Emerging Technology

BEST OF THE WEB: The dark side of Apple’s retail empire

Patrick Stafford /

Apple’s retail chain has been one of the biggest industry success stories over the past decade. When Steve Jobs originally pitched the idea to the board back in 2000, they thought he was crazy. Now, it has hundreds of stores worldwide and is one of the most profitable companies per square footage.

When new products are released, hundreds – even thousands – of people line up for hours to get a glimpse. The stores are always full and employees are run off their feet.

And as it turns out, they’re not too happy about the situation either.

This piece in The New York Times has taken some time to speak with some of the company’s 30,000 retail employees, and they’re not too happy. For one thing, they claim they’re not being paid enough.

“I was earning $11.25 an hour,” he said. “Part of me was thinking, ‘This is great. I’m an Apple fan, the store is doing really well.’ But when you look at the amount of money the company is making and then you look at your paycheck, it’s kind of tough,” former employee Jordan Golson told the publication.

Part of the problem is that there’s a never-ending stream of employees lining up to join the company’s ranks. And unlike other companies, these employees actually believe they’re helping make people’s lives easier. They work there because they’re fans of the Apple product range in the first place.

“When you’re working for Apple you feel like you’re working for this greater good,” says a former salesman. “That’s why they don’t have a revolution on their hands.”

That’s also why they’re able to pick from hundreds of resumes, and why they’re able to turn away candidates from group interviews if they are no more than three minutes late, according to the story.

But on the flipside, having Apple on your resume can be a huge boost. The team receives excellent training, and they can help develop interpersonal skills used at any job.

“And we told trainees that the first thing they needed to do was acknowledge the problem, though don’t promise you can fix the problem,” former manager Shane Garcia said. “If you can, let them know that you have felt some of the emotions they are feeling. But you have to be careful because you don’t want to lie about that.”

But at the end of the day, some Apple employees just aren’t happy and can’t wait to get out. According to a survey distributed among employees, and referenced by the publication, staff were asked to say whether they’d recommend Apple as place of work to friends and family – a “1” was marked as a “not likely”, with a “10” interpreted as a “promoter” of the company.

The results, taken from two cities, came back with fives and sixes. But as one employee points out, it’s not necessarily a problem.

“There was never a shortage of resumes,” he said. “People will always want to work for Apple.”

How Microsoft’s Surface tablet shamed the industry

Last week Microsoft showed off a new “Surface” tablet to a select group of journalists, saying it was one of the best devices the company had ever made and that it would show off Windows 8 the way it was meant to be experienced.

Except it didn’t allow anyone to touch it. And it didn’t give a release date. Or a price.

And as this piece on Business Week points out, Microsoft made mistakes in quite a few ways, pointing out the company doesn’t make hardware in good times, but rather in a move of “desperation”.

“With the release of Windows 8 looming, Microsoft was indeed desperate for a hardware company to do something to blunt Apple’s runaway tablet machine.”

“The Surface tablet represents an indictment of the entire PC and device industry, which has stood by for a couple of years trying to mimic Apple with a parade of hapless, copycat products.”

The Microsoft Surface tablet could end up being a decent device, and Windows 8 is most likely the best piece of innovation from the company in years, but as this piece points out, it needs to forge its own path rather than copying everyone else.

The site where “I hate my boss” becomes a public statement

Facebook has been riddled with privacy complications for years, but now a new site is attempting to make people a little more informed about how to keep their comments private.

The site, WeKnowWhatYoureDoing.com, searches all the public statements made on Facebook for phrases like “I hate my boss”, or discussion of drugs and other illicit activities.

It’s an interesting concept. But as this piece on The Atlantic shows, maybe it’s another call for social networks to develop proper safety and privacy controls. Social networks want people to share content, but the controls around the network can sometimes stop them from doing so.

“They need to set standards for their ecosystems of developers that don’t just ask, What is technologically possible? but ‘Is this use consistent with people’s expectations of the way data was going to be shared?”

The Olympic race that technology couldn’t help

Here’s a slightly more off-beat story – a race where a winner couldn’t be determined, even with photography.

During the past weekend, sprinters competed for a spot on the American Olympic team, but two runners, Allyson Fenix and Jeneba Tarmoh, finished so closely together neither could be distinguished as a winner.

“Track officials had not expected such an outcome, and there were no procedures in place for handling it,” a piece on The Atlantic points out.

“Yesterday, USA Track & Field and the United States Olympic Committee announced their decision: If neither woman willingly gives up her slot, they will have the option of choosing between a tie-breaker race and a coin toss.”

Technology is often used to make sports more exciting than ever before, with technology allowing more detailed analysis. But as it turns out, there are still some problems a fancy piece of tech can’t solve.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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