Store Personnel Cuts Linked to Profit Goal

August 15, 2012

A series of recent administrative moves by Sr. VP Retail John Browett to reduce the number of Apple retail store employees was being positioned to employees as a way to increase efficiency, but sources say they were actually intended to increase the chain’s contribution to company profit. The staff reductions are in direct contradiction to the chain’s global reputation for excellent customer service, a goal set day-one by former Sr. VP Ron Johnson. According to those with close ties to the retail stores, Browett feels the stores are “too bloated” with employees, and is willing to gamble the stores’ legendary customer experience to gain back a few points of profit margin. Browett’s decision reportedly came despite strongly-worded advice from Retail segment veterans that reducing personnel ahead of the annual Back-to-School promotion and the September introduction of the iPhone 5 could create a customer service catastrophe. Browett disagreed with his staff, and said the chain needs to learn to run “leaner” in all areas, even if the customers’ experience is compromised. Rumors of employee lay-offs and a hiring slow-down surfaced within the last two weeks, but until now the reason for the cut-backs hasn’t been clear. Other related rumors say Apple is quietly dropping the free workshops that retail stores have offered since Day 1, and that staffers are instead pointing customers to the $99 One to One training service. Management is also pushing employees to sell more iPhones with carrier contracts, hoping to increase revenues. Update: Within 24 hours of this posting, a story by The Wall Street Journal stated that Browett had admitted the personnel changes were a mistake and the changes had been rescinded. However, he denied that any employees had been laid off.

Browett assumed the Sr. VP position at Apple four months ago, recruited from UK-based Dixons, an electronics chain. He had been hired to return the faltering Dixons chain to profitability in the face of the poor European economy and competition from other retailers, including Best Buy. While at Dixons Browett changed the format of the PC World and Currys chain of technology stores and launched a campaign to improve customer service. He managed to keep the chain from bankruptcy, but financials results are generally down from when he joined the company in 2007.

According to numerous tipsters, over the past two weeks Browett has ordered store management personnel to reduce the number of employees. The first reports of cut-backs came from the UK, but the reports later spread to the United States and other countries. The actions include:

  • Cease all recruiting and hiring events
  • Make no promotions
  • Immediately lay off newly-hired employees who are still on probation
  • Reduce available hours for part-time employees
  • Reduce or eliminate available overtime
  • Lay off or fire employees who can only work more than 32 hours a week and not part-time

Despite these actions, Apple’s job opportunities Web site still includes scores of “Current Openings” for retail stores, including some posted just this week.

Like any retail chain, Apple retail’s financial results and other statistics have had their ups-and-downs. Most figures have generally increased since 2001 when the first stores opened, but there have been quarter-to-quarter downturns.

For example, the reported number of retail employees increased each quarter from 2001 until 2007, when the first reported turn-down occurred. Since then, there have been four instances where the number of employees has declined quarter-to-quarter.

However, the way Apple reports the number of retail employees in financial reports masks the true number of people who are employed to work in the retail stores, making quarterly comparisons difficult or impossible.

For example, in its latest financial filing, Apple reported that it had 41,100 “full-time equivalent” (FTE) employees for the quarter ending July 31, 2012 . That is, the hours of part-time employees are consolidated into 40-hour blocks and then counted as one employee. In theory, there could be two, three or even four employees constituting one reported full-time equivalent employee.

Based on information obtained from store employee rosters, about 60 percent of a large mall-based Apple store are full-time employees. Based on that figure, and assuming the part-timers work an average of 20 hours a week, Apple would be employing about 25 percent more employees than represented by the FTE figure, or 51,125 (taking into account about 1,000 administrative employees at headquarters or other administrative offices).

As for revenue and profit, those employees generated over $14.1 billion in sales during fiscal 2011 and a profit of $3.1 billion. To operate the stores, Apple reports it spent $612 million on capital expenditures during 2011 and had about $2.4 billion in future lease commitments. Apple does not separately report other retail store operating expenses.

More specifically, Browett is aiming to increase the chain’s 22 percent profit margin reported for the latest quarter. That figure is in the mid-range of profit margin reported over the past five years. Retail store profit constitutes about 10 percent of the entire company’s profit each quarter. Overall, Apple’s profit margin was about 24 percent for 2011, with about two-thirds of that generated by sales of the iPhone.

There have been many claims that Apple’s retail stores are “the most profitable in America.” However, there are no surveys or statistics to support that claim. The chain’s mid-range 22 percent profit margin suggests that many other stores or chains could have a more profitable operation.

