I worked at the magical land of white and aluminium for over 4 years, and during that time I gained an interesting perspective. I left in November and have been happier at my new job, not because Apple is a bad place to work (in fact, I don’t think there’s a better retail employer out there), but because it was nearly 5 years of retail. That’s not the way I would have chosen to provide for a future family (Lord willing), and it was also seriously cutting into my ability to serve well at my church-especially on Sundays. Dang retail hours…
So how secretive were they?
Pretty darn. It was made abundantly clear that if any pertinent secrets were leaked to the general public, my canning would be imminent. That certainly included customers. It was fairly unlikely that the top technology reporters of the New York Times would be prowling around a mall in Oklahoma-but you never know! (sarcasm intended). Family members? That’s a no-no. According to the law of Mr. Bacon, that could spell headlines quicker than you can say iPhone 5. (There isn’t an iPhone 5, by the way. I very much doubt there will ever be an iPhone called “iPhone 5”. I’ll explain this in another post.) Just don’t talk about possibly sensitive material unless you want the a nasty phone call and a pink slip.
In truth, I don’t know for sure I won’t get a call or email from one of my old buddies saying, “you should have known better” about this very post. We’ll see. I’ll cooperate if I do. But I’m not actually sharing Apple secrets. At least not like the recent slew of Jobs & Apple books have. But who knows.
So, what kind of stuff am I talking about? What juicy details could have possibly been worth threatening life and limb over? Hmm?
Sales numbers. That was the big thing. I know, anti-climactic. The biggest details we were told that tech reporters worldwide would have given their left pinky toe for were the figures. These were given to us daily. Many of us could even sign on (in the back of the store) to look up the numbers ourselves. But the average Joe didn’t care about the numbers. You want to know about the new, cuh-razy stuff that’s being prepared at corporate, right?
Sure. They tell the mall peons what’s going on in the secret lab. The most secretive company in the world just lets this stuff go out to all their retail employees. Please. I got so many insistent questions about the newest stuff and you goobers didn’t believe me when I said, “I don’t know.” because I was still on the payroll. I’m not anymore. So let me give you an example of how it actually was:
The new aluminum iMacs were released in 2007. Until this point, Apple was known for everything being white and clean. That was their identity. Nothing else had entered our minds. Now, of course, the iPads, MacBooks of all flavors, and obviously the iMacs have taken on a polished metallic sheen that is inseparable from the Apple concept that perfectly-machined aluminum is the way of good design.
These were my earliest days in the Apple Store, and I was trying out several different roles to see what fit best. That week, I was helping out in the back. We knew there would be an announcement that day. The nature of that announcement was completely unknown, however. There was a huge shipment of iMac-sized boxes that we had only gotten that morning, maybe a few hours before the announcement was supposed to be made. For all we knew, they would have the same outside with faster innards. We were told it was time to start unboxing them and preparing them for the shelf. We opened them to find a completely new machine inside. I and the inventory control specialist that day were amazed. We meticulously looked at every side of the box to see the impressive specs and the new beautiful design. We were the only two back there and we were very excited for the new generation. We then got word that it wasn’t time yet. The announcement hadn’t actually been made! We had been given bad information. We guiltily put away the polished aluminum candy that was not yet for our eyes to see-worried that Steve himself was watching us on the store camera with un-approving eyes, sending the Apple ninjas to take our lives at that very moment. An excruciating 5 minutes later, the website was up with the new machines headlining. We unboxed them yet again, while nearly the entire store came in the back to ogle at them.
With this product launch, and every other, we weren’t told any news that the general public didn’t know. There were certainly times when I got tired of saying, “I have no idea!” and played the part of secretive inside man just to change things up a bit, but honestly, your average Apple Store employee has no clue what’s going on upstairs.
We’ll continue these thoughts in the future about the Genius Bar, why people leak rumors, and the company’s best moves in the retail world.