left, and the new team can’t figure out how to take it to the next level. Thinking that changing shirts and adding cash registers or using their own devices for POS is going to change anything substantively is naive. There has been a complete change of guard. It was the people who made retail special, advanced degree holders who were specialists, rocket scientists at the genius bar, lifelong Apple users. No more.

Financially, Apple is a success and with the iPhone will remain so for a while. At the end of the day they are a for-profit business and are talking out of both sides of their mouth anytime they claim to care about their customers or staff.

All that being said, I would never work for the company again, it was an enjoyable experience for a time, and then purely awful. I would rather work for Burger King, or sell drugs or for that matter go to prison than work for a company who treats their employees with disrespect and contempt ever again. If you are qualified to work Apple retail, you are qualified to be a consultant, do that, I beg you.


Joe November 1, 2009 at 1627

Geez, Mr Man, bitter much? It doesn’t sound like you know what you’re talking about. The core of the retail team has not changed much at all. There are a few new people at Store Ops here and there, but Ron still calls the shots, and the store ops team is a bunch of KILLER smarties who seek input from the field and constantly send it up the chain. I should know – I’ve been to some of the meetings.

There’s no flailing. There’s simply no fear of making changes when needed and trying new things. If the changes don’t work, they try something else, like what they’re doing now.

Go flip some burgers and stop being so friggin’ bitter. You sound like an ass.


Joseph November 2, 2009 at 1309

I agree with Mr Man.

@ Joe, the core has changed an extreme amount. When Apple stores first opened there were very little differential positions. I think IFO has the original four positions posted somewhere.


Joe November 2, 2009 at 1456


I’m not sure you’re making any kind of point. When I started at Apple in 2004, there were very few positions, very few stores, and very few customers in them. We stood around a lot of the time.

Now with over 260 stores and one of the most profitable retail operations anywhere, things have grown proportionately. There are several distinct businesses within each store, each requiring a certain expertise and a separate manager to run them.

Mr Man’s post is still bullshit, and you still haven’t made a point.


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