Typical retail storefront profit margins in the U.S. vary greatly in the range of just one or two percent up to 35 percent, mostly dependent upon the type of products being sold.

This graph shows how the profit margin of the retail stores has fluctuated over the years, but generally in the range of 15% to 30% since Q3 2007. It is this figure that John Browett reportedly wants to increase through employee cutbacks and other actions.

This graph overlays the quarterly changes that have occurred in the number of visitors and number of employees at Apple’s retail stores. While the scales for the two graphs do not correspond, the graph does show how the two figures interact.

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{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott August 15, 2012 at 1830

This would have NEVER happened if Steve Jobs was still alive.

John Browett has personally & single-handedly destroyed every single retail operation that he ever touched in the UK, and now he’s bringing his destruction to Apple as well.

I can’t believe that Tim Cook would hire this guy. John Browett is the complete opposite of everything that Apple has stood for over the years.

Welcome to post-Steve Apple. It all goes downhill from here.

I give Apple 3 or 4 more good years, running purely on steam from the past and nothing else. But after that, it’s people like John Browett who are absolutely ruining the company.

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Actual employee August 15, 2012 at 1959

Don’t be so sure this kind of thing would NEVER happen under Steve.

Fact is that a lot of stores have tons of fluff employees. Folks that spend more time hanging out than working. Folks that cant seem to show up time and slip it just inside the grace period. Those will be e first to go. And frankly they should. Those of us that work like dogs every day are sick of them being around.

I got to meet Browett during his early summer tour and he isn’t the asshat he’s painted to be in this article. Yes it sucks that some folks are losing their jobs but many of them aren’t earning their keep. The rest might see hours cut with things like 4 day weeks but with the recent pay raises it’s not really a huge loss in pay for most. What he’s saying about too many employees in some stores is true. But he also noticed things like how crowded my particular store is because of physical space and stopped a minor remodel ‘because why do it twice’. I think he’s trying to get Apple back into having the best employees and not just lots of them and that’s not a horrible thing.

The catch is If they scale services to match the staff. Things like when the iPhone launches having folks have to reserve for the first week so we can guide traffic amounts. Perhaps adding some kind of junior one to one service for those with just an iPhone or iPad. Say the ability to buy like 10 lessons you can use within a year, maybe even restricting them to the 30 minute ones. Having down those free workshops it is a nightmare because you get too much variation in previous knowledge. Private lessons would be better. Or make the workshops paid and limit the attendance to like 4-6 folks.

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DAG August 16, 2012 at 0836

“Actual Employee” reads like a planted post. A PR planted post.

So the Wal-Martization of Apple has begun. By pushing workers below the 32 hour threshold they do not have to offer full time benefits. One wonders if like Wal -Mart they will show employees how to fill out the applications for public assistance and Medicaid.

It appears you can take the boy out of Alabama, but you cannot take Alabama out of the boy. Mr Cook has those sharks jumping very high.

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azulum August 16, 2012 at 2113

I don’t think an Apple PR firm would use the word asshat* — but actual employee’s anecdote doesn’t tell us anything about the asshatery Browett may or may not have been committing. After all, even complete psychopaths can seem like nice people from time to time.

*unless they know that I would think that they wouldn’t so they used it to make me question whether they would and so they really didn’t but they want to make me think that they did.

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Chris CA August 18, 2012 at 2122

@DAG
“So the Wal-Martization of Apple has begun. By pushing workers below the 32 hour threshold they do not have to offer full time benefits.”
They may not be required to (by law) but they do offer benefits to all employees with at least 15 hours per week (and have done so for +3 years).

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Alex August 19, 2012 at 0927

They did not offer benefits for retail employees with at least 15 hours per week for 3+ years. They’ve offered benefits to those employees since January 2012. Prior to this, 15 hours were not enough for benefits.

Chris CA August 19, 2012 at 1041

Sorry. 2+ years.
“Apple Skips Debate, Commits to Health Insurance – OCTOBER 26, 2009″
http://www.ifoapplestore.com/db/2009/10/26/apple-skips-debate-commits-to-health-insurance/

Alonso Perez August 20, 2012 at 1819

I agree he does sound like a PR avatar. The giveaway is the abuse of the word “folks”. First use was semi-reasonable: “having folks reserve”, but then he goes: “limit the attendance to like 4-6 folks”. I mean, seriously? Who talks like that? The folks I know who talk like that are rarely anything other than astroturf bloggers.

