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Apple’s hourly workforce is struggling

Almost every shift at an Apple Store begins the same way: an employee picks out a phrase from Apple’s credo and explains how it applies to the day’s work: “We’re here to enrich lives.” To help dreamers become doers, to help passion develop human potential, to do the best work of our lives. At our best, we give more than we take.

Workers say it’s easy to tell who wants to get promoted because they’ll pick the “Turn Dreamers Into Doers” line and discuss how Apple’s devices can help customers do just that. However, not all retail workers buy into it. “People get emotional,” says a current retail employee in Pennsylvania. “You see people go to great lengths in this stuff when they want to get promoted. It’s just flattery.

Part of the problem is compensation. Apple retail employees earn an average of $19 to $25 an hour in the United States, according to Glassdoor. That’s good for the retail industry, but it can be annoying for employees who want a career with the tech giant. Some say that after staying with the company for six years, they make less than $21 an hour.

Then there is the issue of how retail workers are assessed. In the store, Apple uses what’s called a “net promoter score” to see how stores perform. After a customer leaves, they sometimes receive a survey asking them to rate the employee who helped them and the overall store experience.

Low scores can often be related to factors beyond employees’ control, such as low inventory or wait times. But they always give a bad image of the staff. “There is never a supposed positive intent,” says a current employee in Pittsburgh. “You always feel like a kid in trouble and finding an excuse.” The surveys aim to give customers a consistent way to tell whether stores are meeting Apple’s standards, but they consistently put the customer above the employee, by design.

It can be especially frustrating when the problem is with the Apple company. In 2017, Apple customers with older iPhones realized that if they replaced their phone’s batteries, performance would improve dramatically. This quickly became one of Apple’s biggest customer experience scandals as people realized the company intentionally slowed down older iPhone models to (supposedly) preserve their battery life. .

To assuage public outrage, the company said it would replace the phones’ batteries, free of charge, for one year. To meet growing customer demand, Apple has asked some retail employees to try to replace batteries in less than 10 minutes, according to a former employee. The result was a disaster for workers, who say they didn’t have the supplies or resources to complete the mandate. “You can’t replace a battery in 10 minutes,” says a former store manager bluntly. “Nothing translates from business to stores because they’re not in stores.”

In this context, Apple’s credo has become increasingly important. It is meant to inspire employees to provide exemplary customer service – to elevate even the most mundane parts of the job to stratospheric levels of importance.

In the past, some employees assumed this applied to how Apple treated its employees. Wasn’t the company supposed to enrich the lives of its employees? Giving more than necessary?

This began to crumble on March 14, 2020, at the start of the pandemic, when Apple announced it was temporarily closing all of its stores, sending retail workers home. In Pennsylvania, a current employee was selected to be part of a new program to answer calls from customers who needed technical support over the phone. The employee was relieved – his wife was immunocompromised and he himself suffered from asthma, which made the couple particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Being able to work from home seemed like a perfect solution to stay safe and keep making money.

From the start, the work was stressful. Employees spent eight hours a day responding to inquiries from disgruntled customers. They were rated on call time and customer satisfaction. As with many hourly roles at Apple, people with high scores knew they would eventually get better hours, promotions, and opportunities. People with low scores could be placed on action plans to try to improve.

The Pennsylvania employee says he didn’t hear much from his manager until July 2020, when he was told his scores were good. So good, in fact, that he was about to start taking level two calls. If a lower-level advisor couldn’t answer a customer’s questions, they could pass the call on to them. He asked if the job came with a raise and was told that it didn’t.

Apple tried to compensate for the increased workload of hourly employees by sending employees in the work-from-home program a shirt as a gift for all their hard work. Upon arrival, employees realized it had a large 14 on the back (for iOS 14) and 2020 printed on the sleeve. These were leftovers from WWDC 2020 – Apple’s live event that had been cancelled.

The shirt felt like a slap in the face. The employees wanted a raise. Some had multiple roommates and worked two or three jobs to try to make ends meet. On top of that, they were dealing with the same existential angst as the rest of the population in the face of a global pandemic – while being yelled at on the phone by customers who barely treated them like people.

The Pennsylvania employee said his mental health began to suffer. He was working in a poorly lit room, unable to leave the house due to the confinement. When he tried to talk to his manager about how he felt, he was told to try to open a window or put a plant on his desk.

One day, the employee was sharing her screen with a client who was having problems with her screen. The device was not under warranty – he told her it would probably cost $500 to fix it. The woman started crying. “I’m a student, can’t you make an exception?” ” she asked. He said he was sorry, but it wasn’t up to him. Then the woman opened Photo Booth on her computer screen – activating the webcam – and held a razor to her wrist. “That’s what the stress you give me does to me,” he said, she told him.

When the employee explained to his boss what had happened, the man asked if he needed half an hour to decompress. The employee replied that he did not feel he had enough time. From his recollection, his boss conceded: “Okay, take a break, but try to limit yourself to 30 minutes because we need to reduce our call time.”

In early 2021, Apple Stores began to reopen and the employee asked to return to work in person. “I have asthma, my wife has a chronic condition, but we had to bet my mental health against my physical health to see if it was worth going back to the store,” he says. The decision wasn’t his anyway – he was told he had to continue working from home.

It wasn’t until he asked to go on sick leave that he was finally able to return to the store. “They let me come back to the store to prevent me from leaving,” he alleges.

In September, Apple announced that all retail and healthcare employees who had been with the company since March 31 would receive a $1,000 bonus. For some workers, it was a nice surprise; but after years of feeling mistreated, others believe the bonus had more sinister motives. “I think it’s more like they don’t want to be sued for not offering hazard pay after having some of us work in public last year,” the Pennsylvania employee said. .

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