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15 Secrets of Apple Store Employees

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Apple has 265 retail stores in the United States, employing roughly 100 people at each one. That’s a lot of Apple Store workers with stories to tell about the culture and customers of one of the world’s most iconic retail boutiques. Here are a few things you might not know about your friendly Apple Store employee.

1. THEY WISH YOU KNEW YOUR PASSWORD.

One of the biggest complaints Apple Store employees have about customers is their lack of knowledge for their own personal data. Many people come in needing help with a device or their storage but don’t know their Apple ID or password, which throws a wrench in the process. “People say to you, ‘Figure out my password,’” says Ben, who worked in a Minnesota store for five and a half years. “But if I could figure out your password, what would be the point of having one?” Save yourself (and employees) some time and make sure you know your login information before heading to the store.

2. THEY HATE WHEN YOU USE THE STORE COMPUTERS FOR YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

Those demo devices? They’re for you to use, but they’re not your personal gadgets. “People would make phone calls or they’d change the wallpapers,” says Eric, who worked as a specialist in a Florida Apple Store for two years. “They’d have video chats with friends on Skype for two hours. One guy would come in and write music for his so-called album on one of the computers.”

If you do use the Apple Store devices for personal business, be sure to sign out or risk an embarrassing Facebook update or a new profile picture. “We’ve seen a number of social media accounts left logged in and we’re like, ‘We can have fun here,’” Eric says.

3. THEY KNOW WHEN YOU’RE LYING.

“Lying is never a good idea at the Apple Store,” says James, who spent five years in Apple retail working almost every job. “We know you’re lying, and we have a lot of control to bend the rules to make things work for you, but if we know you’re lying we aren’t going to bend rules.” Whether you dropped your phone in the toilet or had the screen replaced elsewhere, they’ll find out sooner or later. It's best to be upfront. 

4. IF YOU’RE MEAN, THEY’LL DRAG THEIR FEET.

“Be humble, be understanding, and don't be entitled,” advises one Apple Store employee via Reddit. Indeed, Apple Store workers can choose to be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on your attitude.

“If you act like a huge jerk people will go out of their way to put as many roadblocks as possible in the way,” says Bruce, who left his job as a specialist at an Indiana Apple Store last year. He says if you get huffy with an employee, you’re asking to play the waiting game. “They’ll walk into the back to ‘see what they can do,’ but really they’ll just sit back there and make you wait.”

On the flip side, Bruce says, if you’re exceedingly nice, employees will go out of their way to help you. “I had woman come in once and her laptop had died and it had a slideshow of pictures of her mother who had just passed,” he says. “She was putting together a slideshow for the funeral and she came in at 8:30 and store closed at 9. I stayed until 10:30 helping her, making a slideshow, putting it on a DVD, and sending her off with it.”

5. YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

“The vast majority of the time, the biggest problem is user error,” says Ben. “They’ve done something wrong or they don’t know how to use the device.”

6. THEY LOVE SEEING VINTAGE DEVICES.

It’s not all about the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. Most employees have seen their fair share of super old Apple gear. “I had one lady who brought in an Apple IIe,” Eric says. “I used that in middle school.” Products that have not been manufactured for more than five are labeled “vintage” and anything that was discontinued more than seven years ago is “obsolete.” Apple Store employees can’t order parts for these gadgets, but they don’t mind giving them a once-over. “It’s amazing what people will keep,” Eric says. “It goes to show the support and the viability of the products Apple produces that you can see things that are 10 to 12 years old [and] people are still using them.”

7. THEY SEE LOTS OF NAKED PICTURES.

As a general rule, if you don’t want anyone to see it, don’t put it on your computer. “Sometimes you have to transfer people’s photos and all the pictures show up on the screen as you do it,” says James. “I’ve seen whatever you can imagine.”

8. GETTING YOUR SHIRT IS A BIG DEAL.

Landing a job at an Apple Store isn’t easy. “They like to say it’s easier to get into Stanford than to get hired by Apple,” James says. Indeed, a single open position can receive hundreds or even thousands of applicants. Those who get called back go through multiple rounds of intense interviews, and if they land the job, it’ll be weeks of training before they’re released onto the floor of an Apple Store unsupervised.

When a newbie is finally deemed “ready,” he or she is rewarded with an official Apple shirt. “That was kind of like a rite of passage,” Ben says. “Like, ‘Okay, now you’ve arrived. You’ve done with your training now you get to go out on your own.’” But shirts aren’t to be worn outside the store, mostly for branding reasons. Plus, advertising you work in an Apple Store is an easy way to get pestered by the nearest guy with a malfunctioning iPhone.

“One time I put a jacket over my Apple shirt but I unzipped it and someone saw I was an Apple employee,” says Bruce. “He came over and was like, ‘Hey man, I got a problem with my phone, can you fix it?’ I was like, ‘Dude, I’m on lunch.’”

9. REFERRALS ARE KEY.

When it comes to getting a job in Apple retail, referrals are everything. “The closest way to guarantee an interview is to know someone and be referred by someone,” says Ben. “Apple takes those very seriously. They’ll pay employees a referral bonus if they hire someone you refer, like an extra $500 or $1000. If it’s a corporate employee it might be several thousand.”

Apple trusts its employees know when a person might be a good fit within the company culture. Some workers used to carry around special referral cards. If they encountered an exceptional waiter at a restaurant or a wonderful salesperson, they’d give them the card and invite them to apply for a job.