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Scott August 16, 2012 at 1401

To “Actual Employee”:

First of all, you sound like John Browett’s personal assistant or publicist.

Second of all, if you are not John Browett’s personal assistant, do you have ANY IDEA HOW TERRIBLE OF A HUMAN BEING JOHN BROWETT ACTUALLY IS?

John Browett has singlehandedly DESTROYED EVERY SINGLE COMPANY THAT HE HAS EVER WORKED FOR.

EVERY COMPANY that John Browett’s name is attached to is widely considered to be the WORST COMPANY IN THE WORLD with the WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE IN THE WORLD.

Do you have any idea about this man’s track record? This man is, quite honestly, one of the worst human beings walking around on the planet when it comes to customer service and keeping companies afloat and keeping people happy.

John Browett is the EXACT OPPOSITE of Steve Jobs.

Why in the world Tim Cook would hire such an imbecile as John Browett is beyond me. John Browett should never have been allowed to get his foot inside the door at Apple.

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Gen X. August 16, 2012 at 1439

I don’t think it’s that he’s a terrible human being. I think that it has more to do with his being a true operations manager, as opposed to a leader. He’s looking to get greater efficiency out of all the current retail processes, and when needed, challenge the status quo of how the stores get business done. The problem comes from the fact that he’s not, at least from what I see, a creative person, nor is he someone comfortable with pure innovation. His comfort is within the area of systemic and operational management, and that is where the perception of his apparent lack of compassion comes from. He’s very much the opposite of Ron and Steve. Apple’s stores will probably perform better, for a while, on paper under his stewardship, but the boundless innovation of the past is probably become anachronistic of what we will look back on as the Great Apple Retail Era.

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Ex-Apple August 16, 2012 at 2243

“Perform better”? Anyone who has visited a Dixons or Currys store in the United Kingdom or Europe will be able to testify that the customer service philosophy certainly does not filter down to shop floor level. Perhaps he will lower expense ratios due to cost-cutting with staff, but operational savings does not directly equate to profit. Profitability will drop at a much faster rate than any savings is incurred. He is philosophically incompatible with Apple’s service/culture.

Erik E October 24, 2012 at 0411

But this efficiency is phony. E.g. a software company can easily increase “efficiency” by firing half the developers. Then costs will be lower and profits higher. But that is just short term. In the long term the product is being developed more slowly and you gradually lose customers.

Same thing happens in retail. Here in Norway sales people took over control of one of the most successful apple resellers. They started caring more about profit than their customers. They pushed expensive unnecessary products on customers, cut support etc. Profits soared. But only for a while, before the competition pushed them aside by offering better customer support, trying to met the real needs of customers rather than pushing the most expensive solution.

Joe August 16, 2012 at 2032

You are hysterical, in every meaning of the word.

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Chris CA August 19, 2012 at 1033

“John Browett has singlehandedly DESTROYED EVERY SINGLE COMPANY THAT HE HAS EVER WORKED FOR.
EVERY COMPANY that John Browett’s name is attached to is widely considered to be the WORST COMPANY IN THE WORLD with the WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE IN THE WORLD.”

So Apple is now THE WORST COMPANY IN THE WORLD with the WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE IN THE WORLD?!?!?

and everyone knows this?

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jabbathewocket August 18, 2012 at 0502

Sure he is.. he is trying to turn around a *already supremely profitable store* by using “turnaround tactics” from failing businesses..

22% margins in retail you do *not* change anything.. you count your blessings and pray it continues forever..

The fact that he was hired *at all* is troubling in the extreme.. and it will likely be the reason that Cook gets fired later this year.

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Sam August 18, 2012 at 1006

Apple has always been anti employee friendly with retail even with Steve. Steve did not give a crap about his retail staff and underpaid us for years. Apple retail is run by a bunch of imoral people and HR is even worse. SAD really SAD!

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Darwin December 1, 2012 at 2038

He is an asshat and was before Apple inexplicably recruited him for some reason.

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Andrea August 17, 2012 at 0151

Ever heard of Mark Papermaster?

Something like this happened with Steve still at the helm. The outcome was the firing of Papermaster, which wasn’t a big surprise.
Sincerely, I can see this misstep as the first stamp on Browett let-go letter from Apple’s HR division. Just wait for the second and maybe Steve Cano will have the seat he deserved when Ron Johnson has left.

