Ex-Genius: Apple No Longer Values Retail Staffers

December 31, 2011

A former Apple store Genius who was allegedly bullied by managers into resigning from the Arrowhead (Ariz.) store has just posted an email to company CEO Tim Cook, thanking him for the job experience, but warning that the stores have shifted from life-enriching to life-draining for employees. Chad Ramey, 39, posted the email on a Web site shortly after finishing his final shift. “It was truly one of the most heart-wrenching moments of my life when I had to walk out of that store for the last time,” he wrote Cook. “No one likes to abandon their passion,” he said, “and helping Apple’s customers was not only something that I loved to do, but also something that I gave my entire heart and soul doing.” Ramey said he’s watched as Apple’s retail stores shifted, “from something truly spectacular and wonderful, to big-box retail that is no better than a Best Buy or a Walmart.” He added, “What was once a truly enriching place to work has become a place that leeches and drains everything from their employees. Apple retail no longer values its people and when I say people, I am referring to both your customers and your retail employees serving you on the front-lines.”

Ramey spent four years with Apple after a 12-year Air Force career and a job at Cox Communications. He started as a Specialist in September 2008 and became a Genius two years later. His name first popped up in Tweets posted by the Apple Retail Union. According to that group, they are, “fighting to get (Ramey’s) job back after a manager bullied him into quitting.”

Ramey’s email is similar to one written by a Michigan Genius last July to other employees in the chain. In that email, Kevin T. complained that a continually-increasing workload puts pressure on the Genius Bars, forcing quick interactions that devalue the customer experience. He told his co-workers, “We need to put down our screens, inform ourselves, talk to each other, organize and act.”

In his email, Ramey doesn’t comment on his departure from Apple, but instead explains how the retail stores have changed. He says employees are, “forced to worry more about pushing business leads and reaching numbers, rather than truly focus on the customer’s problems.” He laments, “Everything I was led to believe in CORE training four years ago has become nullified; Apple is no longer about enriching lives, it is about enriching pocketbooks.”

Ramey tells Cooks that the staff at Arrowhead is among the most talented and devoted in the company. “They give everything they have to keep the focus on their customers despite the increasing hurdles that the company keeps throwing at them.” But, Ramey warns, “They are, however, quickly being burnt out. Apple is treating its retail workforce like they are disposable, and in doing so, Apple is throwing away some of its brightest and most amazing talents.”

He claims that the continuing loss of employes is fueled by the feeling that they are neither important nor truly cared for. “The idea of thinking of employees as people instead of numbers was what used to set Apple apart,” Ramey says. “This is what has made Apple change.”

Because of an overwhelming number of appointments-per-employee and a continued push to open more and more active queues, “Most interactions are now completely transactional, rather than transformational,” Ramey writes. “We are lucky if we have time to ask the customer their name, nevertheless truly get to dig deeply into their lives and their issues, and further repair their relationships with both Apple and the Apple brand.”

Ramey concludes his email to Tim Cook by saying, “I know this letter may never reach your eyes, but I would feel as if I’d abandoned my team if I never even tried to make a change.”

Ending with advice, Ramey says, “If you truly care about the future of Apple retail, Mr. Cook, you’ll return to the foundations on which it was originally based. Create an environment where employees feel wanted and needed. Go back to the days when sales and support were geared toward the customers and not the bottom-line. If you don’t, you’ll continue to burn through some of the greatest and most talented resources in your workforce.”

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