Saturday, September 22, 2007

When I worked at the Apple Store

I must say I am rather surprised by the color changes to the iPod Shuffle and Nano. In fact, I bought an Orange Shuffle on Amazon the day after it was taken off of Apple's site. The most surprising thing to me was the discontinuation of the pink Nano. This was probably one of the top five things I sold when I worked at the Apple store. A lot of people were willing to pay $50 more for the 4 gig pink Nano (as opposed to the silver-only 2 gig model). Most of these customers were buying them for kids that in all likelihood, could never fill a 2 gig, let alone a 4 gig.

Probably the thing I would be happiest about if I were still at the store would be the discontinuation of the U2 special edition iPod. This was the most annoying product. Everyone asked what it was, and in the end, I only had two customers that were actually interested in it. Keep in mind I worked over the holiday season, including Black Friday and the whole Christmas rush.

I started there before Thanksgiving of 2006, and stopped around February 2007. It was my first and only retail experience. It was rather unique and had its ups and downs. I was pretty much thrown right into the firing line. Black Friday was one of the first days I was in uniform (a red shirt, for the holiday season). It was by far the busiest day I had there. I'm pretty sure it was on Black Friday that some lady bought 16 or so video iPods from me when I was working iPod express. I wondered if it was a stolen credit card.

iPod express was set up around one of the iPod tables. We had a big stock of iPods and other products. We used Symbol handheld barcode scanners to ring people up (credit and debit only). When I first started there, I didn't have a working login for the Symbol units (which ran windows and crashed frequently). If I went too long without pressing buttons, it would log out and I'd have to hunt down someone to log in again. That wasn't always easy, because you weren't allowed to leave thousands of dollars worth of iPods unattended. We also had a MacBook with a barcode scanner at iPod express. We used it now and then, but some of the managers didn't like us using it. Ipod express wasn't too bad. There were only a limited number of questions people asked, mostly about iPods.

One of my most memorable customers came in when I was at iPod express. He was also the scariest. He stank like smoke and fire. He had a dazed look on his face. His hands looked like they had been burnt recently (like in the last 4 minutes). His hand touched mine when he handed me his credit card, he was very warm. He spoke slowly, bought an iPod, and left. I'm pretty sure he had been on fire before coming into the store.

I had some other interesting customers. The funniest exchange I had with a customer went like this:

Me: "Do you have any questions?"
Customer: "Yes, have you ever been beaten to death with a warranty box?"

I thought it was hilarious, but the customer was irate.

Another fun customer was a guy who worked in a fish market. He wanted a water proof case to keep fish guts out of his iPod. They do make water proof cases, but we didn't sell any.

My favorite customer, whose name I can't remember, was this older fellow who came in a few times. He never bought anything, he would just tell me how cool his 80 gig video iPod was. He actually almost convinced me to buy one. He would have me look up the prices of things and then show me how you could get them on Amazon for less, sans tax and shipping. He also showed me his favorite video podcasts. He was pretty hip for the retiree set.

My least favorite jobs at the Apple store involved cleaning. And also restocking software. Closing was the worst. It was fun to kick people out of the store, but then we had to sweep, line up all of the display items, and clean all of the screens. I don't know why, but this took a long time sometimes. We also restocked the shelves. It didn't seem to matter if I was on the opening or closing shift, we always had to re-stock. Sometimes we even had to sweep in the morning. It was as if the previous closing shift just left without doing anything. We were supposed to coil up the iPod headphones, which were completely disgusting. I still can't believe how many people actually put the store's earphones in their ears. A little kid once tried to put his in my ears. Luckily, I was too tall for him.

Probably my least favorite part of working there was the lack of communication. I wasn't given a tremendous amount of training. Basically, I was trained on the basics of dealing with customers, then on the basics of the iPod line. I shadowed for about one or two shifts wearing regular clothes and no ID (but with a Symbol scanner). Then I was given a shirt and put to it. The was poor communication about scheduling at times. Most of the time, they didn't tell me something unless I asked specifically, like about break times and such. All of the seasonal hires were pretty much treated as expendable, but thats not to say we were treated badly. I remember they also took New York City income tax out of my paycheck, which peeved me until they corrected it.

My favorite manager was probably the one I got to work with the least. He was fun and always positive. Working with him was more like hanging out than work. After I got my present job, when I was looking into getting a MacBook Pro, he offered me a refreshed one with the employee discount. I went for a new one instead, so I didn't get a discount.

Speaking of refreshed products, I sold the last external iSight at our store. They were taken off the market because they contained materials that were bad for the environment (I think).

Most of the time when people asked me something, I had to go look it up. From product specs to, I spent a lot of time finding stuff that is available to the public in their own homes.

I spent most of my time with the iPods at the front of the store and with the accessories towards the back. When working near the accessories (known as Etc.), I mostly walked around turning down the volume on the iPod speaker units. I sold a lot of those things. Sometimes there would be a new one out (and an old one removed) when my shift started, without any prior notification. I usually learned everything anyone could ask by reading the info right on the card next to them. People never read, they want you to tell them things.

The iPods were across from the MacBooks. I think that is why I eventually got a MacBook Pro. I used to stare at them, and wander across to set up genius appointments. Towards the end of my tenure, I would sell a computer here and there. They never told me I could or couldn't sell one. I usually handed the customer over to someone else if they were interested in a computer. I sold a bunch of MacBooks and a few MacBook Pros. I think the other seasonal hires started selling computers long before I did.

On my last day there, I went home early because I was not feeling well. I didn't actually know it would be my last day. I kept checking the schedule. My name was still on it, but week after week, I had no hours. I finally called the store and a manger told me I wouldn't be scheduled any more. I wasn't fired, let go, or down sized. It was really weird and I didn't appreciate it so much. I had wish someone would have told me sooner.

Anyway, my new job is great. I mostly like the people I work with more than the job itself. Plus the commute and dress code suite me well.

Not quite sure how to end this post so I'll just say ttfn.

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