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Bob August 15, 2012 at 1906

Regarding Workshops.
There’s no way a $99 One to One membership is more profitable than the Free Consumer Workshops. Free Workshops are run by staff already scheduled for sales. Break even on wages for a One to One Membership is 6 one hour sessions in a year. ($99/6= $16.50/hr wage) That’s not including web resources, data transfer labor costs, training etc.

As for the rumored “lay offs” more likely some undertrained, ex-Gap/CompUSA middle manager goofed on staffing and hiring levels and got slapped down by the Cheeses on One Infinite Loop.

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Actual employee August 15, 2012 at 2008

At most stores it’s a hiring and promotion freeze especially to full time and an audit of attendance to clear out those that can’t follow the rules. Those with tons of detractors and low metrics are being coached that both must improve immediately or they will have hours cut way back in favor of those that are getting the job done. And that coaching includes managers on the floor to see who is trying to sell metrics and who is just blowing it off.
The new concierge system also let’s them see who is slacking with repair appointments. Those who are constantly taking too long will have their notes reviewed to see if it was justified or not. If it wasn’t they will be told to get it in shape or they will get cut back. Perhaps a lot.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole One to One goes up in price. Perhaps even making the data transfer a separate cost. Buy a membership and you have the option to buy a transfer for like $50. Or just up the whole thing to say $200. Its still an amazing value compared to places like Best
Buy

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Alonso Perez August 16, 2012 at 1958

The problem is that some slack is good, but an ops guy like Browett will mercilessly slice away any slack. That’s the definition of ops management.

So why is slack good? Ask yourself: Do you want to buy something from a stressed out employee who is thinking that if he talks to you for an extra minute his metrics take a hit? Of course not.

Put plainly, a retail store with no slack is a sales factory. It’s a place that sucks to be in, so people will avoid it like the plague.

And here is the thing: Apple has a sales factory already, it’s the Apple Store Web site. The primary function of the stores is not sales, it’s marketing that happens to be supported by sales. If Browett, or Cook, or you don’t get that, you don’t get anything.

The results will show this soon enough.

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Secret About Box August 16, 2012 at 2127

Yyyuuuuuuup!

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Bob August 17, 2012 at 0303

You absolutely hit the nail on the head.

They need to look after the brand and the experience, then the profits will take care of themselves.

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Actual employee August 17, 2012 at 1709

There is slack and then there is slack. An employee that is really trying but not scoring is fine. But a good third of my co workers don’t even try. And that should not be excused

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OrganizationalDynamics August 18, 2012 at 0802

You do understand that if 1/3 of the staff isn’t “trying” that the fault lies either with the management and/or your personal perception. It is unlikely that a non-manager floor staff is able to accurately claim that 1/3 of the staff isn’t even trying without also recognizing a serious management failure. And when a co-worker vehemently points critical fingers at others it says much about the critical person and little about anything else.

And Mr. Browett’s mistake, as it is now being referred to by Apple, is relatively typical when a numbers focussed person, who does not have the skills to understand the people factor of customers and employees, is dropped into an organization that built it’s empire on understanding the value of understanding people.

But if it makes you feel better to point fingers at others, if you believe you will look like the shining star to the new “profit at all costs” sheriff in town, keep on that path. You will experience some challenging times ahead.

5 Year Employee August 21, 2012 at 1835

Maybe they are slacking because they are overworked like everyone of us. I don’t condone slacking of any kind but the store is becoming just what somebody mentioned, a factory. It’s always here’s your next customer while i’m having a conversation with my current customer. It’s getting ridiculous and will only get worse.

Erik E October 24, 2012 at 0419

Could not have said it better. Apple Web Store is the most efficient way of selling Macs. The point of apple retail stores is not to be efficient IMHO. If that was all one cared about one could have done like Dell and one had a Web store. The way I see it, Apple Stores are for promoting Apple as a brand and give great customer service. For most companies it is really hard to provide great service even if they wanted to. That requires hiring more people and more skilled people at higher salaries. Great service is not free. The cost of the products will then have to go up. The problem with that is that people will then go to your store, get great service and they leave and buy the same product cheap online. Apple has the unique ability to avoid this buy setting the price to the same for retail and online stores.

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Actual Employee 2 August 15, 2012 at 2059

About the workshops,

I don’t think it’s likely that Apple will shift focus to driving one to one memberships seeing as how (as of right now) the memberships can only be purchased when you buy a new mac. When the new phone comes out, without buying a $1k machine the only way people can learn about their new devices is through the workshops.