10. THEY CLAP … A LOT.

Morale and enthusiasm are huge parts of the culture at Apple. When employees start their training they go through the ritual of being “clapped in,” according to Ben. “When the new employee walks in the room everybody would clap for them for a long time,” he says. “Almost an uncomfortably long time.” It’s a show of support to get new hires excited about the job. And departing employees are “clapped out.” “On my last day, every Apple employee stopped whatever they were doing and started clapping,” Ben says. “Of course, customers are like, ‘What’s going on?’”

Here’s an example of someone being “clapped-out”:

11. APPLE’S CUPERTINO HEADQUARTERS IS KNOWN AS “THE MOTHERSHIP.”

Apple Store senior staff, like the geniuses and creatives, are flown there for training, all expenses paid.

12. LONGTIME EMPLOYEES GET AWARDS.

Workers who make it to their five-year anniversary are given a plaque signed by Tim Cook. One, signed by Steve Jobs, was going for $2,000 online a few years ago. And on their 10-year anniversary, employees reportedly receive a glass block etched with the Apple logo.

13. CUSTOMER MISTAKES WILL GO UNCORRECTED.

It’s not an iWatch, it’s the Apple Watch. But a good Apple Store worker will let your mistake slide. They don’t want to be rude or embarrass customers. “So many people call the iPod Touch the iTouch,” says Eric. “But trying to correct it is a fruitless effort.”

14. WHEN IT COMES TO WOULD-BE THIEVES, THEY KILL ‘EM WITH KINDNESS.

Apple Stores don’t put security tags on their devices, but that doesn’t mean walking out with a gadget will be a piece of cake. “Our loss prevention [tactic] is being friendly and engaging people in conversation,” says Ben. “We’re trained to stand certain ways, to always be facing the front and to greet every person.” This ensures customers know they’ve been noticed and are being watched, which helps deter theft.

15. THEY’VE WITNESSED APPLE MIRACLES.

For every disgruntled customer, there’s another walking in to restore your faith in humanity. Bruce tells the story of a student whose computer shut down with all his schoolwork on it. Without the funds to purchase a new device, he was out of luck until a stranger overheard his woes and surprised him with a $3500 new computer. “He cried,” Bruce says. “Every once in a while you’ll meet someone who is just a genuinely good human being and you’re like, ‘Not everyone is a total jerk.’ It makes going to work the rest of the day a little bit better.”

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The iMac Was Almost Called the MacMan
John G. Mabanglo/Getty Images
John G. Mabanglo/Getty Images

After breaking out with its Macintosh line of personal computers in the 1980s, Apple was in a slump. Sales had flagged as Microsoft's Windows operating system made waves. In 1998, the company was set to unveil a product that it hoped would reinvigorate its brand.

And they almost blew it.

According to Ken Segall, the advertising genius behind their "Think Different" campaign, Apple founder Steve Jobs was expecting the iMac to reverse the company's ailing fortunes. Where older Macs had been boxy, beige, and bland, the iMac came in an assortment of colors and had a transparent chassis that showed off its circuitry. The problem, as Segall writes in his new book, Insanely Simple, was that Jobs didn't want to call it the iMac. He wanted to call it the MacMan.

"While that frightening name is banging around in your head, I'd like you to think for a moment about the art of product naming," Segall writes. "Because of all the things in this world that cry out for simplicity, product naming probably contains the most glaring examples of right and wrong. From some companies, you see names like 'iPhone.' From others you see names like ‘Casio G'zOne Commando' or the ‘Sony DVP SR200P/B' DVD player."

According to Segall, Jobs liked the fact that MacMan was slightly reminiscent of Sony's Walkman branding concept for its line of cassette players. (Later, Sony had a Discman, Pressman, and Talkman.) But Segall, who named products for a living, feared the name would take away from Apple's identity as being original. It was also gender-biased, and alienating an entire demographic of consumers was never a good thing.

Instead, Segall suggested "iMac," with the "i" for internet, because the unit was designed to connect easily to the web. Jobs "hated" the idea, along with other suggestions, even though Segall felt the iMac could provide a foundation to name other devices, just as Sony's Walkman had. Segall kept suggesting it, and Jobs eventually had it printed on a prototype model to see how it would look. After encouragement from his staff, he dropped MacMan. With this key contribution, Segall made sure no one would be lining up to buy a PhoneMan 10 years later. 

[h/t FastCoDesign]

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Big Questions
What Are Those Tiny Spots on Apples?
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iStock

The little pinprick spots on apples, pears, and potatoes are called lenticels (LEN-tih-sells), and they’re very important.

Plants need a constant stream of fresh air, just like people, and that “fresh air” means carbon dioxide. Flowers, trees, and fruit all take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. But unlike people, plants don’t have nostrils.

That's where a plant's lenticels come in. Each little speck is an opening in the fruit or tuber’s skin or the tree’s bark. Carbon dioxide goes in, and oxygen comes out. Through these minuscule snorkels, a plant is able to “breathe.”

Like any opening, lenticels are vulnerable to infection and sickness. In an apple disease called lenticel breakdown, a nutrient deficiency causes the apples’ spots to darken and turn into brown pits. This doesn’t hurt the inside of the fruit, but it does make the apple look pretty unattractive. In the equally appealing “lenticel blotch pit,” the skin around the apple’s lenticels gets patchy and dark, like a weird rash. 

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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