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David August 15, 2012 at 2212

As a former employee this kind of stuff DID happen under Steve Jobs. At my store, I saw new hires getting fired under their probation and the only reason they gave was “they were exercising their right to do so”. In addition, they started monitoring the every move of excellent veteran employees that have been there since day one and started writing them up for the most ridiculous things so they could create a paper trail and fire these people. Once they were terminated they were quickly replaced with part timers at much lower wages. If they couldn’t find anything to write these people up for, management started treating them like crap and did anything in their power to purposely annoy them so they would hate their jobs and eventually quit. At least this time around under Browett, they’re being a lot more transparent.

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Martin August 16, 2012 at 0003

I think what Apple is doing with the store retail staff is the same they are doing with their supply chain: raise efficiency.
For the first they are praised and for the second they are dammened?
That doesn´t fit.

At first I was surprised by these news but the more I read about it, thanks to Gary, the more I understand it.

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Gordon August 16, 2012 at 1951

The primary product of Apple’s supply chain is Apple products; raising efficiency there means making more Apple products with less waste.

The primary product of Apple Stores is customer service (no, not sales—customer service. People can buy products online, but they want to come to the store to test drive the products, ask questions, and get support when needed). Raising efficiency should mean providing more customer service, not less, with less money.

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Actual employee August 16, 2012 at 0233

The comments here raise some good points. The Apple Stores I’ve worked at have a serious lack of efficiency. “Trimming the fat” can be a useful and helpful tool to raise efficiency and raise profitability. The problem is, Apple has now created a culture where customers walk into the store and EXPECT immediate help. So, Apple responded by hiring based off customer service skills and not by product knowledge. So you have a heap of employees that were hired that cannot tell you the difference between a macbook pro and a macbook air, but if you want to buy that iPhone case, you have 3 employees ready to ring you up.

What this has caused is a panic for anyone in a management position. Browett has passed down the pipe that he wants us to be more productive, more efficient, and more profitable, but there aren’t the tools available to do so. By tools, I mean employees. Any kind of training, between product knowledge to sales skills, is completely NON-EXISTENT. it’s not cost effective. Hours spent training means hours not producing revenue. So the only solution is to cut those that aren’t producing, lower staff sizes, and then proceed toward the right path of providing more training, or hiring more productive individuals. I’m not saying I like it, but it’s the way of the land.

It’s just sad that finally Apple Retail Employees are given a share of the company profits through a considerable raise (for most people) and have the light taken away from that through cuts and layoffs.

All I can say is , when you go into an apple store, appreciate the employees a little bit more. We’re working with what we have.

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Keris August 16, 2012 at 0448

Couldn’t believe it when I heard they were hiring John Browett. I have no direct contact with him apart from being a customer… well, not actually a customer because I would never step back into one of his previous stores again!

Everywhere he’s been there now seems to be NO staff to find in a store and if you do manage to find one they are rude, arrogant and couldn’t care less about customer relations, which is why I don’t shop at them anymore.

Why Why Why hire this…… (insert your own rude word here)

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Frosty Girl August 16, 2012 at 0707

I love to fire great people and hire my friends. The new policy just makes it even better.

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Gen X. August 16, 2012 at 0820

you must be the one who runs the grove.

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Former Business Parnter August 16, 2012 at 0930

I second that motion!! Grove has been awful under former Store Manager, J*ff. He used to hire his friends, give them favorable schedules and perks and would allow his friends to harass everyone else. One of his friends said publicly that he could leave whenever he wanted to attend auditions and not get any points. Most everyone else would have to take a point even if they went home sick or weren’t feeling well!

I think the new management might be better but before, lots of vets were harassed and “Encouraged” to quit. Now Mr. Browett’s policy is going to cause even more harassment. Crazy. Apple stores are no longer the “Happy Place” with a career goal that they are being advertised as during hiring events.

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Frosty Girl August 16, 2012 at 1556

Close. I run several stores in North Jersey. Everyone calls me a bitch. That is because I am. Except for the leaders I have sex with.

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Sam August 18, 2012 at 1009

F U frosty! Your a loser and we all know who you are!

Disgruntled Former MacGenius August 19, 2012 at 0253

@ Frosty Girl – if you run a region in North Jersey, I know who you are, I think your confession here has a massive ring of truth to it from when you were first transitioned to Apple with a Store Manager position in New York before your regional promotion. I think you were wrong then, and I think you’re wrong now.

Actual employee August 19, 2012 at 1656

I highly doubt that you are telling the truth. You are probably some lazy ass back of house worker that got shitcanned for being late too much.

Why do I say that? Because if you are telling the truth you just gave up yourself up like. Total moron and will shortly be fired for violating the company’s Internet policies.

Former Employee August 20, 2012 at 1127

I’ll agree with Actual Employee. I never had a problem with her, if you did your job well and showed up on time, you tended not to get fired.

Sam August 20, 2012 at 1230

In my opinion employees like you are what is wrong with the company. Young, inexperienced people in life who are just happy to have a job. While the fat cats (your manager is one of them) are living a good lifestyle while you have a roommate, tons of debt and can’t even afford a nice place to live while you do all the work.

The point is not if someone is lazy and get fired for that its that the manager is a vindictive person and should not be in charge of this many people. Absolute power corrupts and this is what happens when you hire people from other retails who and pumped up with any form of power…

She should be fired along with you lemmings!

Bob August 16, 2012 at 0953

Yep, Apple comes out with the “Someone Goofed” announcement.

If it weren’t for the middle management Apple Retail would be more amazing.

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Gen X August 16, 2012 at 1001

Al*x Y*: professional shirker and amateur malcontent.

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Ex-Apple August 16, 2012 at 1043

It’s going to bite them in the a**. Come launch time, they will have insufficient staff so they will desperately hire up to meet demand, bringing on people who don’t know enough about the products. They’ve done it before, leaving insufficient lead time to hire and actually train. The result: customer service nightmares! Can’t tell you how many customers lost their entire contact list during iphone launches due to poorly trained new hires. And that was just the beginning. Apple retail seems to always position itself to operate in a reactive mode; with knowledge of the supply chain there is no excuse. Either there is no iphone 5 and mini-ipad coming, or the stores are screwed once again.

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Actual employee August 19, 2012 at 1658

Or it won’t because they will launch a new method like announcing the first two weeks will be reservation only and the number of reservations that confirm will be scaled to the available staff. Or folks can order online

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Ex-Apple August 19, 2012 at 1955

Apple won’t want to give up the lines outside…it’s marketing for free as reported on every news station.
And having worked every launch from the original iphone on, I can say my experience in my store always left us short-staffed. Probably true for all the stores as Apple has had to open the floodgates on OT for every launch, even paying extra bonuses once for staff that worked 12 hours or more, to keep bodies on the sales floor. If they had a better system, I think I would have seen it in my 5+ years, just sayin’. They’ve had plenty of launches to figure it out. And somebody must have realized that since they retracted the plan to reduce staff. Good on whoever it was that had the balls to tell Browett he was wrong.

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Actual employee 2 August 22, 2012 at 1848

It’s already biting the company in the a**.

When you’re told that as part-timers you can work as much as you want, and are hired under the verbal agreement of four shifts a week (should have got it in writing) and suddenly it’s cut to two without consideration or warning it leaves staff feeling incredibly disenfranchised and the level of service will drop substantially.

We have a PI coming up and it’s very hard to put in the effort to maintain a good accuracy score for the company and store when you’re not being looked after.

Apple can talk really big about its people being “the soul” of the company but in reality Apple is just any other retailer, they want a substantial profit and will do anything to realise this. I’d understand more if the company wasn’t making money, or it’s profits were dropping by a huge margin, but they aren’t (although I know my store are selling less Macs than we were last year).

Some employees have understood that the whole time, but for the others who were under the impression that an Apple Store is anything more than glorified retail have had a pretty big wake up call.

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Ex-Apple August 22, 2012 at 2258

I don’t know about other states, but in California, Apple has always tried to adhere to a part-time schedule of less than 30 hours. Cali law is tough on this subject; you can flex up for short periods but then must flex back down. So there’s always been an ebb and flow to hours available for pt staff, that’s not new. Specialists pretty much can work ft during holiday but the stores cut way back after mid-January due to business (profit margins, not gross sales). Our teams would go from 35-40 hours down to as few as 10-12 per week.
That sort of flexibility is necessary to run a retail business. Browett’s plan to cut staff hours heading into a launch (supposedly) is what is seemed off – I get pacing the staffing to decreasing business demands but cutting in the face of increasing demands is just poor business planning.

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jen. August 16, 2012 at 1107

hello everyone.
as a current part-time employee who is still fortunate enough to have another job to provide some relief; this situation absolutely sucks for those who rely on apple for their sole income.

i work with a really dedicated team who bust their asses daily only to get crapped on by customers who complain about their wait time or why their device wont work (and for the most part… customer @ fault!) not to mention t

while i understand that apple has revolutionized retail for consumers… it hasn’t revolutionized it for workers… rather rationalized the TYPICAL bottom line (profit margin, stockholders, etc.) when it doesn’t necessarily have to (hello… RECORD profits).

apple’s retail credo is about the people… and it’s a shame that it’s not honored for it’s hard-working retail staff. granted there are a lazy a few that do not pull their weight; but to pull an action like this during a busy time like back to school is preposterous.

i’d like to ask mr. browett to spend time in the redzone during a sunday or even a black friday… and he’ll see the true value of a specialist in action. nuff said.

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Gen X. August 16, 2012 at 1418

BOOM. Insanely great idea.

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Sam August 18, 2012 at 1019

Nicely said Jen, unfortunately most of the people you work with can’t see that far ahead. You need to ban together and stand up for what is right! As a former almost decade long retail member I seen it all (yes one of the first) and its only going to get worse.

They only saving grace for me was I was smart enough to buy as much stock as I could so I am sitting on close to 300,000 plus 40,000so in 401k not to bad for a lowly retail employee (i was not a manager and worked on the floor). I only wish new employee’s could have these opportunities because you guys sure deserve it for all you go through. Not going to happen with stock sitting so hight like it is. We were buying when it was under 22 a share! Apple needs to readjust its principles.

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janski August 16, 2012 at 1514

I remember seeing John come in to the store and his first comment was that there were too many people standing around (employees). Lately they have reduced the hours from our store and we can feel the frustration with customers as they wait for service. I don’t like this guy and all retail employees should voice our concern to corporate to remove him from our Company.

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Hana August 16, 2012 at 1525

Aside from this Browett guy sounding like a douche, why has it become an acceptable American phrase to say “This move sucks but it’s understandable for a company I do”? Since when we divorced morality and standards whenever money is involved? Does that make us hypocrites when we look down on hookers for setting aside decency for money? Apple was supposed to be above all this…..

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Uninc August 16, 2012 at 1558

Kudos to IFO and whistleblowers throughout the retail chain. Pretty interesting the timing behind these articles posting and Apple Retail apologizing. Considering that the effects of these “mistakes” have been felt for the past month for both customers and employees, one should really examine what is the culture of Apple turning into. “Think Different” has a wide array of being interpreted and while the campaign for customers and employees was popularly received, it’s a little alarming to see how the current top heads view it. Production. Tim Cook thought different about the supply chain and that lead to huge returns and dominance for Apple. But at the core of that was to cut cost and raise profit. Ron’s way of thinking different in retail was customer service. At the core was the idea that a customer experience similar to the one at the Ritz Carlton would render devotion and profits. Tim’s first major CEO decision was hiring Browett. Low and behold Browett’s first decision as SVP is to cut cost. The employee raises last month stemmed from Johnson’s final obsession which was, ironically, employee retention rates. The enormous hunt for Johnson’s replacement that lead to the unexpected hire of Browett makes even I concerned about how Tim’s time running Apple will be. Hopefully this is just a rookie mistake. Sorrow towards the employees and customer effected. But the warning flags are up, lets see what Browett does next.

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Walt French August 16, 2012 at 1601

Browett disagreed with his staff, and said the chain needs to learn to run “leaner” in all areas, even if the customer experience is compromised.

Meh, BFD. You make out like this is some NewsFlash EXCLOOOSIVE!!! when it was all over the business wires this morning.

The Press Release:

Apple Inc. announces today exciting new leaner operations in its stores. Customers will be happy to know they’ll be treated as badly, and incompetently, as in any BrandX electronics retailer.

“We quickly realized that those ‘Genius’ ads were sending the wrong message, and canned them, you know. Heh! What WERE we thinking?” asked Retail Head John Browett. “Apple wants its customers to know that they’re no more special than the next schlub who gets his stuff from some crowded second-story parts bin in Hong Kong. Heck, for that matter, Apple’s stuff doesn’t really warrant any premium. Hardware is basically hardware, and gosh, with all those open-source coders out there, pretty soon we’re going to have stuff as crappy as what Samsung’s latest TouchWiz looks like now that they’ve stopped copying us.”

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Observer August 16, 2012 at 1651

Of course Browett is going to think stores are overstaffed. His store visits are probably well announced dog-and-pony events where extra staffing is scheduled so that not a single thing could possibly go wrong.

If he’s drawing conclusions based on the red carpet and velvet ropes that get laid out for him, Apple is going to be in a very tough place.

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Apple Devotee August 16, 2012 at 1709

Apple distinguishes itself from its inferior competitors because it produces products with superior design and superior customer service. Apple’s attempt to lower its level of customer service would put it into the realm of Dell. If it starts this downward spiral by producing crap and moving its customer service reps off shore it will portend the demise of a great company. Yes, it may lead to higher profit margins but if people no longer buy the products what good would that be?

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Deutschlander August 16, 2012 at 1735

Looks like the suits have taken over
Not good for the company

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Winski August 16, 2012 at 2247

Browett = TOAST.

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Harper97 August 17, 2012 at 2359

He’s going to be the Papermaster of Apple Retail, probably updating his resume right now.
(if not, he’s even dumber than we think)

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noname August 18, 2012 at 0948

There are lots people woking in Apple retail right now know the culture more than this stupid JB. If he decided to do this everything will go wrong. He is going destroyed everything that apple has tried many years to build it up and it works well. However it seem that stock price is now more important than everything and that is a sign for this kind of company to fallen of in the next few years.

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A August 18, 2012 at 1519

Strange indeed. Any laid-off employee talking? Perhaps an nda is in place.

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GaryPDX August 18, 2012 at 1818

It happens very time without exception. “Sharp” corporate operators are brought in to maximize “efficiency” and replace original visionary leaders. The company then begins a long slide into the sort of bloated anonymity, mediocrity and hamhandedness that characterizes HP, IBM, Xerox, Microsoft, etc. This guy is just one of dozens that will rot Apple as we know it from the inside. Sadly, there is absolutely no other trajectory: It’s every time–guaranteed.

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Rich K August 19, 2012 at 0150

Four points;

1) Why does Apple spend $billions in marketing internally to sales staff & externally to the public, and then undermine their own spending with souless penny-pinching?

2) Apple is a money maker with a future as a minor playerin I.T. in luxury brands. The big days are over. But marketing is all the more important if your customers are paying 3 or 4 times more for the same product (nearly) . The Brand name is what the punters want. Rollex, Guchi, Apple.

3) the recognition that it is all over is sinking in. Apple has to re-model to a Cloud model. There is no will to do this because currently they are making $billions and the top staff are rich beyond their wildest dreams. The party will go on until the shareholders realise their assets are becoming worthless and put in new management. It will be too late then.

4) The only hope is Apples billions can be used to transform the company. It will need another Jobs to do this.

Check out what a Cloud Model means on our web site-you will have to read in between the lines though.

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MarkByrn August 19, 2012 at 1621

…Other related rumors say Apple is quietly dropping the free workshops that retail stores have offered since Day 1, and that staffers are instead pointing customers to the $99 One to One training service…

They still have the free workshops and One to One training is not available unless you purchase a Mac and pay the $99 fee for a one year membership. Sounds to me like the author of this piece is throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping something sticks.

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Beam Me Up Steve August 20, 2012 at 0542

I think this is the new reality of Apple. People that are hired now are (AD) Steve. They weren’t the ‘crazy ones’. Now we have people who look at the accountants first who will talk of failure and risk where in the past people like Steve and Ron would say, it’s not about the cost, it is about getting it done right.

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zeleznoc August 22, 2012 at 1000

Apple Store has seriously deteriorated.
Last 2 Genius appts, one they were running over an hr. behind. Other, I never even got to see a genius; another store person helped me & solved the problem for which I was scheduled but I had several other questions & issues that this person refused to address & I was not permitted to see the genius despite having scheduled the appt. In a 3rd visit, they were rude & misinformed & unable to help me, or rather refused to address problem re “3rd party” video card despite it coming to me in a genuine Apple box from an Apple retailer.
Overall too busy & too little help

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Rich August 26, 2012 at 1349

Nobody at my store has heard this “we messed up” line from management, Browett, anyone.

We’ve no idea what to believe but everyone’s morale has plummeted lately.

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Throwthatham August 27, 2012 at 2125

No one in our store has heard “we’ve messed up” either. To admit a major screw up like that requires balls which seem to be missing g these days

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Landcaster September 8, 2012 at 1824

Maybe something will be said at tomorrow’s meeting. I sure hope so. It would calm a lot of people down.

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ti October 4, 2012 at 0053

yes. exactly.

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ti October 4, 2012 at 0053

NOOOO!!

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